Paltrow, recognized for "Glee," and Timberlake, a winner for hosting "Saturday Night Live," were no-shows at Saturday's ceremony for technical and other achievements. It preceded the main Sept. 18 Emmy show.
"She couldn't be here because it's happy hour at the Starlight Room," presenter and "Community" actress Alison Brie joked about Paltrow's absence.
Timberlake received his award for hosting a "Saturday Night Live" episode and shared in another Emmy for co-writing his opening monologue, in which he crooned about not wanting to sing.
"Justin Timberlake really wanted to be here but we said no, they want to see the writers," ''SNL" head writer Seth Myers told the audience.
"Boardwalk Empire," which stars Steve Buscemi as a Prohibition-era politico in Atlantic City, N.J., earned trophies for categories including art direction, picture editing and makeup.
Loretta Devine was honored as best guest actress in a drama series for "Grey's Anatomy," with Paul McCrane earning the category's best actor award for "Harry's Law."
Fired "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen, the subject of a Comedy Central "roast" taping across town Saturday, was at the ceremony in spirit as his former co-star Jon Cryer and series creator Chuck Lorre presented awards in the casting category.
Lorre said he'd been urged to share funny stories about casting, asking Cryer: "What do you think? Got any amusing anecdotes?"
"Uh, none that amuses me," Cryer replied.
"Drawing a blank," Lorre concluded.
"America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh received the Governors Award, and said backstage that he had received offers from Fox, which dropped the show, and CNN to do news commentary. He turned them down.
"I said to Fox, all I really want to do is catch bad guys and find missing children," Walsh said. "This is the only thing I know how to do on television."
He'll be hosting a new version of the show on the Lifetime network and hopes to expand internationally.
Howie Mandel teased next week's Emmy Awards, saying: "This is great. These are the creative Emmys. Unlike the Emmys next week, where there's no creativity at all."
HBO earned a leading 15 awards Saturday, followed by PBS with 10, Fox with nine, CBS with seven and NBC with five. ABC won three awards, behind the four each for Discovery Channel and History.
The creative arts ceremony will air Sept. 17 on ReelzChannel, which earned three awards for the controversial miniseries "The Kennedys." The 63rd annual prime-time Emmy ceremony, with "Glee" star Jane Lynch as host, will air live the next night on Fox.
Other winners at the creative arts Emmys included:
Host, reality or reality-competition series: Jeff Probst, "Survivor," CBS.
Voice-over performance: Maurice LaMarche, "Futurama: Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences," Fox.
Reality program: "Deadliest Catch," Discovery.
Commercial: "Born of Fire: Chrysler 200."
Animated Program: "Futurama: The Late Philip J. Fry," Comedy Central.
Nonfiction series: "American Masters," PBS.
Writing for a variety, music or comedy series: "64th Annual Tony Awards," CBS.
Music composition for a series (original dramatic score): "American Masters: John Muir In The New World," PBS.
Music composition for a miniseries, movie or special: "Mildred Pierce: Part Five," HBO.
Choreography (juried award: possibility of more than one award): Two awards, "So You Think You Can Dance," Fox.
Casting for a drama series: "Boardwalk Empire," HBO.
Casting for a miniseries, movie or a special: "Mildred Pierce," HBO.
Casting for a comedy series: "Glee," Fox.
Costumes for a miniseries, movie or a special: "Downton Abbey Part 1 (Masterpiece)," PBS.
Costumes for a variety-music program or a special (more than one award possible): "Gettysburg," History.
Costumes for a series: "The Borgias: Lucrezia's Wedding," Showtime.
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