Emmy favorite Angels in America and acclaimed comedy Arrested Development were the critical darlings at the 20th annual Television Critics Association Awards on Saturday. The 200-plus members of the journalists organization named Angels, HBO's epic miniseries about the AIDS crisis, program of the year as well as best movie or miniseries during a ceremony held in conjunction with the summer press tour that has unfolded in the past two weeks at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. Angels director Mike Nichols gave credit to the miniseries' A-list cast, which included Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson, for bringing Angels to life on the small screen. "They dug deep, they flew high," Nichols said of the actors' performances. The adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play led the Emmy pack Thursday with 21 nominations, including bids for Nichols, Pacino (in his first Emmy nomination), Streep, Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson, and Jeffrey Wright.
Fox's dysfunctional-family comedy Arrested Development was voted best new program and best comedy, two days after the freshman series scored a surprise berth in the Emmy race for best comedy. Arrested creator-executive producer Mitch Hurwitz told TCA attendees that it was the support of critics that saved the show from cancellation after its low-rated first season. "We're here because of you," Hurwitz said. "There's no doubt that without your encouragement, the studio and the network wouldn't have felt as good about their decision [to renew]. Thank you for saving the show." The TCA nod for best drama went to HBO's The Sopranos. Ian McShane, who plays foul-mouthed saloon keeper Al Swearengen on HBO's new Western drama series Deadwood, earned the individual achievement in drama honor. McShane, who did not make the Emmy contenders, praised HBO for letting Deadwood creator-executive producer David Milch realize his dark vision for the period piece set in the notoriously bawdy South Dakota town. McShane also quipped that working for HBO was "a bit like the BBC used to be [but] with better food."
On the comedy side, the individual achievement nod went to Ricky Gervais, creator and star of BBC America's much-praised mockumentary The Office. Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart prevailed in the news and information category. In a pretaped interview, Stewart noted the irony of the show that mocks TV newscasts winning in the category. "We're not real," Stewart said. "There must be some kind of mistake." Linda Ellerbee's Nick News took the trophy for children's programing. The TCA's heritage award for programs that have had a meaningful impact on the medium went to CBS's 60 Minutes, and the career achievement laurel was given to its legendary creator-executive producer, Don Hewitt, who stepped down from the helm of the newsmagazine last month after a 36-year run. "When you look at Don Hewitt, you're looking at the information age," said 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, who was on hand with CBS News president Andrew Heyward to accept the honors for Hewitt and the newsmagazine.