TCA Awards: Tom Hanks, Tina Fey, David Simon, Mad Men Cast, Smothers Brothers and More

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Cable dramas dominated the Television Critics Association Awards tonight, winning six of the eleven categories.   The 24th annual TCA Awards were held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Founded in 1978, the TCA is composed of more than 200 reporters and columnists in print and online media from the United States and Canada.

Critics bestowed three honors on AMC’s Mad Men:  Program of The Year, Outstanding New Program, and Outstanding Achievement in Drama.

HBO’s The Wire received the Heritage Award, which recognizes a long-standing program that has had a lasting cultural or social impact.  

Paul Giamatti won for Individual Achievement in Drama for his role as John Adams in the HBO miniseries.  John Adams also won Outsanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials.

The TCA Awards are an elegant but relaxed affair.  The grizzled critics usually run from pillar to post during press tour, in various states of dishevelment, but they clean up very nicely.

Talent and producers appeared in force, including a number of The Wire cast members and most of the Mad Men talent.  There was no red carpet per se, and discreet photographers clicked away in the back of the ballroom.  Nevertheless, the glamorous women of Mad Men rivaled the ladies of Desperate Housewives (who graced the stage during ABC’s panel earlier in the week).

Tom Hanks, John Adams‘ executive producer, picked up the award for Outstanding Achievement in a Miniseries.  Hanks said they set out to accomplish several things, including "show a president and the first lady doing the deed in bed."

"It is HBO after all and they have credibility they must maintain," Hanks added in mock seriousness, punctuating his remarks by tapping the podium, "in Every. Single. Show!"

Hanks said they also hoped to promote "the senseless and unnecessary use of walking canes."

Tina Fey, in accepting the two awards for 30 Rock (Oustanding Achievement in Comedy and Oustanding Individual Achievement in Comedy), relentlessly brought down the house.  "We thank you guys for making 30 Rock the most successful show cable show on broadcast television," Fey deadpanned, "AAAAHHH - it’s a great time to be in broadcast television, isn’t it!?  It’s exciting!  It’s like being in vaudeville…in the 60’s!"

At one point, she thanked all the people she worked with and then extended a special thanks to Tom Hanks "for BusomBuddies.  You cannot believe what appointment television that was for me."

Later, Fey said she also wanted to thank "Benjie" Silverman (Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment) and asserted the rest of the 30 Rock cast "could not be here tonight because NBC is broke." 

Mad Men castmates Jon Hamm and John Slattery retrieved the Achievement in Drama honors. “the message of smoking, drinking and whoring has resonated with the TCA,” quipped Slattery.

Upon accepting his award for The Wire, creator David Simon alluded to show’s final season newspaper plotline and the race for the Pulitzer.

"A lot of you are acutely aware of what the Internet is doing to our newspaper, to our journalism culture, and of course one of the things we discussed was what the prize culture has done in terms of marginalizing the real purpose of the work," Simon prefaced.

"I see now.." he said, looking down at his award for a moment, "that I was completely wrong.  I’m really glad to have a prize and it completely trumps the work itself."

After the laughter subsided, Simon credited the critics for The Wire’s longevity and said he has been proud to work for HBO, thanking former chairman/CEO Chris Albrecht, former entertainment president Carolyn Strauss, and others for supporting the low-rated but critically acclaimed show.  He also thanked his cast and his crew in Baltimore.  Simon also said he "especially" wanted to "thank the critics for being really serious, and watching the show.  Ultimately, this show cannot be understood unless you actually watch the show." 

"Who would think," Simon continued, "you actually have to watch the whole show to understand what the whole show is about.  Most of you did and that’s a real mark of professionalism.  And I really worry because of what is happening with newspapers.  There are a lot of faces here at the TCA who are missing.  And I have a feeling, that the trend is going to continue.  And I really worry about how is going to do the hard job of social and cultural criticism."

Simon concluded by saying "it was really worth it sleeping with each and every one of you." But he singled out critics Alan Sepinwall and Tim Goodman of The Star-Ledger and The San Francisco Chronicle, respectively.  "They made me do things I just don’t want to talk about," quipped Simon.

The Smothers Brothers guest hosted and were lauded for their courage, and for paving the way for such shows as Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report

If there was a sentimental moment during the awards ceremony, this was it.  When Tommy and Dick Smothers walked onto the stage, the crowd gave them a standing ovation.  2008 marks their 50th year of working together and The Smothers Brothers have not lost their touch.  

The duo performed their timeless but still hilarious schtick, with the befuddled and distracted Tommy going off on fantastical tangents while Dick plays the straight man.  This particular routine might have been titled "I could have been a pilot…" 

With a scrapbook of memories displayed on the big screens flanking the stage, Dick led the crowd through a bittersweet history of their lives: their baby pictures, photos of their grandmother and their West Point graduate father (class of 1929, killed in the Pacific during the war), and Tommy’s college days as state champion in parallel bars. They showed archival snippets of their early mentions on TheJack Paar Show and The Steve Allen Show, and clips of their ground-breaking Smothers Brother Comedy Hour 1967-69 which was abruptly cancelled by CBS for being too controversial.

The critics made a lot of good picks this year, but the choice to put the veteran Smothers Brother on stage was perfectly magical.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is out on DVD!

The Beatles perform "Revolution" on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

The TCA Awards List:

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: "Mad Men" (AMC)

OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM: "Mad Men" (AMC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: "30 Rock" (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: "Mad Men" (AMC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NEWS & INFORMATION: "The War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick" (PBS)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING: "WordGirl" (PBS)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MOVIES, MINI-SERIES & SPECIALS: "John Adams" (HBO)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: Tina Fey, "30 Rock" (NBC)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: Paul Giamatti, "John Adams" (HBO)

HERITAGE AWARD: "The Wire" (HBO)

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT: Lorne Michaels

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