Last night the BTJA announced the winners for their annual Critics’ Choice Awards celebrating their favorite television of the year. Beginning in 2011, this is the tenth year of the ceremony on the television side.
The television side of the critics group is still relatively new and because of that we’ve seen a lot of changes over the years as they find their footing. In 2016 there were two ceremonies as they transitioned from an Emmy cycle calendar to one that matched the film awards season. The group itself is also known for nominating shows from all spectrums of the television landscape. For every traditional awards contender they also celebrate rarely nominated networks like OWN and IFC. They also take the time to celebrate broadcast TV just as often as premium and streaming.
Look at this year’s lineup for instance. CBS’s Mom is nominated right alongside expected comedies like Fleabag and Barry with a wide variety of broadcast performances nominated as well including Walton Goggins (The Unicorn), Nico Santos (Superstore), and D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place). They also nominated shows no one had thought of as major contenders at all like OWN’s David Makes Man and Bashir Salahuddin of IFC’s Sherman’s Showcase.
In recent years they’ve also become known for ushering in unexpected names into the Emmy conversation. Last year they became the first voting body to celebrate Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal months before the television academy filled out their ballots.
This year the critics group mostly co-signed winners from the Emmys and Golden Globes which isn’t that surprising since they surprisingly line up for once. Fleabag and Succession won the top awards after winning the Golden Globes the week before. In fact six of tonight’s winners have already given acceptance speeches this year (some of them multiple).
By far the most interesting awards of the night came in the drama categories. While the comedy and limited series winners were filled with past Emmy and Golden Globes winners the drama winners were made up of new and exciting performances that we haven’t seen rewarded yet.
Succession won the top drama prize of the night after winning the Golden Globe just last week. With an insanely crowded crop of drama contenders no one has even tried declaring an early frontrunner. Now we can easily say that Succession is the clear frontrunner after winning two major prizes. Even though the BTJA doesn’t tell us anything about what industry voters are watching it does show that the HBO favorite is popular enough to win over a large and broad group of people.
On top of the win for Outstanding Drama Series Succession also took home a major acting prize; Outstanding Lead Actor for Jeremy Strong. This comes just a week after costar Brian Cox won the same prize at the Golden Globes. This is a big deal for an ensemble that has yet to nominated by their peers at both the Emmys and SAG Awards. They desperately needed some attention on their performances and it could be a sign that the upcoming Emmy race might come down to a fight between daddy and son.
One of the most exciting themes of the night was watching critics rally behind HBO’s continuation of Watchmen. Both Regina King and Jean Smart took home deserved acting prizes. In such a crowded field we’ve been hesitant to declare the drama an Emmy contender but these wins prove that the drama has strength especially since they’ve beat out a handful of more traditional awards friendly performances. Look at Jean Smart for example. She beat out both Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter.
The Morning Show (and Apple TV+) finally won their first major award but it wasn’t for drama series or Jennifer Aniston. Instead Billy Crudup won the Supporting Actor award. I don’t think anyone was really expecting Crudup to become the standout actor of the massive awards friendly ensemble but this on top of his SAG nomination shows that people are really responding well to his performance. Emmy voters also love to award popular character actors and After decades of work Crudup fits that mold perfectly.
Billy Crudup’s win is also exciting for the fact that it livens up the usually uneventful supporting actor lineup. In years past Peter Dinklage has handily been the favorite as awards groups struggle to find a deserving list of nominees. Between Crudup and the casts of Succession and The Crown this might finally be the category to watch.
This year’s crop of comedy winners aren’t that surprising. Fleabag, the best reviewed show of the year, took home three awards: comedy series, lead actress, and supporting actor for Andrew Scott. The second and final season so far has swept through awards season winning the top prize at the Emmys, Golden Globes, and now the Critics’ Choice.
The two other comedy awards went to the other obvious comedies; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry. Alex Borstein won the Supporting actress prize and Bill Hader won for lead actor after both actors just won their second consecutive Emmys. Their wins here show that their performances continue to be immensely popular and it will be interesting to see if that momentum holds through the 2020 Emmys. We’ve yet to see an actor win three consecutive awards under the new voting system.
None of tonight’s comedy winners gave us any real insight into the upcoming Emmy race but something very interesting did go down on the red carpet. Oscar winner Nicole Kidman met and took a photo with the cast of Schitt’s Creek. Dan Levy’s cult hit continues to be one of the most buzzed about comedies on TV and the more attention it gets the more of a chance it has at becoming a major Emmy contender in its final season.
The BTCA became the first group to deviate from the widespread love for Chernobyl and became the first group to award the equally deserving When They See Us with a top prize. This is a great sendoff for the limited series that entered Emmy season as the frontrunner but mostly went home empty handed. Critics also awarded Jharrel Jerome with the lead actor prize.
The massive critics group also took the opportunity to spread the winners across a string group of limited series. Michelle Williams continued her awards season streak winning for Fosse/Verdon. Following the Golden Globes Stellan Skarsgard won the supporting actor prize for Chernobyl.
Most of this year’s winners came from the first half of the year and although that speaks to the power of these performances it doesn’t really tell us much about the upcoming Emmy season. The major exception was Toni Collette’s win in the Supporting Actress race for her work in Unbelievable. Her win last night solidified her as the standout performance from the outstanding ensemble in regards to awards attention. On top of her win here she was also nominated at the Golden Globes and was the only one of the three nominated at SAG.
As momentum builds for her work in Unbelievable there’s a chance that she takes that goodwill all the way to the Emmys. She has steadily become one of the most beloved working actors today and there has been a loud demand for her to be recognized more often.
El Camino won the award for Outstanding TV Movie proving that the awards groups are still in love with Breaking Bad. We’ve seen this category become tedious over the years with Emmy voters repeatedly giving it to Black Mirror. The only question is if BTJA voters loved it so much why didn’t they also nominate Aaron Paul? He’s yet to be nominated by any awards group so far which is surprising since he won three Emmys throughout the show’s original run.