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Critical faves get their night at the TCA Awards

BEVERLY HILLS -- Television critics and Emmy Awards voters don’t always agree, but the winners of this year’s Television Critics Association Awards looked a lot like the top of the Emmy-nominations list.

The HBO miniseries John Adams, the AMC drama Mad Men and the NBC comedy 30 Rock dominated Saturday night’s 24th annual TCA ceremony at the Beverly Hilton, each with multiple wins. Those were also the three shows with the most Emmy nominations last week.

Mad Men scored a TCA hat trick, winning Program of the Year, Outstanding New Program and Outstanding Achievement in Drama. The series, about Madison Avenue ad men, circa 1960, topped many critics' 2007 10-best lists.

“The last year has been a dream,” Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner said during his acceptance speech. “And not only a dream that is the realization of a wish but a dream filled with experiences and sensations that in everyday life are impossible.”

Tina Fey, who created and stars in 30 Rock, won Individual Achievement in Comedy, and the show won the top comedy award. The TCA does not have supporting actor categories, nor does it divide categories by actor and actress, as Fey cheekily pointed out.

“I have to say I find it very exciting that these awards and this category is not separated by gender,” Fey said. “Because it doesn’t really need to be. It’s not weightlifting.”

Paul Giamatti won Individual Achievement in Drama for playing the title role in John Adams, which took the Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries & Specials award. Giamatti gave an enthusiastic acceptance speech, much of which was funny and unprintable. But this part survives:

“It says individual achievement, which is very gratifying,” Giamatti says. “[But] it was hardly an individual achievement. Everybody hauled my large, lazy [rear] through this thing.”

The critics differed with the Emmys on one score: HBO’s intricate crime drama The Wire, continually snubbed by the Emmys during its five-season run despite being one of the most critically acclaimed shows in TV history, won the TCA’s Heritage Award. The award is bestowed on series seen as historically significant or influential in television.

“One of the things that we discussed was the prize culture, in terms of marginalizing the real purpose of the work,” The Wire creator/executive producer David Simon said of the show’s final season. “I see now, staring at this [award] that I was completely wrong.”

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s World War II documentary series The War, which aired on PBS, won Outstanding Achievement in News and Information. PBS’ WordGirl won for Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programming. Lorne Michaels, creator and longtime producer of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, received the Career Achievement award.

The TCA is composed of more than 200 reporters and columnists from the United States and Canada.