Is The HCA TV Awards The Best Awards Show Ever? I’m Starting to Think So
Part 1: The Broadcast and Cable TV Awards
On at least three separate occasions last night at the HCA TV awards, I heard variations on the phrase: “This is the best awards show ever!” Granted, the people saying it had just won awards and could understandably be using hyperbole, but having seen last nights awards — only the second that this organization has ever given for TV — I’m beginning to think the line is forming behind it.
I was overjoyed last year at the lion’s share of the recipients of the inaugural HCA TV awards, done almost entirely over Zoom like almost every other awards show last year. But when you’re willing to give prizes to Wandavision and Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas, when you recognize overlooked actors by other groups such as Ted Danson for Mr. Mayor and Tatiana Maslany for Perry Mason, and when you give your Best Cable Drama prize to Cruel Summer, my hands were sore from applauding, my throat from cheering and my feet may have left the floor at one point. Suffice to say, when the HCA met this weekend to give their second set of awards, but their first in front of a live audience, the bar had been set incredibly high for what they would do this year. They didn’t quite clear it at last nights proceeding for Broadcast and Cable, but they sure as hell came close and when we got to hear so many of the acceptance speeches I was overjoyed.
I gave the predictions for the Broadcast and Cable Awards over much of last week, the ones I hoped would win and the ones I thought would win. Last year, more of the show and the actors in the former category did then the latter and honestly, the ones I ranked in the latter deserved as much.
It was Quinta Brunson’s night as well as Abbott Elementary. The comedy series deservedly took home four prizes, including Best Broadcast Comedy, Best Actress in a Comedy for Brunson, Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for Janelle James, and Brunson for writing the Pilot. Combined with her taking the prize for breakthrough talent, Brunson practically wore out the stage walking back and forth. And just like the character she played, she actually more modest with each win. When the series took its final prize, she handed the microphone to Sheryl Lee Ralph, who brought the house down: “We love Abbott Elementary…and to all the critics who voted for us, you made the right choice!” The cheers were overwhelming.
The other major winner in the comedy category was, not surprisingly, Barry. While Bill Hader was absent, he took home Best Actor and Best Director, giving a taped speech for the latter. Henry Winkler took another Supporting Actor prize and was gracious in thanking everybody.
Keeping in with last year’s tradition of not giving the biggest winner in this category prize, Best Cable Comedy went to What We Do In the Shadows. The cast who was there was justifiably surprised, particularly Harvey Guillen: “I was about to go to the bathroom,” he said. I had thought What We Do in the Shadows was a likely winner (and a deserving one) but after going 0 for 7 I thought they had no chance. I’m actually fine with that.
Best Drama was nothing but joy — well, almost. Better Call Saul had the kind of night that you’d been hoping it would have at award shows for years, taking four prizes. Bob Odenkirk got the Best Actor trophy (he shouted out this was the best awards show ever then) and Giancarlo Esposito and Rhea Seehorn got the trophies they have been owed for years by various organizations. Esposito spoke extemporaneously and movingly; Seehorn had to read from her speech but I was overjoyed both times.
The other major winner on this front was Yellowjackets which took the Best Director prize for the Pilot and another Best Actress trophy for Melanie Lynskey, who really should stopping so shocked when this happens. (I loved her speech by the way, especially the shoutout to Juliette Lewis). Lynskey must now be considered the front runner for Best Actress. (And in a minor display of joy in my enemies’ defeat, can I just say how thrilled I was that Euphoria was completely shut out last night. I can only hope the Emmys show similar wisdom.)
But the biggest thrill of all came for This is Us. Dan Fogelman took the Best Writing prize for ‘The Train’, the penultimate episode and watching his shock, and his utter honesty about how all award shows have treated the Emmys. “We used to be told, here’s where you’ll sit and we’ll see you in the green room, now, it’s we’ll show where you to go to have your parking validated.” (Not entirely fair, but not unjustified.) This is where Fogelman shouted out this was the best awards show ever, something that he must have felt doubly so when the series less surprisingly took the trophy for Best Broadcast Drama. If Mandy Moore did not take the Best Actress prize, her trophy for Best Virtuoso where she got to thank everybody on the series must have been a worthy consolation.
And we got the thrill that Critics Association awards give when the Best Cable Drama prize ended in a tie. Here I turned out to being right on both what I hoped would win (Better Call Saul) and what I assumed would win (Succession). Just as at the SAG awards, where it only won Best Ensemble, the co-win for Succession seemed almost perfunctory. Better Call Saul’s triumph seemed like an act of pure joy, one that I so hope the Emmys can manage to see some room towards later on.
Limited Series had fewer surprises: The White Lotus was the biggest winner of the entire night, taking five prizes including Best Limited Series, Best Writing, Best Directing, and Murray Bartlett for Best Supporting Actor and Jennifer Coolidge for Supporting Actress. The joy was mitigated because almost no one from the cast and crew was there as they were shooting Season 2. (I’m not certain when Bartlett was absent.) Oscar Isaac took Best Actor for Scenes from a Marriage. The big shock of the category came when Sarah Paulson took Best Actress for Impeachment, which I didn’t mind because I could see the validity of her being chosen and because unlike almost everyone else, she was actually there. She too had a funny ending to her speech: “I have said nasty things about critics over the year, but receiving this award, you are the nicest and sexiest people I have ever known.”
And to be clear, the first live show was very, very entertaining. I loved watching a lot of the critics in acting including when two critics enquired of Milo Ventimiglia past roles on American Dreams and Gilmore Girls (“Did you run off with Rory Gilmore? You can tell us after the show.) There were wry moments when Martha Plimpton said she loved Henry Winkler in Lords of Flatbush, a reference that puzzled co-presenter Garret Dilahunt, but that a later critic presenter said she loved. And the highlight of the night came when one of the presenters explained to their younger viewers what network and cable channels were (A series that aired on HBO, but not HBO Max, which was once HBO Plus, which was once HBO Go… and built from there.) The punch line involved CNN (but not if it aired on CNN+ which will be covered in our In Memoriam segment)
It will be very difficult for the awards involving streaming series to equal what I saw on last night broadcast in terms of pure joy and entertainment value. But the HCA has more than demonstrated a capability to surpass expectations. Tune in tomorrow to find out.