By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Tina Fey won an Emmy on Saturday for her uncanny portrayal of former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live," while pop star Justin Timberlake also was honored for his appearance on the NBC network's veteran sketch-comedy series.
Both won their guest-starring awards at the creative arts portion of the Emmys, where 72 awards mostly in technical categories were handed out. Awards in 28 high-profile races will be given out during a live broadcast on September 20.
The Emmys are the top awards for U.S. television.
The top network was Time Warner Inc's HBO, which won 16 awards led by "Grey Gardens" and the Iraq war miniseries "Generation Kill" with three each.
In winning her Emmy, Fey beat out two contenders from her own NBC comedy, "30 Rock," which leads all shows with 22 nominations. She made reference to Palin, who resigned in July as governor of Alaska less than a year after she was chosen as Senator John McCain's running mate in last year's U.S. presidential election.
"Mrs. Palin is an inspiration to working mothers everywhere because she bailed on her job right before Fourth of July weekend. You are living my dream. Thank you, Mrs. Palin!"
It marked Fey's sixth career win, and she is in contention for two awards at the main ceremony, including best comedy actress.
Timberlake won his second career Emmy, this time for playing various characters on an episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" that he hosted. NBC is a unit of General Electric Co.
In the dramatic categories, the guest-starring awards went to veteran actress Ellen Burstyn for NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and Michael J. Fox for "Rescue Me" on FX.
It marked Burstyn's first Emmy win after four nominations. She previously won an Oscar in 1975 for "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore."
'I WAS A LITTLE LACKING'
"It did seem like I was a little lacking in that side of the mantelpiece. I just felt it would be balanced if I had an Emmy, too," said Burstyn, who appeared in the veteran crime show as the mother of series star Chris Meloni.
Fox, who was not present at the ceremony, now has five Emmys -- including three for "Family Ties" and one for "Spin City." In Denis Leary's firefighter drama "Rescue Me," he played an angry, drug-abusing paraplegic.
A big winner at the ceremony was the Charles Dickens miniseries adaptation "Little Dorrit," whose four wins overshadowed favored contenders "Grey Gardens" and "Into the Storm." "Little Dorrit" aired on U.S. television on PBS.
By the time "Little Dorrit" won its fourth award, for cinematography, cameraman Lukas Strebel succinctly summed up the mood. "I'm speechless and everything's been said," he said.
"Grey Gardens," a TV movie based on the documentary about two socialites who love in squalor, was one of seven shows to pick up three awards. It received 17 nominations overall, second only to "30 Rock," and remains in contention for seven awards.
"30 Rock" won a pair of Emmys, and will compete for 13 at the main ceremony, including best comedy, which it won last year.
Among other big guns, defending best-drama champ "Mad Men" won a single award, but will hope to add up to nine awards at the main ceremony. It airs on the AMC cable network.
"Saturday Night Live," with 13 nominations, won two awards and will compete for six more Emmys.
Comedy Central's "South Park" was named best animated program (for programing less than one hour) for the third time, beating Fox's 10-time winner "The Simpsons." The two shows have taken turns winning the prize since 2005. Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer Simpson, won his fourth Emmy in the voice-over category.
Host Kathy Griffin lost in both her categories. California first lady Maria Shriver, who was not present, won a pair of Emmys as an executive producer of two documentaries about Alzheimer's disease.