Critics are a notoriously picky lot, and members of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association are certainly no exception. That's why it was such a surprise -- and a testament to the quality of television programming over the past season -- that there were not one, not two, but three ties in highly contested categories whose winners were revealed at the 3rd annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards held June 10 at the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom.
One thing most everyone would agree on is that the trophy for best drama series is a prestigious one, as it will be for the upcoming Primetime Emmy Awards, and a very difficult decision for voters.
Vying for the crown were "Breaking Bad" (AMC), "Game of Thrones (HBO), "Homeland" (Showtime), "The Americans" (FX), “Downton Abbey” (PBS) and “The Good Wife” (CBS). (Notably missing from the list: "Mad Men.")
Voters in equal measure felt that the Meth King of Albuquerque and the royalty warring to rule Westeros were both deserving of the drama prize, declaring a tie and awarding trophies to both “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones.”
The awards gala was hosted by Retta, known for her role on "Parks and Recreation" and also for humorously live tweeting some of her favorite shows, including "Scandal" and "The Walking Dead.”
The ceremony was not televised -- although we understand it is being shopped to various networks going forward, but it was streamed live on Ustream. Given all the unpredictable wins unveiled during two and a half hours -- and the number of comedians who either were honored or were presenters, it's surprising that there wasn't more bleep-worthy material emanating from the stage.
For the second year running, it was Bryan Cranston who was awarded best actor in a drama. Unable to attend the ceremony last year, Cranston gave a heartfelt speech explaining the origins of his starring role on “Breaking Bad.”
“Ten years ago, I won a part on ‘The X-Files.’ Vince Gilligan was one of the producers, and he remembered me from that episode,” Cranston said, and noted that Gilligan was tied up on a post-production deadline and could not break away to attend the gala. “He has been my champion, but you [the critics] were the conduit from us to the viewing public.”
For best actress in a drama, the name that was read when the envelope was opened came as a shocker. Tatiana Maslany, the star of BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” took the trophy for playing multiple clones of her character in the supernatural thriller, besting the much better-known nominees Claire Danes, Vera Farmiga, Elisabeth Moss, Julianna Margulies and Keri Russell.
Although HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra” scored the trophy for best movie or miniseries, and its star Michael Douglas won for lead actor, “American Horror Story: Asylum” nabbed trophies for its two supporting actors, Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson.
“We go to very dark places, but I’ve loved this more than any part I’ve had,” Paulson said.
Elisabeth Moss was the winner for best actress in a movie or miniseries for Sundance Channel’s “Top of the Lake.” “I’ve never won an award for acting before,” she noted, despite numerous nods for her role in “Mad Men.”
On the comedy side, “The Big Bang Theory” scored key wins as best comedy series, for supporting actor Simon Helberg and for supporting actress Kaley Cuoco, who tied for the trophy with Eden Sher of ABC’s “The Middle.”
“I’m used to laughing at Steve Levitan,” said “TBBT’s” co-creator Chuck Lorre, referring to “Modern Family’s” recent string of awards wins. “We feel so lucky -- truly blessed -- to be doing this show for six years.”
“[Helberg] is one of the funniest people I know,” said co-star Johnny Galecki, who accepted the award on his behalf with the show’s Kunal Nayyar, even as it appeared they might keep the trophy to themselves for awhile.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the critics’ choice as best actress in a comedy for HBO’s “Veep,” topping a field that included Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Laura Dern, Zooey Deschanel and Sutton Foster. “I’ve changed my strategy,” she said in accepting the prize. “I used to ignore what the critics said. Now I find them charming.”
Louie C.K. extended his awards run by winning the statue for best actor in a comedy for his eponymous FX show, beating fellow funny men Jim Parsons, Don Cheadle, Jake Johnson, Adam Scott and Jeremy Sisto.
Another hotly contested category was best talk show, and perennial favorite “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” added another trophy to its case. Senior black correspondent Larry Wilmore accepted. “I can’t say ‘screw the critics’ anymore. They’re actual professionals recognizing a show with fake journalists,” he said.
In the reality categories, another tie was announced when both “Push Girls” and “Duck Dynasty” were announced as the critics’ choices for best reality series. In the reality series competition category, it was “The Voice” that got the most votes in the competition.
“It’s been a great ride,” said host Carson Daly, who raced over to the Beverly Hilton from a live show of “The Voice” shooting at Universal. “I’m a radio guy. I worked at MTV. I’m a music nut, and to be here with all of you celebrated people, I feel like I should say, ‘I’ll bring your car around.’”
“Archer” took the animated series prize. “I just want to thank Lorne Michaels,” said one of its voices, Chris Parnell (formerly of “SNL”), even as one of his castmates tried to use the trophy in a lewd and lascivious manner.
But the comedic king of the night crown belonged to Bob Newhart, who was feted with the Critics’ Choice Television Icon Award, presented by another television legend, Henry Winkler, who introduced a montage of Newhart’s comedic situations over the decades.
In a moving speech, which he first announced was the wrong one, Newhart paid tribute to his wife of 50 years, Ginny. “When we got married, she was an extra on ‘Ozzie and Harriet.’ She was the one who said ‘yeah’ when asked if they wanted to have Ricky sing another song,” he said, as a camera cutaway showed her wiping away tears.
And may there be many more songs for you to sing, Mr. Newhart.
Please click here to see the complete list of winners and nominees for the 2013 Critics’ Choice Awards.