“The Emmy win was more like a high school popularity contest. This is from the critics!,” said Julie Bowen, the Critics’ Choice Television Awards’ newly named Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series winner — who also happens to be the reigning Emmy winner in the same category. But she seemed to be placing more importance on this award than even the Emmy when we talked right after Monday night’s ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. When I repeated her opinion to her Modern Family co-star and fellow Critics Choice winner — and reigning Emmy winner for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy — Ty Burrell, he agreed, saying the recognition from the critics has enormous meaning for him.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that these awards, now in their second year, are strategically positioned to happen right smack dab in the middle of Emmy voting, so tonight’s impressive turnout of nominees, winners and presenters was not suprising. Exposure at this crucial time in the process is everything, and unlike movie awards season there aren’t nearly as many opportunities for a photo op or acceptance speech as the Broadcast Critics Association offers with their nascent TV awards. If attention is as much the prize itself then these awards could not have been better for the Emmy chances of third-season critical favorite Community, which was the big surprise winner over favored Modern Family for Best Comedy Series, and Showtime’s first-season drama Homeland, which won Best Actress in a Drama for Claire Danes and Best Drama Series over favored vets like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The latter did win Actor in a Drama for three-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for Giancarlo Esposito, while Mad Men’s sole win was for repeat victor Christina Hendricks in Supporting Drama Actress. Does this relative shocking showing for two new, not widely viewed shows outside of critical circles mean a potential earthquake at the Emmys, where Mad Men has won the Best Drama Series award for all four of its seasons and Modern Family has done the same in the comedy category for its first two years on ABC?
Their voting counterparts at the Critics Choice Movie Awards have consistently had one of the best track records going for matching eventual Oscar winners, and obviously that’s what the BFCA is aiming for with the TV spinoff. Unlike the movie awards this one does not have a broadcast partner and was essentially a show just for those in the room Monday night. I am told however that network reps were in the audience checking it out (in its first year, ReelzChannel carried it for broadcast). Almost all the winners in the lead drama and lead comedy categories (Cranston, Danes, Louis C.K., Amy Poehler) were no-shows (save for a spirited Zooey Deschanel, who couldn’t seem to believe her luck in winning — she tied actually with Parks And Recreation‘s Poehler). Still, many winners were there and seemed thrilled by the opportunity to rev up their Emmy speeches in front of this crowd — even though lots of cracks were made about the fact that this doesn’t exactly draw the level of Emmy celebrity participation organizers would like. But hey, it is only their second year, and it has already turned into a seeming must-attend event for Emmy hopefuls. Nevertheless, KTLA’s Sam Rubin opened the show saying, “This is the only awards show that makes the Golden Globes look legitimate.”
No one seemed to care. Winners of Best Animated Series Archer were extremely grateful for their recognition, thanking the critics by saying, “We’d like to thank the TV Critics for being the only ones watching us for two seasons”. Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries winner Julianne Moore (Game Change) also seemed ecstatic and even managed to thank the Republican Party for making her portrayal of Sarah Palin possible.
Hands down the best presenter of the evening was 85-year-old Cloris Leachman, who slowly ran through a history of her own numerous talk show appearances before presenting an absent Jimmy Fallon (who accepted on tape) with his Best Talk Show award.
As for the evening’s big upset — the Best Comedy award to NBC’s weakly rated Community, which just hang on for a half-hearted renewal — it is interesting to note that recently jettisoned creator Dan Harmon was not in attendance for the big award but star Joel McHale called it “vindication”. He went on to thank NBC “for keeping us on the air” (and even Hitler for something or other), ending with the line, “We are proud to be in a room that is way more crowded than the Golden Globes”.
Judd Apatow, who was in attendance for his nominated HBO comedy series Girls, told me his December movie This Is 40, which he also wrote and directed, is completely done and will undergo an extensive marketing campaign with early screenings in hopes it can carve out a niche for itself. “This is what you have to do these days to get any attention at all,” he said. A late -ear release means Universal is likely planning an Oscar campaign for the film that is essentially a sequel to Knocked Up.
At the pre-reception, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan told me he is very excited about the upcoming season of the show and AMC’s extensive campaign leading up to its July 15 debut. Emmy-winning and Critics Choice-nominated co-star Aaron Paul went one step further, saying, “this is the craziest bad-ass season yet”. Sounds like fun.
With Emmy voting continuing until June 28, the 2nd Critics Choice Television Awards just might have a significant impact in pointing Emmy voters to shows they should probably take a look at before they vote. As one of those voters, I can say it’s daunting trying to get through the piles of DVDs sent for consideration. There seem to more every year, and that’s not even taking into account the daily emails form the Academy pointing to shows available online. But it is awards ceremonies like the CCTAs that attempt to trim the field and influence Emmy. We’ll see if this one does. Remember that Homeland is just a first-year show and the quirky, offbeat Community has not been Emmy-nominated to date. Is this the year? Stay tuned.