UPDATED, adds reactions: Fox freshman hit Empire, snubbed in Emmy nominations by the TV Academy, was named Program of the Year tonight at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour’s annual trophy-dispensing ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
“Critics don’t like me,” said Empire co-creator Lee Daniels in accepting the award. “They never do … ‘It’s impossible for you to like me’ is everything that my father told me would happen in my life. This means so much to me. I want to thank you so much.” Daniels also thanked co-creator Danny Strong whom he described as “my backbone” adding, “I bring the pizzazz and the Cookie and the flair and that stuff, but you can’t do it without a backbone.”
As for Fox’s decision to put the show on the air, Daniels said, “I can’t believe Fox, of all people! What are they, fuckin’ stupid? I guess not, huh? They bought it!”
“I wanted to do Dynasty,” he continued. “I haven’t been moved since Dynasty. Dynasty came for you. We gave you black Dynasty. We’re not trying to take ourselves too seriously, but we’re hitting issues that are important, not only in the African American community and the music community, but in America now.” And of his cast: “They’re a fuckin’ bag of nut jobs – straight up real talk, y’all. But we love each other … It is a family in the truest sense of the word.”
Earlier in the humorous spirit of the affair, emcee James Corden observed as the show got under way, ”This is it. It’s the Fucking Big One — it’s the TCAs. You guys are going with the solitary jug of water on the table. (Cocktails were served beforehand.) It’s The Big One.”
“Did you ever think you’d be here?” The host of CBS’ Late Late Show added. “When I got asked, honestly I thought I was being asked to host The Teen Choice Awards” — which he claimed are actually very similar. Teens and TV critics, that is. “Both spend all night writing mean blogs. The only difference is one day the teenager might get laid.”
AMC’s new Better Call Saul, a spinoff of critics’ darling Breaking Bad, was named Outstanding New Program of the Year. Leave it to critics to split hairs to honor two shows — Better Call Saul and Program Of The Year Empire — that both happen to be new.
Amy Schumer might have been the night’s biggest winner, nabbing Individual Achievement in Comedy, while her Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer was crowned Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. More hair-splitting. Except Schumer wasn’t in the house. Instead, Inside Amy Schumer writer Christine Nangle accepted on her behalf: “Amy wanted to be here, but unfortunately she couldn’t. She’s being treated for overexposure.”
Jon Hamm, still seeking Emmy recognition for his portrayal of ad exec Don Draper in Mad Men, had the good fortune to be present to receive his second TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama.
“We are in whatever is beyond the Golden Age of Television, or whatever we’re calling it now – downloadavision? Streamavision? … It took us at least three seasons to convince people we weren’t on A&E. It was the critics who were somehow able to compile this critical mass of viewers to start focusing on our show and let it rise above the noise that existed out there.”
“When I auditioned for this part … I had to audition for it eight times. And the reason for it was, literally nobody wanted to cast me … with the exception of one person. Matthew Weiner, from the first minute I walked in to the weird room in an advertising agency in Santa Monica … wanted to cast me. I can only thank him for giving me this opportunity.”
John Oliver’s new HBO series Last Week Tonight was named the year’s Outstanding News & Information program. Oliver, like Schumer, was a no-show but sent a video.
“What exactly were you thinking?” Oliver asked. “Are you giving us this award sarcastically? That would be incredibly mean, but make sense.” He apologized to the other nominees in the category, noting his office is one floor below that of 60 Minutes. “So I’m looking forward to Morley Safer leaving a bag of flaming shit outside our office.” But “Thank you for this magnificent mistake you’ve made.”
HBO also picked up the win for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials for its controversial crime documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
FX’s spy thriller The Americans won for Outstanding Achievement in Drama.
Starz’ filmmaking competition series The Chair received the award for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming. ABC Family’s The Fosters was picked as Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming for the second consecutive year.
The TCA also gave its Heritage Award to the combined Late Show/Late Night with David Letterman, which wrapped in May after 33 years on CBS and NBC. The group’s Career Achievement Award went to James L. Brooks for his work across five decades, including The Simpsons, Taxi and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Honorees were tallied from votes cast by the TCA’s membership, comprised of more than 220 TV critics/journalists from the United States and Canada.
Complete list of honorees:
Program of the Year: Empire (Fox)
Outstanding New Program: Better Call Saul (AMC)
Individual Achievement in Drama: Jon Hamm (Mad Men, AMC)
Outstanding Achievement in Drama: The Americans (FX)
Individual Achievement in Comedy: Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central)
Outstanding Achievement in Comedy: Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Outstanding Achievement in News and Information: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming: The Chair (Starz)
Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming: The Fosters (ABC Family)
Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO)
Career Achievement Award: James L. Brooks
Heritage Award: Late Show/Late Night with David Letterman (CBS/NBC)