It’s that time of year when the Critics Choice Awards roll around, giving trophies to shows that critics loved in 2020. It’s an awards event that can feel a bit predictable, since the people choosing the winners are the same individuals who’ve been stumping for those same shows and performances for the last 12 months, but regardless, the show must go on.
With that in mind, it was not necessarily an event full of surprises at the Sunday night ceremony, with Netflix riding high on the horse for the TV winners, buoyed by multiple wins for “The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” Apple TV+ also had plenty of reasons to celebrate, what with three wins for freshman series “Ted Lasso,” which makes the sports comedy the current frontrunner at the Emmys.
The Critics Choice Awards always feel a bit like an awards show on the verge. While last year the organization felt the pressure of bad press after a Washington Post story reported on high-end trips provided to members of the association by outlets looking to bolster their awards season hauls, this year the world — and industry — has had bigger fish to fry.
And yet, the organization has never quite managed to make the leap to the big leagues. While some might suggest it a worthy replacement for the Golden Globes, others might suggest that such a move is merely jumping from the fire into the frying pan.
Regardless, the CCA has its moments. Its large pool of nominees makes it feel as though the group has better taste than a lot of organizations, even if its winners are largely in line with conventional picks.
To provide context for the wins — and in some cases, losses — particularly with regards to the specter of the 2021 Emmys, keep reading.
Never mind the genre, this Emmy season is shaping up to have very little actual drama within said categories. While there are certainly up-and-coming contenders, including HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and “Perry Mason,” as well as old reliables, including Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” we’ve yet to see a drama series that appears it could hold its own against the fourth season of “The Crown.”
If that concept left you with a resigned sigh and thoughts that it just feels as though the same shows keep winning Emmys again and again, think again. Because of the “Game of Thrones” reign of terror in drama series, coupled with “The Handmaid’s Tale” breakout win in 2017 — it edged out the first season of “The Crown” to do so; “Thrones” was ineligible — and last year’s “Succession” ascension, “The Crown” has yet to actually take home the, well, crown for drama series at the Emmy Awards.
With “Succession” ineligible and a fantastic fourth season to show for itself, it’s difficult to imagine that this isn’t “The Crown’s” year to shine, in drama series as well as (potentially) in lead actor, lead actress, and supporting actress.
Meanwhile, “Ted Lasso” appears to be in the drivers seat with regards to the comedy series race, edging out Emmy-darling “Schitt’s Creek” in series, actor, and supporting actress at the CCA. It’s a continued burst of momentum for the Apple TV+ fave and the expansion to include Hannah Waddingham in the show’s accolades is much deserved.
As for competition come Emmy time, the field is currently wide open, but with a lot of players lurking just out of view. The first half of the second season of Hulu’s superb “Pen15” is already eligible (and deserving) of Emmy love, but it’s possible the back half of the season will drop closer to the close of the Emmy eligibility window. HBO Max also gained some traction on the back of “The Flight Attendant,” plus will have the temporarily named “Untitled Jean Smart Comedy” on deck for release before the close of eligibility.
BBC/Val Productions/Natalie Seery
And then there’s the absolute war zone that is the limited series categories. I blame the Golden Globes complete snub of Michaela Coel’s transcendent “I May Destroy You” for delaying what now feels like an inevitable conclusion that only dawned on me while watching the CCA. There is every possibility that “I May Destroy You” may get its due from the Television Academy and still get defeated by “The Queen’s Gambit,” which just doesn’t feel right — and I say that as a huge “Queen’s Gambit” fan.
Even if that doesn’t come to pass, the competition in limited series and its associated acting categories is only going to get stiffer as the months pass. Even beyond “The Queen’s Gambit” and “I May Destroy You,” HBO’s “The Undoing,” Amazon Prime Video’s “Small Axe,” and Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird,” are also waiting in the wings. Plus, what if the TV Academy found itself smitten with Disney+’s “WandaVision”? Which doesn’t even begin to address those limited series that have yet to be released, including HBO’s Kate Winslet-led “Mare of Easttown” and Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s “Underground Railroad,” as helmed by Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins.
Say what you will about the winter TV awards season: It won’t tell you what you don’t know, but it’s a pretty good way of shoring up what you do know.