"Hang" with the Original Cast of SNL (and Bill Murray)

Photo by Pop Culture Passionistas

If you’re a rock and roll fan, imagine the thrill you’d feel if you could see the Beatles reunite. Love baseball? What if you could be in a room with the players from the 1975 Cincinnati Reds? Well last night we had what might go down in Passionistas' history as our greatest Pop Culture Bucket List moment of all time when we saw our rock stars, our heavy hitters together all in one place. We still can’t believe we were lucky enough to be invited to the Television Academy Hall of Fame Awards where the original cast of Saturday Night Live was honored.

In addition to the legendary sketch comedy stars, four other TV greats were being recognized. Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes would become the third African American woman in history to be inducted. Production designer of classic shows like Chico and the Man and Frasier would get a nod. Six-time Emmy-winning writer and producer John Wells of West Wing and Shameless fame would get some more-well deserved acclaim. And Joan Rivers would receive the honor posthumously.

The night kicked off beyond our wildest expectations. Pulling into the parking garage at the TV Academy, we noticed a man in a flat brimmed hat standing by the entrance. Without even seeing his face we realized who it was. Since he wasn’t a member of the freshman class of Not Ready for Primetime Players, we never dreamed that Bill Murray would be in attendance. But there he was. This was going to be an awesome night.

We went into the pre-show cocktail party and were led to a choice spot by the front door thanks to some very clever friends. Together we engaged in a steady stream of star spotting. And there we witnessed Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd reuniting with fellow SNL alum Chevy Chase. They hugged and chatted by the door for a few minutes before heading out to the red carpet together.

Thanks to Shonda Rhimes and John Wells, there was a bevy of TV doctors in the house. Including Noah Wiley, who presented to his ER boss Wells, and many of the staff of Seattle Grace from James Pickens, Jr. (aka, Dr. Richard Webber) to Sarah Drew (aka, Dr. April Kepner).

We watched as former West Wing staffers Toby Ziegler, the actor Richard Schiff, and Donna Moss, the amazing Janel Moloney, strolled the center aisle in front of us. It was crazy to see the stars behind two of our favorite TV characters. Although they weren’t together as they passed so we didn’t get the full on “walk and talk” effect that would have made the moment even more surreal.

There was an electricity in the theater which was filled with TV royalty like William H. Macy and Phylicia Rashad. The good energy seemed fueled by the fact that most of the people present weren’t there to potentially get an award themselves. The majority of the celebrities who showed up were there just to pay homage to the short list of inductees.

Larry Wilmore hosted the event and gave a poignant speech about the onslaught of sexual harassment and assault stories that have been swirling in recent weeks. He gave a pointed plea to the men in the audience to do better before lightening the tone for the rest of the entertaining evening.

Most awards shows build up to the big name talent. Not the Television Hall of Fame. The first presenter was none other than Oprah Winfrey, who gave Rhimes her crystal TV award. The Scandal creator once again proved what a brilliant writer she is when she delivered her answer to the question she said she is always asked — “Why is diversity so important?” Her answer was powerful and gave a nod to Lady O for being her small screen example that it was possible for a woman of color to change the face of television.

Frasier creator David Lee presented production designer Christopher his award and gleefully looked on as his longtime collaborator accepted. Chris Hardwick spoke of his hero and friend, Joan Rivers, before her daughter Melissa got up and read a generic speech that the comedic icon had written before her death in the case of such an event. And Wiley touted Wells as his mentor and inspiration as a young actor for what he wanted to be when he grew up.