July 23, 2007 at 07:28 PM EDT

The Television Critics Awards, bestowed Saturday night in Los Angeles, is an odd event: Praise and prizes handed out to stars and producers, some of whom have been savaged for their earlier shows by newspaper, magazine, and online scriveners. There’s an air of false bonhomie — not so much over who’ll win, but whether some producer will take a punch at some critic who panned his or her previous creative effort. Even the winners seemed ambivalent. Producer Jason Katims, overseer of Friday Night Lights, winner of “Outstanding New Program,” said in his acceptance speech that, in the wake of Lights‘ shutout in the Emmys nominations (to many critics’ and fans’ published dismay), “Thank you for the experience of being so publicly snubbed.”

David Chase, making a rare public appearance since the conclusion of The Sopranos, accepted “Outstanding Achievement in Drama” prize by invoking the Beatles’ White Album: “Here’s another clue for you all — the walrus was Paulie Walnuts.” He also offered, for anyone baffled by his gangland show’s oblique ending, this nicely self-deprecating explanation of his thought process. Recalling that while he was a student at Stanford University, he saw Planet of the Apes, and upon its conclusion, said he turned to his companion and said, “Wow, so [the apes] have a Statue of Liberty, too!” “So that’s what you’re up against,” he said with perfect dryness. Chase, clearly feeling a little defensive about criticism of The Sopranos‘ ending, turning to the TV critic from the Newark Star-Ledger, Alan Sepinwall, and said, “I’m from New Jersey; you’re from New Jersey… explain to the people that it is entirely possible to be sitting in a restaurant in New Jersey and everybody just stops.”

The Office producer Greg Daniels noted that as of this Saturday night he was on page 450 of the final Harry Potter. Awards ceremony host John Oliver (pictured), the Brit-born correspondent for The Daily Show, observed that over the weekend, while President Bush endured a colonoscopy, for three hours, Dick Cheney was the president, and therefore, “we should be thankful we are all still alive,” that “colors should be more vivid,” and we should appreciate our existence. That, and the fact that Friday Night Lights lives to risk both excellence and being snubbed for another season.

addCredit(“John Oliver: Alexandra Wyman/WireImage.com”)

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