This Time, Three Cheers For The Hollywood Critics Association
Their First Awards for TV was Everything I Could Hope For — And Still More
Last week, I spent an inordinate amount of space devoted to the Hollywood Critics Association first ever television awards. It was a lot of energy spent on an awards show I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to find online, much less watch. But thanks to a lot of patience with YouTube, I did in fact get to see all of these awards.
Considering all of the time and effort I expended on the nominations and what I hoped would win, I almost was prepared for an anticlimactic disappointment. But in what may be the first time for any awards show I have covered in my years as a critic, the HCA more than exceeded my expectations. It wasn’t just that I had a higher success rate with my predictions than I’ve had for practically every other awards show; it was because I cared so much about the nominees and winners that I really did feel their were no losers here.
I’m going to focus mostly on the winners than I am on the ceremony itself. However, given the fact that not only was this HCA’s first ever television awards, but that they had to at the last minute change from a live presentation to a virtual one, the entertainment value was surprisingly high. The presenters were mostly entertaining, they had a high level of enthusiasm that I appreciated, and a lot of the juried prizes led to some genuinely entertaining speeches, which I honestly figured would be more clichéd. I’ll get to some of them as I go.
I will start with Drama, which I practically spent the entire length of which applauded. The Streaming awards were pretty inevitable: Josh O’Connor, Emma Corrin, and Gillian Anderson all won for The Crown. Supporting Actor was a pleasant surprise: Rupert Grint ended up winning for his work in the Apple TV thriller Servant. This is the kind of series awards shows tend to overlook and I’m glad he won. I honestly would I like to have heard his speech. I wasn’t entirely happy that The Mandalorian ended up taking Best Streaming Drama (it actually seemed weird considering that it hadn’t won anything else) but you do expect there to be some quirks in any awards show.
As for Broadcast and Cable Dramas, the acting awards were very pleasing. As I expected, Billy Porter and MJ Rodriguez deservedly won for their wonderful performances in Pose. I was pleased to see Michael K. Williams win the Best Supporting Actor prize for Lovecraft Country (and I loved his description of the award as if the Oscar and the Emmy had a baby. Pretty accurate.) And I was the over the moon to see the all-too-frequently ignored by the Emmys Tatiana Maslany take the prize for her wonderful work in Perry Mason.
And if I was applauding to the point of soreness with those awards, I almost shrieked when Best Cable Drama went to Cruel Summer. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it had a chance. By giving this award to this incredible series, the HCA basically justified their entire creation of these awards. And considering that they lost Best Actress, I was overjoyed that Chiara Aurelia and Olivia Holt, those diamonds at the center of the show, gave the acceptance speech for the series. I didn’t think I could love them any more than I already did.
Was I disappointed when This is Us and Big Sky ended up losing to New Amsterdam for Best Broadcast Drama? A little. But considering the series as a whole received a special jury prize, I’m not really that upset. Shows like these do get lost in the awards shuffle and are part of the reason I think awards for Broadcast series should exist in the first place.
On to the Comedies. The Broadcast and Cable awards were as I expected, pretty much a tribute to Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. The series took both female acting awards (I’d expected Levy to win; Mary Steenburgen was a welcome surprise) and received another jury award for being a beloved show. I wasn’t thrilled by this because it sort of acknowledged what I’ve known in my heart for weeks: the series is more or less dead. But at least, the HCA acknowledged just how loved this show was, which is more than the Emmys were willing to do.
Onward. I was overjoyed with Ted Danson’s win for Mr. Mayor. He earned it. Little less thrilled that Nico Santos won for Supporting Actor over Alex Newell, but to be fair Superstore’s been ignored by the awards show for even longer. I was a little disappointed with Young Rock ending up winning Best Broadcast Comedy over Mr. Mayor and Zoey, but maybe that just means I should watch it next season. Resident Alien’s triumph for Best Cable Series is actual a more pleasant surprise because this show will almost never get recognized by the Emmys. They might acknowledge Breeders someday.
As for streaming, fewer surprises there though one can hardly argue undeserving ones. As I’m sure everyone would expect Ted Lasso won for Best Comedy and Best Actor for Jason Sudeikis. Best Actress went, as I’d hoped to Jean Smart. The Supporting awards actually had more pleasing surprises. Brett Goldstein won for Ted Lasso and while I’d rather have seen Brendan Hunt or Jeremy Swift, Goldstein’s overjoyed, profanity laced speech was the highpoint of that part of the ceremony. He said the reason he wanted a live one was to talk with Ray Romano and said he would share this award with his fellow Ted Lasso nominees…but he’d hold on to it longer. (Seriously, look on YouTube. I can’t possibly do it justice.)
Furthermore, the HCA demonstrated that, like the Critics Choice, they will handle ties as they did with Best Supporting Actress in a Streaming Comedy — or as it turned out, Best Supporting Hannah. Hannah Waddingham, as I expected, triumphed for Ted Lasso and was jubilant (I think I heard her daughter screaming in joy.) As did Hannah Einbinder did for her sterling work on Hacks. (Like I said before, she really proved me wrong by the time the series ended.)
When it came to Anthology/Limited Series, I was expected their might be some disappointments or some clarity and there was some of each. Kathryn Hahn continued her path towards Best Supporting Actress for her sterling work in Wandavision. (And the fact that she clearly couldn’t understand how to do the technology for Zoom actually makes me love her more.) Anya Taylor-Joy seems to have the real edge in an increasingly cutthroat Best Actress category when she won for The Queen’s Gambit.
The male acting awards were a little disappointing. Evan Peters prevailed for Mare of Easttown, which isn’t terrible (he’s the only Supporting Actor nominee of this group that was recognized by the Emmys) but I honestly would’ve been happier if Bill Camp or even Jon Boyega had prevailed. Best Lead Actor was arguably this entire awards biggest disappointment. In my opinion, they gave it to the least qualified nominee. Hugh Grant or Paul Bettany would give clarity; Chris Rock or Bryan Cranston would’ve had fairness. Instead, they gave it to Colman Domingo for the Euphoria two-part special, something which barely qualified for the category. I’m honestly angrier here than I was when Zendaya took the Best Actress Emmy last year.
As for the two anthology series awards proper, little clarity has been given to the overall picture. Best Streaming Anthology et al went to Wandavision rather than The Queen’s Gambit, though it’s hard to argue against the former’s qualifications. And Best Broadcast/Cable Anthology et al went to Mare of Easttown, not a huge shock though again, still would’ve wanted Fargo to win. I’m not going to lie though; seeing Julianne Nicholson accept the prize for the cast and the crew was a powerful moment for me. I’d honestly would like to see her win for anything.
And now, a personal speech to the HCA. You heard a huge amount of thank-yous last night, but this may mean more. As someone who has based much of his life around the job you have chosen to do, that you’ve created an awards show for television is wonderful. That you nominated so many series that got swept under the rug by the Emmys makes you exceptional. And the fact that you gave the awards to so many deserving men and woman for some of the truly greatest TV this year, it makes me proud of my chosen profession in a way I rarely get a chance to be. And that you managed such a great job on your very first try… I’m a great writer, but there are really no words.
You dignified everything you stand for with your first awards: Peak TV, criticism and the idea of awards themselves. I’m willing to be that very few people paid close attention to your inaugural show, but trust me I heard. And I know it will just be a matter of time before you go far beyond one on-line channel and the reach of a relative few. When the second awards happens — and God willing, you’ll be able to do in an actual auditorium with nominees there — no matter when or where it is, I’ll be watching.