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TCA honors ‘Idol,’ ‘Boomtown’

Crix reward unconventional, unscripted programming

The nation’s TV critics are singing the praises of “American Idol,” naming Fox’s monster hit their program of the year.

“Idol” snagged the highest honor at Saturday night’s 19th annual Television Critics Assn. Awards, which this year seemed to celebrate more unconventional programming than usual. Indeed, except for NBC’s “Rashomon”-like “Boomtown,” which snagged two wins, critics ignored scripted programming from the Big Four.

What’s more, no one net dominated: NBC, Comedy Central and PBS each drew two awards, while the rest of the honors were spread out among five other webs.

In addition to naming an unscripted skein the year’s best program, the critics also presented to Jon Stewart the award for individual achievement in comedy for his work as host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Skein also took comedy of the year kudos for its satirical coverage of the war in Iraq and other events.

“The Daily Show” emerged victorious in a field that included just one traditional network sitcom still on the air (“Everybody Loves Raymond”). Other nominees in the category included the canceled “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and BBC America’s “The Office.”

On the drama side, “Boomtown” — which was all but ignored in last week’s Emmy nominations — took home drama and new skein honors. Producers thanked critics for their frequent love letters to the show, which they said helped convince NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker to renew the drama for a second season.

After taking a year off from competish, “The Sopranos” returned and snagged a win for Edie Falco, whose pre-divorce performance earned her victory for individual achievement in drama. Another cable production, Sci Fi Channel’s ambitious mini “Steven Spielberg Presents Taken,” won in the movies/minis/specs category.

PBS took the nods for news and kiddie programming, with “Frontline” and “Reading Rainbow” finishing first in their respective categories.

“Rainbow” host LeVar Burton said that, thanks to critical support, the show now seems likely to continue to produce new episodes, with Congress actually earmarking specific funds for the coin-challenged educational skein.

TCA’s Heritage Award went to the late “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” with the skein’s two homes — WB and UPN — sharing joint custody of the plaque. Comedy legend Carl Reiner was feted for career achievement.

Awards were presented at the Hollywood Renaissance hotel, marking the first time in nearly a decade that the ceremony has taken place in the Hollywood area. Fox’s Wanda Sykes hosted the honors, which are voted on by the TCA’s membership of journos from the U.S. and Canada.

Also over the weekend, critics elected Seattle Times columnist Kay McFadden prexy of the TCA and confirmed the return of the press tour to the Renaissance in January.

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