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Winter TV Awards: What’s Hot, What’s Not, and What Has a Shot — at Netflix

Our Winter TV Awards column looks at what's cooking (and what's burned out) at Netflix.

The Crown S4. Picture shows: Margaret Thatcher (GILLIAN ANDERSON). Filming Location: Wrotham Park

Gillian Anderson in “The Crown”

Des Willie/Netflix

With the Emmys a long time gone and Golden Globe Award nominations just around the corner, we’re looking at the best that TV had to offer over the last year, using a slightly different lens — specifically, a working calendar that structures its eligibility from January 1 to December 31, as opposed to the Emmy Awards’ eligibility timeline of June 1 to May 31.

While that’s the predominant difference between Emmy season and the Winter TV Awards season, there are plenty of other distinctions which make the latter a robust and entirely different animal from the former, not the least of which is the elevated number of awards distributed by specialty organizations and guild groups. Who better to discern the highest caliber work the industry has to offer than those working every day in the trenches?

And so, it’s time to check back in on the state of the race(s) that will populate the calendar through next April — just in time to switch our focus back to the Emmys.

Critics are still buzzing about Netflix’s “The Crown,” so let’s take a look at the streaming giant’s top series. A longtime awards favorite, the series dropped its fourth season on November 15 and to largely positive reviews — consistent with the show’s marks for previous seasons. For some, including IndieWire Executive Editor Ann Donahue, Season 4 serves as a high water mark for the series, in no small part thanks to some key performances introduced this year.

“With the addition of [Margaret] Thatcher, played to gritty, galling Iron Lady perfection by Gillian Anderson, and Diana [Spencer], a near-impossible role that Emma Corrin makes look effortless without descending into hagiography, ‘The Crown’ gives a riveting look at a decade that codified callous excess in the characters’ public and private lives,” Donahue wrote in her review.

This makes for great odds at the Golden Globes, where the series has seen six nominations for its actors over the previous three seasons, as well as wins for each Queen Elizabeth to date — Claire Foy in 2017 and Olivia Colman in 2020. Netflix has decided to submit Corrin in Lead Actress, competing against Queen Colman herself, a testament to the strength of her performance as Princess Diana. This opens up more room in the Supporting Actress category at the Golden Globes and leaving more room for her co-stars to receive their due. Not only was Helena Bonham Carter nominated for her work as Princess Margaret at the Globes for Season 3 — her eighth career HFPA nomination — Anderson also has her own glittering reputation with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, having earned five previous nominations and one win.

Ozark Season 3 Netflix Jason Bateman Laura Linney ending

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in “Ozark

Courtesy of Netflix

While “The Crown” thrives, however, another Netflix drama contender had appeared to be flagging for the longest time. After a disappointing Emmys performance, things have been pretty quiet with regard to buzz for “Ozark.” Despite receiving its best critical reception to date for Season 3 of the series, only scoring one Emmy win out of 18 nominations was a devastating blow for the series. At a point when chatter about any series that debuted outside of the last six weeks is practically non-existent, it’s not a great position for any show released in early 2020 to be in, but particularly painful for “Ozark,” given that just months ago, it seemed primed to make the leap to the next level of prestige TV shows.

That said, the recently released Critics Choice Awards nominations had “Ozark” garnering just as many nominations as “The Crown,” suggesting that perhaps an upswing is in the works for Jason Bateman and the rest of the “Ozark” gang.

And the streaming giant does have another queen lurking in the background and positioning itself to be crowned in future months: limited series “The Queen’s Gambit.” An adaptation of the 1983 eponymous novel by Walter Tevis, the series follows an orphan chess prodigy (a fascinating Anya Taylor-Joy) in the 1950s attempting to become the world’s greatest chess player. Though high drama in the world of chess might not seem like it would make for riveting television, the series is luxuriant and bewitching, finding a way to derive stakes from the protagonist’s inner journey in ways that lesser shows regularly fail.

Much like “The Crown,” the lush production values mean that “The Queen’s Gambit” could be a regular player throughout awards season, with all eyes on Taylor-Joy whose performance deserves all the accolades it can get.

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