The Intl. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at New York's Hilton Hotel in midtown got off to a prompt start on Monday night.

British comic John Oliver (pictured) warmed up the multi-lingual crowd with the kind of wry cultural observances that made him a star on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and landed him his own topical series on HBO starting next year.

"Welcome to the Emmy's most prestigious television awards show that television can't be bothered to televise," he joked, noting how many British and Israeli formats are hits on U.S. nets these days.

Oliver continued to play to the crowd: "This had been the single most pathetic time in American history. The American political system has given us so much amazing TV that I'm surprised that they are not they are not nominated tonight," he said.

Thesp Sean Bean was the night's first winner, taking the lead actor trophy for role as a transsexual in the BBC drama series "Accused."

"I've never actually won anything," Bean said. "Thank you. I really am so happy."

Before dinner was served, Intl. Television Academy prexy and CEO Bruce Paisner and chairman Fred Cohen took the stage to welcome guests to the ceremony.

"There is too much noise, please be quiet," Paisner asked the boisterous crowd. "I promised that I wouldn't yell this year."

Paisner acknowledged the night's tribute honorees, RTL Group's Anke Schaferkordt and J.J. Abrams.

"He is one of the great creative talents of our time, Paisner said of multi-hyphenate Abrams, recipient of the Founders award. "He is taking time out from the next 'Star Wars' movie and we appreciate that. Most recipients of the Founders award are not young enough to bring their fathers but J.J. is and I'm honored that Gerry Abrams is here tonight."

To commemorate the burial of President John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago to the day, and "in recognition of the impact television played on that somber day," Cohen introduced a video containing archival television funeral footage.

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