These Critics Are All Right, Part 1
Some Awards You Might Have Missed
As those of you who have been following my column are well aware, I love award shows. Sometimes, I tend to enjoy the nominations more than the actual awards — there are no winners yet, and there is no heartbreak.
But, like so many critics, I often get frustrated by the fact that year after year, the same series tend to get recognized by Emmys, and some of the better series fall completely off the radar. It’s one of the reasons I am grateful for the Golden Globes and, more recently, the Broadcast Critics. They have a tendency to be more open-minded and at least acknowledge some of the better series that don’t get mentioned. What I was relatively unaware of was that there were two other major groups that have been giving awards for TV series for a significant period of time that I have basically ignored, the former because I’d never heard of them, and the latter because, while they have been doing good work, entertainment television has mostly been on their back burner.
So, with less than three weeks to go before the Emmys, I thought that it might not be a bad idea to give recognition to those that give recognition themselves, mostly because, as a critic, I feel a certain kinship with both groups.
The Television Critics Association is a group that, frankly, I had heard nothing about. In one sense, they are a fairly narrow group. They give awards for Dramas, Comedies, News and Information, Movies, Mini-Series & Specials, and categories that sound like runners up like Best New Series or Show of the Year, But they only give awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in each category, no differentiating between male and female, lead and supporting.
But in a larger sense, they have been far more inclusive than the Emmys have ever been, recognizing series that they have to obtuse to recognize, and giving notice to some series that should have gotten more awards then they did. In Drama, for example, they recognized Homicide: Life on the Street, my personal candidate for best show of the 1990s for three consecutive years. They also acknowledged series who star shone too briefly, like My So-Called Life, Twin Peaks, Boomtown and I’ll Fly Away. And they acknowledged some series that visited the Emmys frequently but couldn’t take home the big prize, such as St. Elsewhere, Six Feet Under, and The Good Wife.
They’ve also demonstrated remarkable vision when it comes to comedy. The Larry Sanders Show was recognized. So were Sports Night, Malcolm in the Middle and Parks & Recreation. They’ve also shown the good sense to recognize black-ish and The Big Bang Theory.
You’d think their limitations on acknowledging only a single actor for Individual Achievement would limit them. Yet even there they’ve shown some genuine brilliance. They gave Andre Braugher their first two awards for Homicide. They acknowledged Michael C. Hall, Hugh Laurie, Ian McShane for Deadwood, Matthew McConaughey for True Detective and Carrie Coon last year for her dual turn in Fargo and The Leftovers. They showed less versatility in comedy, but they did recognize the late Bernie Mac, Nick Offerman, Amy Schumer and Rachel Bloom.
And they’ve shown remarkable farsightedness in other categories. In New Program, they recognized Ally McBeal to Glee to Orange is the New Black to This Is Us. But they also acknowledged Gilmore Girls, My Name is Earl, and Friday Night Lights. And Program of the Year often serves alternately as recognition of new shows, like Desperate Housewives and Heroes, but they’ve also acknowledged Battlestar Galactica.
Which brings us, at last, to this year recipients. Now, the TCA, like the Critics Choice has always been an enthusiastic backer of The Americans. They picked as the best new series of 2012–2013. They acknowledged it as Outstanding Drama for 2014–2015 & 2015–2016. But in its final season, they showed it a huge amount of love. They named it Outstanding Drama for the third time, only the fourth series to win at least three awards. They gave their Outstanding Dramatic Performance to Keri Russell. And their pick for Program of the Year was The Americans. Not Game of Thrones, not The Handmaid’s Tale. The Americans.
I know better than most that critics opinions of what is the best series of the year rarely count for much, unless the series is The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. But considering that the episode that the producers submitting was almost certainly the last one, and considering that one was probably the highpoint of the entire 2017–2018 season… just saying.
Outstanding Comedy was a little harder to measure. I am immensely gratified that the Critics acknowledged how truly and utterly great The Good Place is, I just wish the Emmy voters could’ve been persuaded to see things the same way. And I’m not horribly shocked that they chose to give the Outstanding Achievement in Comedy prize to Rachel Brosnahan for Marvelous Mrs Maisel, because that’s definitely what she is. And the TCA, unlike every other award show until now, knows just how brilliant the Palladino’s are. (They recognized Bunheads too.)
And I am encouraged by the fact that their choice for Best New Program was BBC Americas’s Killing Eve. Now I definitely have to get caught up. And its pretty clear that Assassination of Gianni Versace is the Mini-Series to beat.
Suddenly, I’m kicking myself for not even knowing the TCA ever existed before now. They look and sound like they’d really be my friends. I look forward to seeing what they will do next year.