It was a big night for cable TV at the Emmys Sunday night as AMC's Mad Men won for best drama series (the first basic-cable program to take the award) and HBO's John Adams won in 13 categories, the most for any show, including best miniseries. NBC's 30 Rock took the award for best comedy series, with its two stars, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, winning the best comedy actress and actor trophies. Actors appearing in cable shows took the drama awards, Glenn Close for the FX series Damages, and Bryan Cranston for the AMC series Breaking Bad. Commenting on the success of so many cable shows at this year's Emmys, Los Angeles Times TV columnist Scott Collins observed that "cable could easily corner the market on 'quality' programming." The telecast received some of its worst ratings ever -- never rising above second place in any half-hour period. It averaged a 9.5 rating and a 15 share.


Other top awards: Reality/Competition: The Amazing Race, CBS; Reality Host: Jeff Probst, Survivor, CBS; Made-for-TV Movie: Recount, HBO; Miniseries Actor: Paul Giamatti, John Adams, HBO; Miniseries Actress, Laura Linney, John Adams, HBO; Director, Drama Series: Greg Yaitanes, House, "House's Head," Fox; Director, Comedy Series: Barry Sonnenfeld, Pushing Daisies, "Pie-Lette," ABC.


As usual, the show that recognizes the best that television has to offer was slammed by critics as being just the opposite. San Francisco Chronicle writer Tim Goodman wrote: "The opening flopped, the middle sagged and the end was rushed. ... The nation was treated to five reality show hosts hammering home the same old reality we get every year -- that apparently nobody in television can make a decent awards show about brilliant TV series, actors, writers and directors." Mary McNamara, the Los Angeles Times's television critic opined that only British comedian Ricky Gervais, who presented the award for best director of a variety, music or comedy program, actually entertained the audience -- unlike any of the reality-show hosts. "If we come away with nothing else from this year's Emmys, let us all agree that having a host with some experience actually entertaining people is not a luxury, it's a necessity. Seriously, Mr. Gervais, what do you need to make this work for you next year?" Robert Bianco in USA Today also took aim at the hosts: "Why, in a year when so much good work was done by writers and actors, would Emmy turn itself over to five performers from unscripted TV -- and reward them for their incompetence by devoting extra time to their unnecessary category?" Mark Perrigard in the Boston Herald objected to the continuous jibes at John McCain and Sarah Palin: "It was a night that only reinforced the belief that Hollywood's most talented believe they know how America should vote -- and they were just itching to give instructions. Ironically, they just gave McCain more ammunition." In TV Week, Josef Adalian added: "While the political references will no doubt give bloggers plenty of fodder, and provided some mild distractions for viewers, they weren't enough to make this year's Emmys remotely interesting." (He, too, recommended that the producers hire Gervais to host next year's presentations.)


Sarah Palin continued to draw big ratings in her second TV interview last week, this one with a sympathetic interviewer, Sean Hannity of Fox News. Part one of the interview on Wednesday night attracted 4.92 million viewers; part two on Thursday attracted 4.59 million.


In the two weeks since NBC returned to the iTunes fold the network has sold more than one million TV shows on the Apple website, Apple said on Friday. Of the top-selling TV episodes available on iTunes, the company said, NBC shows account for nearly a third.