The Last Critics Voice Before The Emmys

A Reaction to the TCA Awards and The Peabody Awards

Last year, I realized far too late that there were two more awards shows that could serve either as an alternative or perhaps a precursors to the Emmys a little less than two months away: The Television Critics Association, which gives their awards in August, and the Peabody Awards, which I now see run from between May of one year and the next.

In an earlier article, I expressed my general satisfaction when I learned about the TCA nomination process, which I have now learned considers a far greater body of work than I had seen in their awards, which as I mention in an article previous to that, already impressed me greatly. I knew I would probably be disappointed when the inevitable winners were announced on Saturday night. I was, but not as much as I can be by the Emmys or the Golden Globes.

Unlike the previous year, where drama ruled the day, this years TCA chose to give its honors mostly to comedy. Their big winner was Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, a very dark comedy that I have just begun to watch. Having seen the first season, I’m inclined to believe that this is an outstanding show, and that Waller-Bridge, the lead actress/showrunner is a truly revolutionary talent. She was more than deserving of the Best Actress in a Comedy award she received, as well as the awards she got for Best Comedy and Show of the Year. The second — and according to Waller-Bridge, final — season of the Amazon comedy aired this year and got twelve Emmy nominations. I’m now inclined to believe it deserved most of them.

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Another new competitor that I was pleased to see recognized was Netflix’s Russian Doll for Best New Series. Having seen most of the first season, it is one of those shows that defy easy compartmentalization — it could be a very surreal comedy, or a very satiric drama — I’m still not sure. Both these series have moved in my estimation for the Best Comedy prize, which is looking to be a crowded field (I’ll get to that later)

The TCA did recognize drama, though, and I was over the moon to see that Better Call Saul was its pick for Best Dramatic Series. I don’t know how much it’ll count towards stopping the juggernaut that is Game of Thrones, but I’m encouraged. I was also impressed that Chernobyl prevailed in a very tight field for Limited Series/TV Movie — maybe this gives it the barest of leads in an already crowded field. But it wasn’t all darkness — Michelle Williams demonstrated she might be able to break the chokehold Patricia Arquette has on Best Actress in a Limited Series by winning for Fosse/Verdon. Talent aside, she’s one of my favorite actresses, and I would like to see her up at the podium (if only because she might give a shout out to ‘Full House’).

And even though, Deadwood got ignored in the main competition, the Critics which have given it a lot of recognition in the past gave it their equivalent of the Lifetime Achievement Award to David Milch and the Heritage prize to the series. I don’t know if this will encourage the often sentimental Emmy voters to give the Best TV Movie prize to Deadwood. Sentimentality is one of the last things I associate with Al Swearengen and the camp, but if it means the cocksuckers will give them a prize, I think they’d put up with it.

The Peabody Awards weren’t quite as decisive as the TCA, but they did recognize quite a few series that might cloud the Emmy judges’ minds further. They gave a dual recognition to Fox 21 for The Americans (yet another prize the classic series picked up for its run), but also gave recognition for Pose, Ryan Murphy’s exceptional drama about the gay and trans black community in late 1980s New York. They also recognized Killing Eve, another outstanding series. Could these two series manage to upset the Mother of Dragons? Both were far better.

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Comedy is a harder thing to measure, but the Peabody Awards recognized one of the greatest series of the last year — The Good Place — and a series that is rapidly becoming one of my personal favorites — Barry. The two series have little in common except for their excellence, and their willingness to take incredible risks — witness ‘Janets’ and ‘ronny-lilly both of which received multiple nominations this year. Their recognition, along with that of the TCA means the comedy awards will probably be far more compelling to watch then the dramas — and that’s without considering Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and its twenty nominations.

The one thing both award groups had in common was that they chose to ignore the heavy favorites — Game of Thrones was ignored by both of them completely and Veep was essentially shut out. When They See Us also considered a heavy favorite, was ignored by the TCA, though considered it missed the Peabody’s deadlines, we may see it next year. That’s not to say HBO was ignored — the Peabody Awards were more than willing to recognize a work of ark in sketch comedy — Random Acts of Flyness, which the Emmys in their infinite wisdom, basically ignored.

I’m not naïve enough to think that these awards will necessarily have much effect on what the average Emmy voter does — their acknowledgement of other awards shows can be hit or miss at best. But if there is any hope that the House of Ice and Fire and Selina Meyer’s America — both of which have already received well more generosity from the Emmys than they deserved — it comes in the chance that the voters might look beyond them. At least, that is my hope. We’ll keep watching to see if there is any chance of that.

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