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Handicapping the Critics' Choice TV Awards

Ted Lasso, Succession, Squid Game, and The Underground Railroad are all fighting for critical love. Who will get it?
  • Photos: Apple TV+, Sela Shiloni, HBO
    Photos: Apple TV+, Sela Shiloni, HBO

    Joe Reid isn't just Primetimer's managing editor. He's also an awards expert and one half of the popular podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz. So who better to offer his predictions for who will take home the TV awards at Sunday's 27th Critics' Choice Awards?

    The Critics Choice Association (previously known as Broadcast Film Critics Association) has been handing out movie awards since 1995, but they've only been in the TV awards business since 2010. And while their movie counterparts tend to shadow the Oscar race, the Critics' Choice TV awards have always been refreshingly more open to shows and performers who the Emmys tend to forget. Historically, this is where shows like The Americans and The Good Place have gotten their due. This year, big-time awards faves like Ted Lasso, Mare of Easttown, and Succession are joined on the ballot by nominees like Evil and The Other Two. But who's going to win, and perhaps more importantly, who should win?

    Best Drama Series

    The Nominees:

    • Evil (Paramount+)
    • For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
    • The Good Fight (Paramount+)
    • Pose (FX)
    • Squid Game (Netflix)
    • Succession (HBO)
    • This Is Us (NBC)
    • Yellowjackets (Showtime)

    Who Should Win?: While a final season recognition for Pose would be nice, and a debut season for Yellowjackets would be invigorating, Succession remains at the top of the heap for TV in 2021.

    Who Will Win?: Succession took this award two years ago, and while the Critics aren't as beholden to past favorites as the Emmys are, it feels like a safe bet to win. If there is a new champion, though, it could well be Squid Game, which, as I wrote earlier this week, is proving to be a most unexpected contender this awards season.

    Best Actor in a Drama Series

    The Nominees:

    • Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
    • Mike Colter, Evil
    • Brian Cox, Succession
    • Lee Jung-jae, Squid Game
    • Billy Porter, Pose
    • Jeremy Strong, Succession

    Who Should Win?: Cox is a stalwart performer and in many ways the terrifying center around which the rest of Succession revolves, but it's hard to deny the depths to which Jeremy Strong's performance went in the show's third season.

    Who Will Win?: The critics went for Strong two years ago, but they're reluctant to double up winners, so this might be where Brian Cox triumphs.

    Best Actress in a Drama Series

    The Nominees:

    • Uzo Aduba, In Treatment
    • Chiara Aurelia, Cruel Summer
    • Christine Baranski, The Good Fight
    • Katja Herbers, Evil
    • Melanie Lynskey, Yellowjackets
    • Michaela Jae Rodriguez, Pose

    Who Should Win?: It's a kick that Chiara Aurelia got nominated for the teen drama Cruel Summer, one of those Critics' Choice selections that sadly won't happen at the Emmys. This category is packed with talent, but Melanie Lynskey really got to shine as a haunted and secretive survivor on Yellowjackets, and she deserves a big win at last.

    Who Will Win?: I'm guessing that critics — who have watched and loved Lynskey in films and TV for years, will agree.

    Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

    The Nominees:

    • Nicholas Braun, Succession
    • Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
    • Kieran Culkin, Succession
    • Justin Hartley, This Is Us
    • Matthew Macfadyen, Succession
    • Mandy Patinkin, The Good Fight

    Who Should Win?: It's tempting to go with Mandy Patinkin, the kicky outsider of the category for his performance as a rogue judge on The Good Fight. But Kieran Culkin did some deceptively brilliant work on Succession, deepening Roman Roy's damage while never sacrificing his despicable veneer.

    Who Will Win?: Given the turn that the Succession season finale took, this probably ends up going to Matthew Macfadyen.

    Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

    The Nominees:

    • Christine Lahti, Evil
    • Andrea Martin, Evil
    • Audra McDonald, The Good Fight
    • J. Smith-Cameron, Succession
    • Sarah Snook, Succession
    • Susan Kelechi Watson, This Is Us

    Who Should Win?: An impossible call to make in a category this strong, but somebody needs to advocate for the stellar turn Audra McDonald has been delivering on The Good Fight for years now.

    Who Will Win?: Predicting a sweep for any show among critics who never like to seem predictable is risky, but Sarah Snook stands out from this particular pack as a likely favorite.

    Best Comedy Series

    The Nominees:

    • The Great (Hulu)
    • Hacks (HBO Max)
    • Insecure (HBO)
    • Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
    • The Other Two (HBO Max)
    • Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu)
    • Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
    • What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

    Who Should Win?: There are no bad options here, and in most years it would be impossible not to want to honor a debut season as clever, engrossing, and fun as Only Murders in the Building, but the second season of The Other Two was jaw-droppingly brilliant on every level and deserves nothing less than the top prize.

    Who Will Win?: Ted Lasso came out on top last year, as it did at the Emmys, so the critics might be moved to recognize their chief rivals and give the award to Hacks.

    Best Actor in a Comedy Series

    The Nominees:

    • Iain Armitage, Young Sheldon
    • Nicholas Hoult, The Great
    • Steve Martin, Only Murders in the Building
    • Kayvan Novak, What We Do in the Shadows
    • Martin Short, Only Murders in the Building
    • Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso

    Who Should Win?: Both Steve Martin and Martin Short gave some of the best performances of their late-stage careers on Only Murders, but how can you choose between them? And you don't need to when you could instead recognize the clueless imperiousness of Kayvan Novak as Nandor on What We Do in the Shadows.

    Who Will Win?: This is a category where the critics have frequently doubled up, so don't be surprised if last year's champion Jason Sudeikis takes the award again.

    Best Actress in a Comedy Series

    The Nominees:

    • Elle Fanning, The Great
    • Renee Elise Goldsberry, Girls5Eva
    • Selena Gomez, Only Murders in the Building
    • Sandra Oh, The Chair
    • Issa Rae, Insecure
    • Jean Smart, Hacks

    Who Should Win?: Well first of all, it's a crime that The Other Two's Helene Yorke wasn't nominated, but that's another conversation. In a year of great TV, few performances sparked with more energy and comedic precision than Renee Elise Goldsberry as former pop star Wickie on Girls5Eva. The Emmys ignored her; critics would be making a mistake if they did the same.

    Who Will Win?: Jean Smart has been winning every award in sight for playing a Joan Rivers-esque comedian on Hacks, and it would be surprising if that didn't continue here.

    Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

    The Nominees:

    • Ncuti Gatwa, Sex Education
    • Brett Goldstein, Ted Lasso
    • Harvey Guillen, What We Do in the Shadows
    • Brandon Scott Jones, Ghosts
    • Ray Romano, Made for Love
    • Bowen Yang, Saturday Night Live

    Who Should Win?: Bowen Yang became the breakout star of the new generation of SNL stars for a reason. His past two seasons of excellence deserve some recognition.

    Who Will Win?: Emmy-winner Brett Goldstein could take it, and the critics reached to nominate Ray Romano for a show nobody even remembers aired this year for a reason: they love the guy. But Kate McKinnon won with the critics a few years ago for Saturday Night Live, and I think Yang repeats that feat this time.

    Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

    The Nominees:

    • Kristin Chenoweth, Schmigadoon!
    • Hannah Einbinder, Hacks
    • Molly Shannon, The Other Two
    • Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live
    • Josie Totah, Saved by the Bell
    • Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso

    Who Should Win?: It's cruel to make anyone choose among these performers! They're all excellent, of course, and special commendation is due to Josie Totah for laying down some of the year's best line deliveries, but Molly Shannon delivered with the spotlight her character was given this season and deserves an award for it.

    Who Will Win?: Hannah Waddingham won this category last year, and she's got all the momentum to triumph again this year, though watch out for Cecily Strong as a dark horse.

    Best Limited Series

    The Nominees:

    • Dopesick (Hulu)
    • Dr. Death (Peacock)
    • It's a Sin (HBO Max)
    • Maid (Netflix)
    • Mare of Easttown (HBO)
    • Midnight Mass (Netflix)
    • The Underground Railroad (Amazon)
    • WandaVision (Disney+)

    Who Should Win?: Limited series continue to be the class of television, and Mare of Easttown deserved its appointment-television status.

    Who Will Win?: Mare was the Emmy winner, and it stands a great chance of winning here. But the critics might choose to show up the Emmys and recognize a series the television academy didn't and award The Underground Railroad.

    Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Made for TV

    The Nominees:

    • Olly Alexander, It's a Sin
    • Paul Bettany, WandaVision
    • William Jackson Harper, Love Life
    • Joshua Jackson, Dr. Death
    • Michael Keaton, Dopesick
    • Hamish Linklater, Midnight Mass

    Who Should Win?: Olly Alexander made for a charismatic and magnetic lead in It's a Sin, but the slow burn that Hamish Linklater delivers, before ultimately revealing his character as something more obsessed, terrifying, and ultimately sad than we'd expected, is the kind of overlooked performance that deserves a win.

    Who Will Win?: Michael Keaton took the SAG Award, and it seems likely that the veteran actor will triumph here as well.

    Best Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Made for TV

    The Nominees:

    • Danielle Brooks, Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia
    • Cynthia Erivo, Genius: Aretha
    • Thuso Mbedu, The Underground Railroad
    • Elizabeth Olsen, WandaVision
    • Margaret Qualley, Maid
    • Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown

    Who Should Win?: Kate Winslet took the opportunity, once again, to show why she's one of the greatest actresses in the world as the haunted and struggling Mare. She won a deserved Emmy but deserves this one too.

    Who Will Win?: It'll be tough to resist Winslet for the critics, but they could also, again, turn to the overlooked Mbedu from The Underground Railroad, or even the more recently acclaimed performance by Margaret Qualley.

    Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Made for TV

    The Nominees:

    • Murray Bartlett, The White Lotus
    • Zach Gilford, Midnight Mass
    • William Jackson Harper, The Underground Railroad
    • Evan Peters, Mere of Easttown
    • Christian Slater, Dr. Death
    • Courtney B. Vance, Genius: Aretha

    Who Should Win?: Murray Bartlett's descent into madness and self-destruction in the face of a resort full of pampered, privileged Americans was sometimes overlooked in favor of some of his castmates, but it's a deserving performance.

    Who Will Win?: The double nomination for William Jackson Harper indicates that he's a fan of the critics, and I wouldn't be shocked if he won, but Evan Peters emerging from American Horror Story purgatory to nail the kind of role you wouldn't have necessarily pegged him for feels like the perfect Critics' Choice winner.

    Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Made for TV

    The Nominees:

    • Jennifer Coolidge, The White Lotus
    • Kaitlyn Dever, Dopesick
    • Kathryn Hahn, WandaVision
    • Melissa McCarthy, Nine Perfect Strangers
    • Julianne Nicholson, Mare of Easttown
    • Jean Smart, Mare of Easttown

    Who Should Win?: Julianne Nicholson won the Emmy Award for her character's killer final episode, though it ought not to be overlooked how deceptively effective the rest of her performance was on Mare.

    Who Will Win?: This might be the night's most epic category, with last year's Emmy faves Nicholson and Hahn once again battling it out, this time joined by next year's Emmy fave Jennifer Coolidge. I might place my bets on Coolidge being fresher in voters' minds, though if Hahn's going to get her one win of the season anywhere, it'll be here.

    The 27th Critics' Choice Awards air live on The CW and TBS Sunday March 13 at 7:00 PM ET.

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Critics' Choice Awards, Dopesick, Evil, Girls5eva, The Good Fight, It's a Sin, Mare of Easttown, Midnight Mass, Only Murders In The Building , The Other Two, Pose, Squid Game, Succession, Ted Lasso, The Underground Railroad, WandaVision, What We Do in the Shadows, Yellowjackets