TCA Awards a night of past and present excellence in TV, list and some thoughts

Over the course of the year we cover many award shows, and all seem to have an impersonal edge overshadowing the accolades. Not so with the Television Critics' Association, a small organization we are proud to belong to.

These industry insider awards, now in year 29, are short and sweet and heavy on the jokes of various observations of the myriad of networks, cablers and digital platforms now crowding the space of entertaining you on various "smallscreens," smartphones to home theaters and everything in-between.

It's a new world out there and it's never been more promising for people with great ideas to get their scripts to screen.

The golden age of television, as it was noted by many showrunners and DGA directors yesterday at the Beverly Hilton for summer press tour, is here again.

Excellence in the medium is everywhere you look, from comedies like FX's newcomer "Legit" to Starz upcoming miniseries "The White Queen," HBO Documentary series, both summer and winter, AMC dramas like "Mad Men", "The Killing", "Walking Dead" and FX's "Justified," "The Bridge", "Sons of Anarchy," "The Americans" and so much more.  If you cannot find something great to watch on TV, you aren't really trying.

In the same room as the Golden Globes awards, the TCA awards, described over and over last night by stars quipping that they were not sure what they were going to do with "a shitty piece of plastic," saw AMC's "Breaking Bad" win top honors last night, no surprise as the critics have supported Vince Gilligan's noir drama from day one. The cast - save for Bob Odenkirk and Anna Gunn - were there to say thank you.

"Breaking Bad," the acclaimed AMC drama begins its final season next week.

These awards, selected by the 220 members (including M&C) of the critics' organization, honors the best in television, including shows and performances not always recognized by Emmy voters.

The critics voted in HBO's "Game of Thrones" as best drama, while the best-comedy award was split in a tie between CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" and NBC's "Parks and Recreation." FX's spy drama "The Americans" won outstanding new program.

It is important to note how much love was expressed by many stars and producers for HBO's Nancy Lesser and her team, Richard Plepler (whose name is used in the Larry David comedy film "Clear History" as an artist of an unusual painting) and the entire staff and executive branch of the premium cabler.

HBO's "Behind the Candelabra," which chronicled Vegas and touring superstar Liberace's love life until his death and starred Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, won for best movie, miniseries or special. Legendary producer Jerry Weintraub delivered a heartfelt speech, and closed by saying the award was for Marvin Hamlisch (the score was his last work before he died in 2012).

In an odd acceptance speech, Barbara Walters, who won the career achievement award, had the doyenne of daytime talk tell the critics in a taped message that she was "smiling all over" which set up a great bit for Rob Reiner, there to accept for CBS' groundbreaking All in the Family which received the association's Heritage Award. Reiner accepted the award with its creator, TV legend Norman Lear.  Reiner was apoplectic saying "how do you smile all over?" and noted that Walters was not smiling in the taped thank you.

ABC's terrific reality series "Shark Tank" won the TCA award for best reality program, as Mark Burnett expressed his thanks to the critics who he cited for the show's success; PBS' Ken Burns film "The Central Park Five" won for news and information programming, as Burns taped thank you speech was from the heart and well received; and ABC Family's "Bunheads," recently canceled, won for youth programming.

The cold war spy drama "The Americans", produced by Canadian showrunner Graham Yost, won the award for Outstanding New Program. And after being snubbed by Emmy voters, actress Tatiana Maslany won for Individual Achievement in Drama for "Orphan Black." Her speech was delivered via tape, as she was too ill to attend.

Tying for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy were CBS’ "The Big Bang Theory" and NBC’s "Parks and Recreation." we voted for FX's "Legit," which for us was the best new comedy of the year. The series stars Jim Jefferies (as himself) and Dan Bakkedahl (Steve) who navigate life with Steve's disabled brother Billy (DJ Qualls).


A great speech was had by Louis C.K., star of FX’s "Louie," who received the top trophy in the Individual Achievement in Comedy category for the second consecutive year.  The critics, including M&C, love "Louie" on FX.


Comedy duo "Key & Peele" stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele hosted the show, opening with their routine featuring President Obama and his "anger translator," Luther.

Luther, played by Key, did cartwheels and somersaults as he used his inner monologue aloud and wondered why they were "hosting an award show that isn't even televised." The two took the mickey out of Netflix's refusal to release its viewership numbers. "Where your numbers at, Neflix? Come on Netflix. Drone strike!" said Luther. Big laughs in the room from these two.

The list of 2013 TCA Award recipients for 2013:

Individual Achievement in Drama: Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, BBC America)

Individual Achievement in Comedy: Louis C.K. (Louie, FX)

Outstanding Achievement in News and Information: The Central Park Five (PBS)

Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming: Shark Tank (ABC)

Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming: Bunheads (ABC Family)

Outstanding New Program: The Americans (FX)

Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials: Behind the Candelabra (HBO)

Outstanding Achievement in Drama: Game of Thrones (HBO)

Outstanding Achievement in Comedy: (Tie) The Big Bang Theory (CBS) and Parks and Recreation (NBC).

Career Achievement Award: Barbara Walters (ABC) Heritage Award: All in the Family (CBS)

Program of the Year: Breaking Bad (AMC)

Further Reading on M&C