There’s a poem I hold dear that poses the question — “Who praises what the critics say?” Well, it’s a safe bet that Bryan Cranston, Matthew McConaughey, Julia Louis Dreyfus, producer-director James Burrows, the casts and creative teams behind Orange is the New Black, The Fosters, Breaking Bad, and Cosmos certainly do. They were among the recipients of the TCA Awards given out by the Television Critics Association which honors the best in broadcasting. My husband Frank Barron and I have been proud voting members for decades.
Celebrating the 30th annual TCA Awards in the Beverly Hilton’s ballroom filled with critics and TV’s MVPs, the evening was launched with host Terry Crews and Miss Piggy singing a hysterical television-themed duet with lyrics like “I’m the Veep of heartbreak, cancelled faster than Rake.” The multi-talented Crews stars on the Fox cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and he’ll be the new host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire this fall.
A major highlight of the gala evening was seeing recent Tony-winner Bryan Cranston (who also has a bunch of Emmys) schmoozing with recent Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey, both praising each other’s work as much as the TV critics. McConaughey won the TCA’s Individual Achievement in Drama award for HBO’s gritty crime story True Detective. He played homicide detective Rust Cohle on the trail of a brutal serial killer on the show that also won Outstanding Miniseries.
McConaughey thanked his True Detective character “for giving more of a damn about the truth than yourself,” and bemoaned, “I’m going to miss that guy.”
Also mourning the end of AMC’s Breaking Bad was beloved star Bryan Cranston. “It’s a little sad saying goodbye. This is the last time we’ll be seeing you,” he said referring to Bad’s group of stars and producers who were proud to pick up the TCA’s Program of the Year award for the second straight year. Cranston thanked the critics saying, “Without you getting the word out about our little show, we’re not up here, we’re not on any stage. We’re nowhere. We relied on you, you did an amazing job, and we owe you.” Taking a final bow for the show about a hard-luck chemistry teacher who goes from “Mr. Chips to Scarface,” creator Vince Gilligan accepted the award with producer Mark Johnson, director Michelle MacLaren, and castmates Aaron Paul, Betsy Brandt, and RJ Mitte. Cranston’s wonderful wife Robin Dearden was cheering from the front table.
The Career Achievement Award went to legendary director-producer-writer James Burrows. He was honored for his body of work for more than three decades that includes being at the helm of influential series such as Cheers, Taxi, and Will & Grace. His shows have ranged from the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show to the current 2 Broke Girls. Burrows told the critics, “I guess you’ve forgiven me for getting Sam and Diane together.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race on the Logo channel won Reality Program, and winning in the News & Information category was the awesome COSMOS: A Space Time Odyssey produced by Fox and the National Geographic Channel. Netflix’s super-hot women’s prison dramedy Orange is the New Black won for Outstanding New Program, with stars Kate Mulgrew, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, and Taylor Schilling on hand.
HBO’s Veep earned two awards with star Julia Louis-Dreyfus picking up a trophy for Individual Achievement in Comedy, and sharing the Comedy series honor with FX’s deadpan Louie. CBS’ The Good Wife got the Drama prize, and ABC Family’s The Fosters earned Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming.
The Heritage Award went to NBC’s Saturday Night Live for its lasting cultural and social impact. Incredibly, SNL will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, noted head writer Colin Jost who accepted the award and gave credited to creator-producer Lorne Michaels for the show’s longevity and ever-changing cast. Jost joked, “Lorne is never afraid to lose great performers and replace them with completely untested performers like myself.”
Scoring four awards, it seemed everyone was thanking HBO. Even Cranston gave them a shout-out. “Thank you, HBO. Early on, you turned us [Breaking Bad] down. That’s okay, I’ll be working for you soon,” Bryan beamed because an adaptation of his Tony-winning Broadway play All the Way (about LBJ) was just picked up by HBO Films.