Today was a Television Critics Association day, including our summer business meeting and, tonight, the presentation of our annual awards. (I say ''our'' because I'm a member.) It was a nice ceremony, with lots of people turning out, and with some lovely acceptance speeches. And it was a good situation just to talk with people I like from shows I admire.
Here are some highlights from the acceptance speeches, in the order they were given.
Individual achievement in drama, to Hugh Laurie of ''House.'' Laurie: ''I never believed for one moment that my respect and admiration for television critics could grow ever greater. It has. This is partly because I'm not from these parts. I am from England, as you can probably tell, from the fact that I've just told you. ... The relationship between artist and critic (in England) is very different. Over there, the artist is, if you like, the mouse. And the critic is the vicious sociopath who shatters dreams. It strikes me as a very different setup here and for that, I and everyone else on the show ''House'' is extremely grateful....
''As for this award, a couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis, won, as usual, by Michael Schumacher ... He has been world racing champion, Formula One, for the last seven years. But even his most ardent admirers would have to admit that it's got something to do with the fact that he has the fastest car. Elizabeth Taylor could probably get a podium place. ... People compete with unequal equipment. If, for example, it's a running race and Michael Schumacher began the race with running spikes and the man next to him had lace-up Oxfords, and the man next to him was running in stilettos and the man on the outside lane was wearing a pair of West Highland Terriers. ... But so it is with the business of acting. ... I feel very much in the position of the man who has got a very, very fast car. ... I am, every day that I go to work, deeply sensible of the honor I have to sit at the wheel and drive this wonderful character called House.''
Outstanding achievement in drama, to ''Lost.'' Damon Lindelof, executive producer: ''We all sort of thought the same thing two years ago when the show was first a pilot, that it wasn't supposed to work. ... We try to reinvent it constantly. But next year it could totally suck, and the year after that it could be gone. And we feel enormously grateful, by the grace of you guys. In the very beginning, the critics sort of backed the show and that has meant a lot to us. ... I would really like to thank (executives at ABC and Touchstone Television) ... for letting us walk into a room and say, 'All right, here's what's in the hatch: There's a guy, he's pushing a button every 108 minutes or he's told the world will end.' And they say, 'All right, right on, go ahead.' Normally that shouldn't be allowed to happen.''
Outstanding achievement in children's programming, to ''High School Musical.'' Bill Borden, executive producer, entered to a song from ''HSM.,'' then said: ''I ran into an old friend of mine, Peter Horton (the actor-director, who was part of a group from award-winning 'Grey's Anatomy') who said 'I loved that song and movie for the first 50 times. If my daughter plays it again, I'm going to kill you.' ''
Outstanding new program, to ''My Name Is Earl.'' Greg Garcia, executive producer: ''It's always nice to get an award ... especially this award, because it's the critics. I mean, how big is that? And if there's one thing I've learned by doing 'Yes, Dear,' is you want the critics. Because if the critics hate your show, you're lucky to go, I don't know, six years. But just like 'Earl,' who is making up for all the bad things he's done in his life, I accept this award as a sign that you feel bad about what you've done to me. And tonight, the healing begins. I'm gonna need about 10 or 15 more of these, and you can cross me off your list.''
Outstanding movie, miniseries or special, to ''American Masters: Bob Dylan - No Direction Home.'' Prudence Glass, representing the series: ''When Dylan's people called a couple of years ago and said, 'We're ready,' Susan (Lacy, ''Masters'' producer) called me into her office and said, 'You see what can happen if you call somebody once a month for 12 years?' ''
Individual achievement in comedy, to Steve Carell of ''The Office,'' Carell: ''This is obviously such a great honor, particularly in light of the following. This is an excerpt from a review of a little seen but little loved television show called 'Over the Top,' which ran from October 1997 to -- October 1997. (From the review:) 'Steve Carell's performance as what appeared to be a deaf-mute European chef should cause anyone watching with a modicum of taste to start tearing their hair while screeching, 'Get it off my TV. ... Take it away. Oh, God.' '' (You can find a link to the complete review in my ''Steve Carell Doesn't Forget'' post below.)
Outstanding achievement in news and information, to ''Frontline.'' Martin Smith, producer. ''I feel I should apologize coming between the two comedy awards. 'Frontline' can be such a downer. It's unfortunate that news and information has to be that way. Friends compliment me by calling me up and saying, 'That was really depressing. That was more depressing than your last depressing show.' ''
Outstanding achievement in comedy, to ''The Office.'' Greg Daniels, executive producer, thanked many people, including his partner Ben Silverman, ''for having the taste, connection and frankly the (brass) to get back on that horse after 'Coupling.' '' After reading a long list of names of actors, writers and others associated with the show, Daniels added: ''I can already picture you guys reviewing this speech -- its tired premise, there were no act breaks and it was terrible casting.''
Heritage award (for important, long-running programs), to ''The West Wing.'' Aaron Sorkin, creator: ''About 10 years ago I was living in New York and early one morning my father came over to my apartment because the Academy Award nominations were being announced and there was some hope that I would be nominated for a movie that I had written that year. And when I wasn't, my father turned to me and said, 'Look, how many people in the world do you think got up this morning with even a reasonable expectation that something like this might happen?' Which is when I discovered that for most people, it's an honor just to be nominated (and) in my family it's an honor just to be overlooked.''
Career achievement, to Carol Burnett (who received the most thunderous, sustained ovations of the night). Burnett: ''Does this mean I'll never get another bad review?''
Burnett recalled how, in the early '60s, she signed a 10-year deal with CBS that included a five-year option for her to host a variety series on the network. ''So we were five years into that contract, and I really needed the money. And so it was a week before the five years would be up, and I was in California with my husband, Joe Hamilton, ... and we called Mike Dann at CBS. ... And I said, 'Mike, you know, I think I want to push that button and do that variety show we talked about five years ago. And he said, 'What?' ... He called the next day and said, 'Oh, right,' so they had to do this. And he said, 'But, you know, we have this great sitcom pilot thing called ''Here's Agnes,'' and it would just be great for you.' ... I said, 'This is what I really want to do,' and he had to do it. ... And I'm so glad I didn't do 'Here's Agnes.' ''
Program of the year, to ''Grey's Anatomy.'' ''You guys stuck with us through it all and you didn't even mind the fact that we wouldn't tell you what was going to happen in any episode of the show ever, for any reason.''