The Critics Choice Awards For TV (and Overall) Were Everything I Could Hope For — And More
Jimmy Kimmel Was Right
I have always said the Broadcast Critics Awards are arguably my favorite when it comes to television, not just for the quality of the nominees and winners but also because of the genuine joy that everybody –audience, presenters, hosts — genuinely seem to be having. I was not shocked when the awards were postponed from January to this past Sunday because of the understandable fears of the omicron strain of Covid. But it was worth the wait, not just these past two months but the entire year and a half since the virtual version we got last January.
Where to begin? I don’t think I’ve given enough credit over the last few years for the wonderful job that Taye Diggs has been doing hosting this show. He is funny without being offensive, charming without being smarmy and utterly delightful. His enjoyment seems far more genuine than any other awards show host I’ve seen in recent years and I love watching him work. There was a certain potential for awkwardness as Nicole Byer, a brilliant comedian in her own right co-hosted, but the two of them really seemed to be enjoying each other, particularly as Nicole had to constantly talk Taye down from doing musical numbers. I’d make a request for Diggs to host the Oscars someday, but who would wish that on anybody?
I will focus first on the awards themselves. First of all, my prediction rate was higher than usual which came as something of a shock to me. The Critics Choice are notorious unpredictable in the awards as you can’t tell whether they will lean towards the season that has passed or the season that is still going on. This year, they leaned more towards the latter. With the exception of three awards which I will get do in due course, all of the awards they gave were for the season that started, more or less, in September. And while there may not have been excitement, there sure as hell was a lot of fun being had.
Ted Lasso. as I expected even though part of me really did yearn for Only Murders in the Building to triumph, was the most dominant show of the night, winning four of the five awards in the comedy. Brett Goldstein took Best Supporting Actor, promised not to swear in his acceptance speech, and then ended up doing it near the end when he thanked Juno Temple. (Sadly he still wasn’t able to talk with idol Ray Romano as the cast was mostly in London shooting Season 3.) Hannah Waddingham won her second consecutive Supporting Actress award and was even wilder than she was at the SAG awards. The series won Best Comedy and Jason Sudeikis continued his dominance in the Best Actor category for the second straight year. Sadly, he wasn’t there to accept it. Sudeikis win was all the more joyful when you consider that one of the presenters was fellow SNL cast member Kristen Wiig. But it was even more delightful watching her and Annie Mumolo, pretty much in character from Barb and Star go through byplay with co-star Jamie Dornan, who was there as part of the cast for Belfast. They seemed astonished that Barb and Star wasn’t his only movie, thought Belfast had to do with Slim-fast, and then had an even greater number when Jamie told them he had been shooting a movie called Slim-Fast. “Is there a lot of nudity?” Wiig asked. “Yes actually,” Dornan replied. (Have I mentioned how much fun these awards are?)
Of course, Jean Smart completed her sweep of the Best Actress prizes for Hacks and got a standing ovation, but she threw away her notes to give thanks to show-creator Luci Anello, who wasn’t there…and then she told us why. “Friday afternoon, we were shooting a scene and Luci went into labor…she was directed us between contractions, I kid you not! And on Saturday she won the top prize at the Directors Guild!” She then dedicated the award to her and her new child. I didn’t think I could love Smart more.
The Limited Series award had most of the focus on the past, giving the grand prize to Mare of Easttown and Kate Winslet, who like Smart also completed the sweep. (She wasn’t there to accept it though.) Michael Keaton, as expected, took the Best Actor prize for Dopesick, and this time was more fun. He started his speech by saying he needed to go to the bathroom (which is why Selma Hayek was left hanging for so long at the SAGs) then said he loved awards season ‘the smell of fake humility is in the air’, which got a huge laugh. Then he became more solemn and said how sad it was to accept an award on the back of a tragedy like the opoid epidemic, gave a personal story about one of the patients he met during the series and how strong the women who helped them were as well as mother in general and ended his speech with a shout out President Zelensky.
The best sign for the future came for the Supporting Actors which both went to The White Lotus I was overjoyed to see Murray Bartlett finally take home a prize (I will admit I didn’t recognize him without the mustache) and was only saddened by the fact that Jennifer Coolidge was not there to accept her trophy. Both gave truly magnificent performances and I hope this bodes well for a triumph at the Emmys later this year.
I now turn to drama which more or less went as I expect. Once again, Succession took the prize and once again Squid Game made it sweat. Lee Jung-Jae who had a better command of English this time, duplicated his Best Actor prize at the SAGs and officially becomes the frontrunner (at least until Better Call Saul premieres in April; then we’ll reassess) and the series also took the prize for Best Foreign Drama which has been here for awhile and wasn’t just created to give a consolation prize. Sarah Snook took Supporting Actress and Kieran Culkin took Supporting Actor and fell over himself in astonishment that you really wonder if he’d taken Cousin Greg’s speech by mistake. (Snook has tested positive for Covid and wasn’t there.)
But the shock of the night came for Best Actress when front runner MJ Rodriguez lost to Melanie Lynskey for the brilliant new horror comedy Yellowjackets. Lynskey was completely caught off guard (her cast mates weren’t) and gave a beautiful speech, thanking the child actress who plays the younger version on the show, cheering all her fellow castmates and thanking her agent “whose made almost zero dollars off me the past twenty years.” It was a charming and witty speech for an actress whose career started nearly thirty years ago in Heavenly Creatures and has never reached the heights of her co-star (and fellow winner tonight) Kate Winslet. Will she be the front runner at the Emmys? We’ll see.
And all of these were only the awards. When you consider how almost every presenter seemed to knock it out of the park, it was a joy. Joel McHale and Ken Jeong bantering about their days on Community and McHale, taking the piss out of his friend by saying ‘it took him 28 seconds to mention he was in The Hangover’; the women of Pose giving the prizes for Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama in the same style they did on the catwalk; Taiki Waititi leading up to the presentation of Best Director and the international level by finishing with a shout out to New Zealand “the country all Americans want to move to, but we will not let you. Ray Romano led up to his speech with a priceless bit: “I’m going to thank my wife because I’m not going to win tonight. I’ve never thanked her in my previous acceptance speeches. Sex and acceptance speeches are not place you remember names. And since neither is going to happen tonight, I’ll just mention her now.” When the laughter died down just a little: “It’s definitely not happening tonight…no, we’ve done March already.” It says a lot about the quality of the awards and the presenters that Serena and Venus Williams showing up on stage to give the Best Drama Award was not the high point of the night. (I actually liked when Jane Campion referenced them in her acceptance speech for Power of the Dog. “I’ve taken up tennis too….You’re great player, but you don’t have to face the boys. I have to face the boys.’ And everybody laughed and cheered as much as when her fellow Kiwi hugged her hard before she gave her speech)
I couldn’t mention all of this and not pay tribute to the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award which was given to Billy Crystal. Jimmy Kimmel presented it and was both slightly delivering barbs and self-deprecating at the same time. The highpoint of a great speech came, perhaps inevitably, when Kimmel discussed when he asked Billy about hosting the Oscars. “He sent forget about the audience at home and concentrate on the people at the theater. And I did just that. The people in the theatre had a good time and now no one watches at home.”
Crystal was pitch-perfect in his speech. “I look at all the moments in the montage and one word occurs to me: “Residuals.” He looked at Kimmel. “Here’s the thing. I asked for Jimmy Fallon…Now what do I do?’… When I heard I was getting a Lifetime Achievement Award, you think ‘Do they know something I don’t?’” Then he went back to his past, thanked his wife of 52 years and his children ‘in order of appearance’ and gave a special salute to the people of Ukraine, which had meaning because as he told us the first audience he ever performed to were his relatives who had emigrated from Eastern Europe. He said: “The best is yet to come.’ With Crystal, I wouldn’t doubt it.
I’ll close this article with a remark Kimmel made early in his intro. “I love the Critics Choice awards more than the Peoples Choice Awards. The People are kind of stupid.” And when you make the comparison between the kinds of TV shows the People’s Choice have made and the Critics Choice do, I couldn’t agree more. Nights like this make me proud of my chosen profession. (I’ll admit I’m annoyed that Oslo beat Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas for Best TV Movie, but we’re Critics. We’re not perfect.)