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The TCA Awards -- The Best Awards Show Not on TV
August 6, 2017  | By Ed Bark  | 2 comments

Beverly Hills, CA -- Still proudly un-televised, the 33rd annual Television Critics Association awards show made a scene Saturday night from the moment host Kristin Chenoweth strode onstage in a cover-up red robe and white hat from Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale.

It was an intentional foreshadowing of the show's strong showing as both Program of the Year and for "Outstanding Achievement in Drama."

"Only winners are here tonight. That's my kind of show," Chenoweth said after quickly stripping down to a strapless, glimmering silver dress.

Few hosts of this event have made a stronger effort to bring an A-game, even if Chenoweth knew that only a select audience of about 450 would be bearing witness.

"My mother called me to ask what network this was going to be on," Chenoweth said before wondering about the "bleh" TCA moniker. "I thought I was hosting the Teen Choice Awards," she added before suggesting The Chenoweth Awards ("Chenny" for short) as a more dynamic title.

But her best was yet to come during a surprise -- although previously rehearsed -- duet with This Is Us co-star Sterling K. Brown (left). They impeccably performed "For Good" from the musical Wicked, which Chenoweth first showcased as Broadway's original Glinda, the good witch. Her partner was Idina Menzel, but Brown proved to be a rich-voiced stand-in.

Chenoweth made two other costume changes during the course of the 90-minute show. Elisabeth Moss, principal star of "Handmaid's Tale," also made a brief but unobtrusive exit before Leah Remini accepted the night's first award for A&E's Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, which won for "Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming."

Moss is an acknowledged Scientologist but hasn't been publicly questioned about it in the wake of both the A&E series and HBO's earlier, award-winning expose, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

"I had always hoped to win something for comedy," Remini sort of joked, a reference to her role as Kevin James' wife in The King of Queens. (She'll be reunited with James in Season 2 of CBS' Kevin Can Wait after his first TV wife, played by Erinn Hayes, literally is killed off.)

Citing Scientology's "destructive practices" during her period as a true believer, Remini praised those who have spoken out on her A&E series while knowing they "will be publicly attacked."

"We persist because it's the right thing to do," she said. "That takes some balls."

Moss returned for the rest of the show but did not speak onstage while twice gathering with cast mates and the executive producer of the series, Bruce Miller. In an earlier competition for "Individual Achievement in Drama," Moss lost to Carrie Coon for her roles in HBO's The Leftovers and the third season of FX's Fargo.

"I feel like I cheated a little bit by being on two exceptional shows," Coon said.

Your TVWorthWatching correspondent was honored to co-present the Career Achievement award to filmmaker Ken Burns, whose 10-part, 18-hour The Vietnam War premieres Sept 17 on PBS.

Unable to attend Saturday night, Burns received his award backstage earlier in the week after a lunchtime interview session for Vietnam War. He also taped a brief acceptance speech at that time, and his production company furnished a 6-minute film for the awards ceremony that spotlighted his enormous body of work. The Civil War, Baseball, Prohibition, Jazz, The Dust Bowl, The War and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History are just a few of his greatest hits.

"First of all, I'd like to think Ken Burns for making me feel like the laziest motherf***er on the planet," This is Us executive producer Dan Fogelman said at the start of his speech on behalf of the "Outstanding New Program" winner.

Cast members Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and others joined him onstage. "I've been doing this for a bit, and nobody thought I was a great writer until they (his cast) started saying my stuff," Fogelman said.

HBO's Big Little Lies was something of a surprise winner in the "Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials" category, beating FX's Feud: Bette and Joan. Co-star Reese Witherspoon accepted.

"Y'all have been so amazing," she told critics before attempting an Australian accent to read co-star Nicole Kidman's brief letter of thanks, in which she called the award "deeply validating."

Kidman is in Australia filming Aquaman. Donald Glover, a two-time winner for the FX comedy series Atlanta, likewise had another commitment. He's on the set of an as yet untitled Star Wars movie in which he'll play the Lando Calrissian role originated by Billy Dee Williams. Glover sent two separate letters of thanks read by his brother, Stephen (right), who's also a writer on Atlanta.

Former NBC stalwart Seinfeld won the Heritage Award, but no cast members attended. Nor did co-creator Larry David, leaving then NBC entertainment president Warren Littlefield to accept.

"Twenty-seven years ago, we decided to stiff Bob Hope on a birthday special and fund four episodes of Seinfeld (initially titled The Seinfeld Chronicles)," Littlefield said. "Thank God we were smart enough at the network to get the hell out of the way."

Chenoweth returned near the end to sing Carol Burnett's trademark "I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together" before Handmaid's Tale received the climactic "Program of the Year" award.

"You amaze me as an artist, a collaborator and just a woman of the world," producer Miller told Moss, who again joined fellow cast members onstage in a show of support without any speaking lines.

Earlier Saturday at the TCA business meeting, your TVWW correspondent joined fellow critics in lining up firmly against a move to televise future awards shows. The anti-television sentiment was overwhelming, but an official vote isn't planned until the next business meeting during winter's press tour.

Here's a list of all the TCA Award winners.

Program of the Year -- The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
Outstanding New Program -- This Is Us (NBC)
Outstanding Achievement in Drama -- The Handmaid's Tale
Outstanding Achievement in Comedy -- Atlanta (FX)
Career Achievement -- Ken Burns
Heritage Award -- Seinfeld (NBC)
Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials -- Big Little Lies (HBO)
Individual Achievement in Drama -- Carrie Coon, The Leftovers (HBO) and Fargo, Season 3 (FX)
Individual Achievement in Comedy -- Donald Glover, Atlanta
Outstanding Achievement in News and Information -- O. J.: Made in America (ESPN)
Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming -- Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (A&E)
Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming -- Speechless (ABC)

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Mark Isenberg
No Love from us viewers as to whether TCA Awards should be broadcast. As bad as the Emmys have become,there is no need for another show of self congratulating in between songs or comedic moments. And most critics are lazy,missing a lot of good efforts on other networks beyond AMC Zombies or the Big Bang crew and the Sheldon Jr. spinoff,ahead.
Aug 7, 2017   |  Reply
Alex S.
To be fair, I'm not sure I would regard the acknowledgment of The Handmaid's Tale, Fargo, This Is Us, Atlanta, Ken Burns, Big Little Lies, O.J. Made in America, Seinfeld, Speechless or Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath as "lazy." As for missing good work on "other networks" beyond AMC zombies and the Big Bang people, I don't see much AMC or the Big Bang crew on this list. I do, however, see FX, Hulu, HBO, PBS, A&E and ESPN. Agree wholeheartedly, though, on the distinct lack-of-need for televising yet another self-congratulatory awards show.
Aug 11, 2017
Jonathan Storm
Nice round-up, Ed. Sounds like a great time. I never agree with all the awards, but this roster seems pretty good. Sorry I missed it.
Aug 7, 2017   |  Reply
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