LOS ANGELES-- "It's a great time to be in broadcast television, isn't it?" Tina Fey said last night at the 24th Annual TCA Awards. "It's like being in vaudeville in the '60s."
Fey was accepting one of two awards she picked up last night, one for Individual Achievement in Comedy, one for her show 30 Rock (Outstanding Achievement in Comedy).
She was goofing on the fact that all the heat was over on cable last season. Cable won all the TCA Awards, too, including three awards for AMC's Mad Men (including Program of the Year) and Best Miniseries (HBO's John Adams).
That left NBC as the only broadcaster to win anything. "The rest of our cast could not be here tonight," said Fey, "because NBC's broke."
John Adams star Paul Giamatti also won for Individual Achievement in Drama and gave a very funny speech, as did Tom Hanks (right), who accepted the Miniseries Award (he was one of the John Adams producers). Hanks took all the Bosom Buddies jokes in stride and urged the critics to never let this damn award show be televised.
John Slattery, who accepted one of the Man Men honors along with co-star Jon Hamm, said he was just glad that "the message of smoking, drinking and whoring resonated" with TCA members.
Lorne Michaels accepted the Career Achievement Award and the Heritage Award went to the just concluded HBO series The Wire.
The presenters all did the TCA proud. South Florida scribe Tom Jicha led his introduction of Lorne Michaels with memories of the very first TCA Awards, held in a small conference room at the Century Plaza Hotel. "The entire process took about eight minutes," recalled Jicha, who quoted then head of NBC publicity Gene Walsh as saying at the time, "Well, it wasn't over produced."
The crowning achievement of the night, however, was David Bianculli's wrangling of his heroes, The Smothers Brothers, as the opening act. The Brothers killed, and many of us who grew up watching their late '60s variety show were in awe. To be able to walk up and ask Tommy about recording Give Peace a Chance at that Bed-In with John Lennon in Montreal, or his skirmishes with the CBS censors, was gold. Dick Smothers was equally smooth, thoughtful and articulate. Both stayed late after the awards, telling tales poolside at the Beverly Hilton.
As Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner put it while accepting one of his awards, we all dreamed of being on the Smothers Brothers Show. Last night, we got our wish.
UPDATE: For great photos (unlike my blurry, back of room snaps) of the many stars who attended the TCA Awards, follow this link.