What a difference a year makes for the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, the 4th annual edition of which was held June 19 at the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer.
It was the first time in its short history that the awardscast was televised, broadcast live on the East Coast on the CW Network and tape-delayed on the West at 8 p.m.
That meant that instead of last year’s 2½-hour-long freewheeling ceremony -- also held at the Hilton -- the 2014 version had to fit into a two-hour time slot with commercials. Acceptance speeches were extremely tight for fear of the dreaded play-off music, which only happened once.
Awards are voted on by members of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Last year there were three ties, this year just one -- for best supporting actress in a comedy series which went to Kate Mulgrew (Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”) and Allison Janney for CBS’s “Mom.”
It was a landmark night for Janney, who was a double winner after taking the trophy for guest performer in a drama series for Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.” “Orange Is the New Black” also had a big night, picking up two other trophies, for best comedy series and best guest performer in a comedy series for Uzo Aduba.
Alluding to the subject matter of “Masters,” Janney accepted her award by saying, “I just came.” She went on to compliment co-stars Beau Bridges and Teddy Sears as the best on-screen lovers she’s ever had.
“I’m stunned and amazed,” said Aduba. “Jenji Kohan is such an amazing writer and the cast and crew is right up there.”
The wins for “OitNB” are more feathers in the cap of Netflix, whose recent foray into original programming and practice of releasing all episodes of a series at once has changed the television landscape.
The other big multi-award winner was FX’s “Fargo,” which took the prize for best miniseries, best actor in a miniseries or movie (Billy Bob Thornton) and best supporting actress in a miniseries or movie, Allison Tolman.
“Noah Hawley called me and changed my life,” said Tolman, who played police chief Molly Solverson in the ten-part series inspired by the Coen brothers' 1996 movie of the same name. Her character was modeled on the film’s Marge Gunderson, played by Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for the role.
Thornton also gave Hawley and Joel and Ethan Coen shout-outs when he accepted his award. “This is a nice little soiree. Thanks for inviting me,” he said. “I won’t lie. It was cold -- and crazy to adapt the movie, but MGM and FX were a dream team and that was the award.”
Like Emmy Award voters, BTJA has its favorites -- this year anointing several two-years-in-a-row winners: Tatiana Maslany as best drama series actress for BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” Julia Louis Dreyfus as best comedy series actress for HBO’s “Veep” and FX’s “Archer” as best animated series.
And if you include last year’s tie with “Game of Thrones,” this year AMC’s “Breaking Bad” also took the vaunted best drama series trophy, besting “GoT,” "The Americans," “The Good Wife,” “Masters of Sex” and “True Detective.”
Yet it was no surprise that "True Detective" star Matthew McConaughey continued his 2014 awards streak by winning best actor in a drama -- and an Emmy nomination is surely guaranteed.
“HBO broke convention with this and has been first class,” he said in his speech, and also acknowledged co-star Woody Harrelson. “I’ve done film, film, film and people ask, ‘Why did you go to TV?’ Quality. That introduction to character that so patiently unfolds becomes watercooler conversation and anticipation of the next episode -- that’s what TV is giving audiences.”
Another frequent trophy recipient, Jim Parsons, won for his lead comedy role in “The Big Bang Theory,” topping last year’s winner Louie C.K. in the field of contenders, which also included Chris Messina, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Scott and Robin Williams.
HBO added more gold with the win for best movie for “The Normal Heart,” based on Larry Kramer’s play about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.
“It took 30 years to get this made,” said producer Ryan Murphy, who was also the recipient of the Louis XIII Genius Award for his work on “Glee,” “American Horror Story” and “Nip/Tuck.” “I realized that we were part of something bigger than ourselves. Loving another is what makes each heart normal. Larry Kramer, this is for you.”