One of the most exciting things about the television industry is when a little-seen basic cable show bursts out of the gate of its freshman season to widespread acclaim, often, as “Mad Men” did for AMC, redefining its parent network.
That’s what happened with USA’s “Mr. Robot” at the 2016 Critics’ Choice Awards Sunday night with the program winning Best Drama Series and actors Rami Malek and Christian Slater scoring trophies in their respective lead and supporting categories.
Malek, who plays a conflicted and troubled yet brilliant hacker, won hearts and minds everywhere when he said in his acceptance speech, “It’s not just good to be different; it’s better to be different.”
The show itself was different. It was the first time film and television awards were combined by their parent organizations, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association and Broadcast Film Critics Association, collectively known as Critics’ Choice. Another difference was in the timing — not the three-hour run time of the show carried live on A&E, Lifetime and LMN, but the fact that in recent years the kudocast has preceded the Golden Globe Awards and has often been held the same night as the announcement of Academy Award nominations.
So the awards for “Mr. Robot” cemented the acclaim it won at the Globes, when the show and Slater — but not Malek — took home statuettes.
The program also served as a platform for wider recognition of host T.J. Miller, lead actor in HBO’s half-hour comedy “Silicon Valley” and a stand-up comedian known for his absurdist brand of humor.
Referencing Globes host Ricky Gervais, Miller made it clear at the outset that his would be a safer form of emceeing for the hundreds of nominees. “I’m going to be talking to people tonight. But celebrities, don’t worry, I’m not going to ‘Ricky Ger-vise’ this thing. I’m not going to do that. That’s not what I’m about,” he said. “How awkward and abrasive do you have to be to make all of us in this room feel bad for Mel Gibson?”
If you missed the show, televised from Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar at 5 p.m. PT Jan. 17, here are some of the highlights:
- Owning the night with 10 nominations, “Mad Max: Fury Road” won nine trophies, including best director for George Miller, best action movie and actor victories for Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy.
- “Spotlight,” the drama about Boston Globe reporters exposing child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, took the coveted prize for best picture and also scored best ensemble and best original screenplay.
- Brie Larson was not in the room when she won best actress for “Room,” and neither was Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant.” He’s in Europe for a series of premieres of the Alejandro G. Iñárritu film there, but gave an acceptance speech via satellite.
- Young Jacob Tremblay of “Room,” just 9 years old and needing a box to stand on at the podium, charmed the audience with his “aw”-inspiring speech shouting out all of “Team Room,” as he called them — mentioning many of their names — the critics, fellow nominees and finally, his parents. He ended with “I know where to put this [trophy]. Right on my shelf next to my Millennium Falcon.”
- To no one’s surprise, yet eliciting a standing ovation albeit without the iconic “Rocky” theme music, Sylvester Stallone took the trophy for best supporting actor for “Creed.” He immediately thanked director Ryan Coogler and co-star Michael B Jordan. Sly had been roundly criticized for not acknowledging either of them at the Golden Globes, although he apparently did, after his mic was turned off.
- In another Globes redux, Rachel Bloom took the prize for her leading role in the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and waxed euphoric in her acceptance speech about the vitality and viability of the musical art form in America. Although she didn’t sing or dance, she literally sprinted up to the stage from a table apparently pretty far back the room — behind all the film people.
- Similarly to “Mr. Robot,” and continuing the awards love it has been shown since the beginning, FX’s Season 2 of “Fargo” swept several prestigious categories with its win for best movie made for television or limited series and for actors Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart and Kirsten Dunst.
- Amy Schumer not only won best actress for “Trainwreck,” but took the MVP prize (a newly created award) for her breakout year, which included hosting “SNL” and the “MTV Movie Awards.” Producer Judd Apatow gave her a rambling intro speech, which touched on “The Martian” being categorized as a comedy at the Globes. Schumer went on to give Apatow all the credit for her film career and lamented that any actress with a sizable midsection — she pointed to her own — has to write her own material.
- Jeffrey Tambor cemented the status he’s achieved by portraying Maura Pfefferman, otherwise known as Moppa on “Transparent,” adding yet another trophy to his mantel and more awards cred for Amazon originals.
- Constance Zimmer, who plays the tough reality show producer on Lifetime’s “UnREAL” — and was also a favorite of ours as a steely studio executive on “Entourage” — showed her softer side as she gave an unexpectedly teary acceptance speech for winning best supporting actress in a drama series.
- Netflix, which came away empty-handed at the Globes despite eight nominations, scored best comedy series for Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None.”
- NBC’s “The Voice” regained its title as best reality show-competition — last year it went to “Shark Tank” — making it three times now the critics have turned their chairs for the popular singing competition series.