Critics’ Choice Awards Prove They’re Ready for Prime Time

Jun 20, 2012

The Critics’ Choice Awards were an important bellwether of this past winter’s plethora of film awards, anointing early favorites like “The Help” and “The Artist” that went on to be big winners at guild awards and at the Oscars.

So it is with even greater momentum that two “smaller” television shows — “Homeland” and "Community" — go into the full thrush of Emmy Awards season.

Up against formidable competition, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) awarded them top honors in the drama and comedy categories, respectively, at the second annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards, held June 18 at the Beverly Hilton.

In addition to some unexpected and perhaps trendsetting decisions, the “BETJAs” were loosey-goosey in a way that only an untelevised ceremony can be. If you wanted to see Cloris Leachman go off on a fun and funny tangent as she was co-presenting an award for best talk show (which went to Jimmy Fallon’s), or watch Zooey Deschanel and Chris Colfer onstage wrapped in white blankets reminiscent of Snuggies, this was the place.

But why another awards show? Last year’s inaugural edition was a luncheon that the organization said was greeted by immediate industry acceptance, thus emboldening it to launch a full-out gala dinner affair recognizing the creative television community.

"The popularity of the major award shows and the attention paid to them in the media creates an opportunity for the producers of high-quality entertainment to reach their intended audience. It is an undeniable fact that more good movies and TV shows are created because their creators know that they have a chance in the marketplace if the critics tell viewers they have created something special," the organization said in the statement.

Its conferring of crystal statuettes to some dark-horse candidates is sure to create a lot of buzz in the business, as is its showcasing of five new shows that have yet to hit air. For most exciting new series, the critics spotlighted Fox’s “The Following,” starring Kevin Bacon, and “The Mindy Project”; Aaron Sorkin and HBO’s “The Newsroom,” starring Jeff Daniels; USA’s “Political Animals,” with Sigourney Weaver; and ABC’s delicious-looking "Nashville," with Connie Britton as a country music star struggling to maintain her position at the top of the charts against a young rival.

On the drama side, Showtime’s “Homeland” was up against five major heavyweights who have already accumulated shelves full of hardware: "Breaking Bad," "The Good Wife," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones" and the highly favored "Mad Men."

In another coup for “Homeland,” series star Claire Danes, who wasn’t in attendance, took the trophy for best actress in a drama series. Meanwhile, her co-star Damian Lewis was nominated in the best actor category, which was awarded to “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston.

Yes, he’s baaaaack! And as if the returning AMC series didn’t have enough awards traction already, its Giancarlo Esposito snagged the trophy as best supporting actor in a drama series — up against “BB” co-star Aaron Paul, John Slattery, Peter Dinklage, Neal McDonough and John Noble.

Much as she rose to become a partner in Sterling Cooper Draper, or, ahem, maybe not so much, “Mad Men’s” Joanie, Christina Hendricks, took the crown as best supporting actress in a drama series, for the second year running. The competish: Christine Baranski, Anna Gunn, Maggie Siff, Kelly Macdonald and Regina King.

Was it really elementary that PBS’s “Sherlock" was awarded the trophies for best movie/miniseries and best actor in a movie/miniseries? The real question could be, who is Benedict Cumberbatch and why did critics love him more than Kevin Costner in History’s vaunted “Hatfields & McCoys”?

Having not yet seen “Sherlock,” but getting the message from colleagues that we are sure to get hooked on it, we have only the clue that Mr. Costner felt that this awards fest was important enough to show up — and the inkling that he will be rewarded by Emmy voters.

The creative team behind “Smash” had the honor of receiving the inaugural Inspiration Award from the critics. The behind the scenes of a Broadway musical drama made a big splash with its midseason debut on NBC earlier this year and is certain to be up for not only acting awards, but honors for choreography, music, and set and lighting design as the television awards season comes further into focus.

NBC’s "Community" struck comedy gold with its trophy for best comedy series, up against the darling of the past few years, "Modern Family," as well as other critical faves such as "Parks and Recreation," "The Big Bang Theory" and two new very buzzy femme-centric shows, “Girls” and “New Girl.”

The star of the latter series, Deschanel, got her own statuette, as best actress in a comedy series, tying with Amy Poehler for the honor. "I’ve never won anything before," said Deschanel — several times, in disbelief, during an acceptance speech in which she thanked her mom in the audience and sister Emily, star of "Bones," who was the presenter who anointed “Community” in the final award presentation of the evening.

After one of the ensemble’s rather graphic descriptions of the actual trophy and expression of their own shock at winning, it was time to head for the exits – with or without those bottles of vodka that were centerpieces on the tables.

(Click here for a complete list of the Critics’ Choice Television Awards winners.)

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