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Wednesday, July 22, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tca Award Winners Urge Critics To Be `Advocates'

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

LOS ANGELES - The creators and producers of two of television's most acclaimed dramas have called on the nation's television critics to lead campaigns for quality programs that otherwise might die.

"This may not be (the traditional) definition of criticism, but I would encourage you to continue doing what you're doing: championing those shows that seem fragile that you believe in," Joshua Brand told members of the Television Critics Association gathered in Los Angeles. "You are forced to become advocates whether you want to or not."

Brand is one of the executive producers of "Northern Exposure" and "I'll Fly Away," both honored in the eighth annual Television Critics Association awards competition.

"If not for you," he told the 144-member group, "the television audience wouldn't have `Northern Exposure' or `I'll Fly Away.' And I think the television audience would be poorer for that."

"Northern Exposure," which airs on CBS, was voted Program of the Year by members of the TCA, competing with NBC's "I'll Fly Away," CBS' "Brooklyn Bridge" and Fox's "The Simpsons."

Conversely, "I'll Fly Away" won the award for best drama, a category in which it competed with "Northern Exposure," two new ABC series - "Civil Wars" and "Homefront" - and NBC's "Law & Order."

In accepting the drama award for "I'll Fly Away," Brand's partner, John Falsey, also credited the steady support of television critics for the show's survival through its first season, despite poor ratings.

"That fact that `I'll Fly Away' is on the NBC fall schedule is due in no small part to you, the national press," Falsey said. He said such support has become increasingly important as more and more viewing options have fragmented the audience and viewers seek added guidance about what to watch and where to find it.

"Seinfeld," NBC's near-perfect situation comedy, won this year's TCA award for best comedy, outscoring "Brooklyn Bridge," CBS' "Murphy Brown," "The Simpsons" and "Northern Exposure," whose quirky characters and style make it difficult to categorize as pure comedy or pure drama.

The star, Jerry Seinfeld, noted that this was the first award won by his show and joked about being surprised it had won this one. (All the winners had been informed in advance.) "This is a total shock to me," he feigned, looking over the engraved brass plaque tacked to a block of wood. "I had no idea that it was going to be wood."

The year's career achievement award went to Johnny Carson, who retired in May after nearly 30 years as host of "The Tonight Show" on NBC.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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