Hurray For Hollywood (Critics Association! A Followup Better Than The Original
Part 1: All The Streaming Nominations Considered
Almost a year ago to the day, those of you who read my blog regularly might have remembered me posting a series of columns in which your humble scribe when into paroxysms of ecstasy. On that day, I found that the Hollywood Critics Association, a group that I had never heard of before, had decided to give their first ever television awards. In doing so, they sliced the Gordian Knot that has perplexed almost every awards show in the past decade by electing to deal with the differences between broadcast, cable and streaming by giving separate awards for categories in all three mediums.
The ingenuity of this idea delighted me even before I saw the results. Before that I had long praised the decade-old Broadcast Critics Awards as the best awards show on the air; in one year, they fell to second place. When you see an awards show willing to nominate Big Sky and Season 4 of Fargo which every other group ignored, when you see them willing to acknowledge Mr. Mayor and Resident Alien, and when they actually were willing to give a lot of awards to such undervalued gems as Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas and Cruel Summer, then its fair to say I’ve never been prouder to be a critic.
Then again, there was the fact that for all intents and purposes, the 2020–2021 season was an ‘off’ year. Most of the series that regularly dominated award shows the previous several years hadn’t filmed that season or indeed for even longer. How would the HCA deal with things as television returned to ‘normal’?
There were good signs early on. For starters, they expanded the number of nominees in each category from seven to eight. Then they decided to add to their number of awards by giving prizes for individual achievement in directing and writing in every category. They were willing to do even more work than the previous year. And today we saw the results.
I didn’t think it would be possible for me to be more impressed by their nominations than last year. Sequels are, as a rule, never as good as the original. But they continued to amaze and impress. Sure I’ll admit there were some choices that made me unhappy (Euphoria’s seven nominations; Big Sky and Evil being completely shut out) but in the former case, it was inevitable that awards groups were going to nominate that series. The fact that they were willing to nominate The Gilded Age is a good sign (even if it only got two nominations) and that they were willing to be more reduced in their nominations of other series was encouraging (I honestly thought Ozark would do better than it ended up doing).
There is, as you’d expect from any awards show, a lot to unpack. So much like last year, I’ll break it down as much as I can. I will start by dealing with everything relating to streaming because it’s fundamentally easier to deal with one medium of nominees than trying to parse the cable and broadcast awards. (Though spoiler: they really did a good job there too.)
This time I’ll start with Dramas
BEST STREAMING DRAMA
Some surprises some not so much. As you’d expect Ozark, Squid Game and Stranger Things are among the leaders. The Morning Show is less of a surprise and now I officially have to start watching Severance. Pachinko received a lot of buzz from the early air, as has Loki. I am fairly surprised that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is here and not Evil, which did do a lot better with the Broadcast critics this year at least as far as nomination. And why Strange New Worlds and not Picard? Well, I have an idea what series to watch if I didn’t before. And The Good Fight isn’t here at all which also was fairly dominant last year. Oh well.
BEST ACTOR IN A STREAMING DRAMA.
No one should be surprised to see Jason Bateman, Lee-Jung-jae and Adam Scott here: all three were likely front runners for nominations from the Emmys. Tom Ellis was a favorite from the HCA last year (he got a lifetime achievement award for Lucifer) Penn Badgley is an interesting surprise for You as is Henry Cavill for The Watcher. Perhaps we shouldn’t be shocked to see Tom Hiddleston here, as he has always been an awards favorite. I love Gary Oldman, and I’m glad to see him nominated. I just wonder why Mike Coifer wasn’t.
BEST ACTRESS IN A STREAMING DRAMA
This is a little harder to parse. Laura Linney was an inevitability is this category. So was Jennifer Anniston. I’m delighted to see Reese Witherspoon nominated for her work in The Morning Show and thrilled to see Winona Ryder finally recognized for her work on Stranger Things. Britt Lower was swept on the Severance tied.
The other nominees show the eclectic nature of the HCA. Ming-Na Wen was nominated for playing the same character she did in The Mandalorian for the book of Boba Fett. Victoria Pedretti is very skilled on You, though now I question why Strange New Worlds was nominated instead of it. And I guess it was too much to hope for that Bridgerton would be ignored entirely, though it seems yet another excuse to snub Christine Baranski. (0 for 2 from the HCA? Not a good sign for the Emmys.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A STREAMING SERIES, DRAMA
I’ve obviously now going to have watch Severance very carefully to try and parse the quality of the supporting cast. That said, John Turturro and Christopher Walken are two of the greatest actors of all time; I hope one of them wins. Billy Crudup was almost a sure thing for The Morning Show, and it was almost inevitable there’d be at least one actor from Squid Game here. Owen Wilson for Loki. Hmm. Well, at least there’ll be a Stiller-Wilson reunion at the HCA.
I love Steve; I’m just a little surprised Joe Kerry got nominated over David Harbour. Still, no problem there.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A STREAMING SERIES, DRAMA
No problem with Patricia Arquette. Jury’s still out on Dichen Lachman. I have no problem with the girl power assembled for Stranger Things and while I’ll be pulling for Millie Bobby Brown, I’ll have no problem with Maya Hawke or Sadie Sink. Jung Ho-yeon and Julia Garner are front-runners for the Emmys so I wasn’t shocked to see either here.
Was there too much attention paid to Loki? Couldn’t we have found room for any of the wonderful supporting cast in either Evil or The Good Fight? Well, at least we know the HCA isn’t a snob over Marvel like some people.
As for the writing and directing awards, I’m glad to see the group at Stranger Things and Squid Game nominated and M. Night Shamaylan getting some acknowledgement for Servant (which was essentially shafted after doing well last year). I’m glad the Ozark nominations were kept to a minimum and I’m glad to see Nine Perfect Strangers get nominated for something (even if I radically disagree with its placement in the category.)
Now let’s go to comedy, which was going to be more complicated given the return of so many older properties, along with a bunch with new ones.
BEST STREAMING COMEDY
Very hard to complain about most of the nominees. I advocated strongly for Hacks, Only Murders in the Building and Ted Lasso and they’re among the most nominated shows. I’m glad to see Reservation Dogs included and it was inevitable Marvelous Mrs. Maisel would be back. Dickinson has a certain critical acclaim, and considering the early love for Schmigadoon! (which trust me I will see) I’m glad it’s here. Is it slightly surprising to see The Afterparty listed about The Great? Actually, considering how much more the former is to a comedy not really.
BEST ACTOR IN A STREAMING COMEDY.
No one will be shocked to see Jason Sudeikis, Martin Short and Steve Martin facing off: the three of them are the most likely winners. I don’t agree with Nicholas Hoult as one of the leads in The Great, but it’s hard to deny he doesn’t deserve a nomination. I’m always glad to see Keegan-Michael Key getting nominated for anything; ditto Sam Richardson. A lot of people loved The Peacemaker and John Cena, so I’ll give him credit. In all honestly, I would rather have seen one of the leads from Reservation Dogs nominated rather than Rhys Darby for Our Flag means Death but that’s a judgment call. And given the love for Hawkeye, where’s Jeremy Renner?
BEST ACTRESS IN A STREAMING COMEDY.
No one’s surprised to see either Jean Smart or Rachel Brosnahan hear; I expect one of these two stand-ups of different eras. Elated to see Selena Gomez here; let’s hope the Emmys remember. Oh how the mighty have fallen, Kaley Cuoco is the only nominee from the once mighty Flight Attendant. Elle Fanning’s luck continues to hold for The Great; she may have an outside chance at a nomination.
Hailee Steinfeld deserves to be nominated. Would I have chosen Dickinson over Hawkeye? This does prove what a versatile actress she is. I’m glad to see Tiffany Haddish included. Is Kat Dennings becoming an HCA favorite? Last year, she was a surprise nominee for Wandavision; now she’s nominated for Dollface. Couldn’t they have chosen Amy Schumer or either of the leads of Pen15? Seems a little arbitrary.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A STREAMING COMEDY
Brett Goldstein and Nick Mohammed were likely nominees from the Emmys, so no problem. Delighted to see Nathan Lane here for Only Murders in the Building. Overjoyed to see Paul W. Downs nominated for Hacks (great minds do think alike.) Glad to see Tony Shalhoub recognized; he will be a heavy favorite.
Toheeb Jimoh’s work for Ted Lasso was showcased far better in Season 2. You can never nominate Taiki Waititi enough for anything. Was Ben Schwartz really the best choice from The Afterparty? Hard to say.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A STREAMING COMEDY
Last year, the HCA couldn’t choose between Hannah Einbinder for Hacks and Hannah Waddingham for Ted Lasso and gave them a tie. They’re facing off again. Another tie? Look at the competition. First Juno Temple is back again. The legendary Alex Borstein joins the ranks for Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Amy Ryan will fight it out for her sweet role in Only Murders in the Building. And two award winning singers — Kristin Chenoweth and Ariana Debose from Schmigadoon! will be in the ranks as well.
One minor quibble. Are we really sure that Florence Pugh gave a better performance than Marin Hinkle in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?
The writing and directing battles would seem to be between Ted Lasso and Only Murders in the Building. But they were supposed to be foregone conclusions for Ted Lasso in last years’ Emmys and Hacks took them both. Taiki Waititi may very well conquer television as he’s nominated for directing Our Flag Means Death and the pilot of Reservation Dogs. I wouldn’t mind if the latter series took one of those prizes. I’m kind of pissed that Russian Doll was completely shut out; I’m not going to lie.
Now we’ll finish up with Best Limited Series, but first a shout out for nominated Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas. (Then again, considering last year, it wasn’t that surprising.
BEST STREAMING LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES
I have no problem with Dopesick, Maid, The Dropout or Under the Banner of Heaven. Station Eleven has been raved about for months, so it’s good to be here. Some of the other choices I do find questionable.
Midnight Mass was an early favorite with the Broadcast Critics so I’ll give that one a pass. But I just think there’s too much love being given to Pam and Tommy and The Staircase. One is a limited series of a subject that would make at best a TV movie; the other is an inferior adaptation of a superior documentary. And I honestly think Hulu took far too many nominations in this category. Couldn’t they have found room for A Very English Scandal? Or WeWorked? Or The Offer?
BEST ACTOR IN A STREAMING LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES.
I have no problem with Michael Keaton or Andrew Garfield. Hamish Linklater was nominated by the Broadcast Critics, so that passes muster. Samuel L. Jackson is one of the greatest actors of our time.
But Sebastian Stan? Twice? I thought the HCA was reaching when they nominated him for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier last year, but for Pam and Tommy and Fresh? Did they forget Paul Bettany’s name? Oscar Isaac is a questionable choice for Moon Knight and there is certain logic for Colin Firth for The Staircase, but did they real find so few eligible male leads for Limited Series they had to place Stan twice? Again, there are always going to be some agree I disagree with. Anyway.
BEST ACTRESS IN A STREAMING LIMITED OR ANTHOLGY SERIES ET AL
Ok. No problem with Amanda Seyfried or Margaret Qualley. I can see the logic of Anne Hathaway for WeCrashed and Toni Collette for The Staircase. I’m willing to give some leeway for Jessica Biel for Candy.
Beyond that, it’s hard to say. There seems to be far too much emphasis on Hulu in this category. Was a requirement that every female lead from a Hulu Limited Series be nominated in this category? Didn’t Elle Fanning (and as we’ll see Daisy Edgar-Jones) not get enough recognition? And why are we giving so much recognition for Lily James? This is excessive.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A STREAMING LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES
This is better. I have no objection to three nominees from Dopesick. I’ve been pitching for Stuhlbarg for weeks, and Peter Sarsgaard and Will Poulter are incredible. Naveen Andrews more than deserves his nomination for The Dropout and I can see the logic for Wyatt Russell for Under the Banner of Heaven. I don’t know if Matthew Goode’s work as Robert Evans was significantly better than his co-leads in The Offer, but I’ll let it pass.
But again, I can’t see the logic in nominating Seth Rogen for Pam and Tommy. And I’m not entirely sure Ethan Hawke deserves a nomination either, though at least he’ll have a reason to be there more to escort his daughter. Seriously, couldn’t you have found room for Nick Robinson for Maid?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A STREAMING LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES.
Honestly this is the bets group. Kaitlyn Dever and Rosario Dawson both more than deserve nominations for Dopesick. Laurie Metcalf more than earned it for Dropout and I don’t even have to waste time arguing why Andie MacDowell should be here. I’m more inclined to allow for double dipping for Melanie Lynskey (as we’ll see later on) Juno Temple for The Offer and Daisy Edgar-Jones for Under the Banner of Heaven. Do I find Chloe Sevigny’s presence for The Girl From Plainville arbitrary. She should have gotten something for Russian Doll, so I’ll consider this compensation.
Directing? Too many nominations for Pam and Tommy; not enough for The Dropout or Dopesick. It’s better distributed for writing, though I am a little depressed that Maid was nominated in either category and Station Eleven was nominated in both. It’s the HCA’s first year with writing; they’re still working the bugs out.
All of this and I still haven’t covered half the awards. Tomorrow I start my work on everything in Broadcast and Cable. Trust me; this will take a couple of days to work through. Be patient; the best is yet to come.