Museum bash toasts Kelley, Seinfeld

By Bill Higgins
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Garry Shandling got a big laugh Sunday night at the Museum of Television & Radio gala honoring Jerry Seinfeld and David E. Kelley when he advised the duo ``to keep this in perspective: you're receiving an honor in a tent on astreet.''

Which was true, though it was an exceptionally elegant, football-field size tent set alongside exceptionally elegant Beverly Drive, which had been barricaded off for a gala that began with al fresco cocktails.

The 800 guests had come to see Seinfeld and Kelley honored with an award described by museum president Bob Batscha as ``not unlike a lifetime achievement award, but it's not one because they're both too young. It salutes the quality work they'veachieved in TV.''

The evening's cornerstone were clips -- the honorees' work speaks for itself, albeit sometimes a bit protactedly -- and Kelley's were introduced by Calista Flockhart, Dylan McDermott, Christine Lahti and Tom Skerritt. Kelley began by joking about ``being served up before dinner'' and how, perhaps after hearing him speak at some of the museum's panels rather than having him on after Seinfeld, the museum decided, ``Hey, let him follow thesalad.''

The speech that followed was notable on three levels: whom Kelley left out (there was no mention of any executives from ABC, which runs ``The Practice''); whom he thanked (notably Paxson Communications president Jeff Sagansky and Fox, home of ``Ally McBeal''); and what he said about the TV business where ``the number is the number is the number is the number.''

Kelley mentioned how he'd once heard a network executive gratefully sigh ``we did a 30 share and it was watchable,'' and in comparison to this it was ``affirming to have a place like the museum that does prioritize the content.''

After the lamb entree, Shandling introduced clips from Seinfeld's stand-up days. But he first lifted his fist in a power salute and said: ``Jerry is such a success he got people to forget he's Jewish. That's how we maintain control of themedia.''

Bette Midler did the honors for the ``Seinfeld'' clips, saying, ``I can't believe I got dragged in to Beverly Hills when the stores are closed.''

The actual presentation was done by Carl Reiner, who stood in for a flu-stricken Paul Reiser. Almost the first words out of Seinfeld's mouth were: ``A museum for television!? Have we all lost our minds!? A museum in Beverly Hills to house the work of Carl Ballantine and Joe Flynt!? Larry Storch in a museum!? Gene Rayburn in a museum!?''

Among those in the audience pondering the Seinfeldian implications of this were Kelley's wife, Michelle Pfeiffer, USA Networks CEO Barry Diller with Candice Bergen, screenwriter Allan Burns, director James Burrows, actor Ron Silver, producer Mike Medavoy, actresses Camryn Manheim, Marlee Matlin and Courtney Thorne-Smith, Fox Entertainment president Peter Roth and HBO executive Chris Albrecht