My TV

17 April 2018

The 2017 Critics’ Pick Award Winners: TV

By , , , and // TV

There’s too much TV for us to watch everything but we give it a hearty try and every year offer up our picks for what we thought stood out from the overwhelming and ever-expanding landscape. Below are our picks for the best of 2017, written by our TV staff writers Kelly Bedard (KB), Dane McDonald (DM), Saiya Floyd (SF), Clay Keller (CK) and Lita Brillman (LB).

Don’t miss our 2017 Nominee Interview Series, featuring exclusive interviews with over 100 of this year’s nominated artists and be sure to check out Awards Headquarters for more from the Critics’ Pick Awards, including the Theatre and Cinema winners. 

Without further ado, the winners are:

Outstanding Direction
Reed Morano
(The Handmaid’s Tale)
When Hulu simultaneously released the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, we knew we were in for something extraordinary, and that’s due in large part to Reed Morano’s exquisite direction. Her vision of a not-so-distant future is what gave this television adaptation it’s unsettling sense of familiarity. – DM

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy
“You Wanna Roll With This?”
by Lennon Parham & Jessica St. Clair
(Playing House)

Playing House may have been the greatest hidden comedy gem of its television generation. Its brutal cancellation at the end of an incredible third season makes this award even more bittersweet. This real-life-inspired episode in which St. Clair’s character undergoes a double mastectomy perfectly encapsulated and brilliantly elevated the gigantic heart and frank humour that made Playing House so truly wonderful. I’ll miss it dearly. – KB

Outstanding Writing for a Drama
“Episode 8”
by Erin Levy and Jennifer Haley
(Mindhunter)

Mindhunter was a cleverly written show with an ambitious scope and brilliant tonal balance that blended history and fiction to excellent effect but it was the oddball eighth episode that was the real game-changer. A risky detour to investigate complaints against an elementary school teacher who’s been tickling his students’ feet, “Episode 8” had a deceptive silliness to it that masked character-defining complexity the ramifications of which forever altered the series. – KB

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
Glow
Summer 2017 was all about ladies who kicked major ass. Wonder Woman, Atomic Blonde, and Netflix’s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling chief among them. But not satisfied to just appear physically dominating, this diverse troupe led by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin also delivered on big laughs and bigger heart in one of the year’s best shows.
– DM

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
Twin Peaks: The Return
It must take a certain amount of bravery to act for David Lynch. The characters in his waking nightmares (or dreams, occasionally) are often called upon to do and say things that wouldn’t make immediate sense to anyone not inside of his head. Thankfully for us, the cast of Twin Peaks: The Return followed Mr. Lynch down the rabbit hole and never looked back. Lead by Lynch veterans Kyle MacLachlan, who brilliantly portrays four different characters, and Laura Dern, who adds an instantly iconic character to the Peaks-verse, this sprawling ensemble hits every wacky and unsettling note with pitch-perfection. From Miguel Ferrer, who delivers a quietly heartbreaking performance in his final role, to Jim Belushi, who reminds us how good he can be when he works with the right people, to Lynch himself, who finally drops the facade and gives himself a major part, there isn’t a squeaky wheel in the bunch. The piece as a whole wouldn’t feel as cohesive and accomplished if there were. On the other hand, it’s Lynch, so we wouldn’t really be able to tell either way. – CK

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Timothy Simons
(Veep)

It’s hard to make a jackass lovable, and even harder to make political jackass the slightest bit worthy of redemption. But Timothy Simons plays Jonah Ryan with such physical, goofy finesse that you can’t help but feel feels for the guy. Sometimes that feeling is contempt, but that just adds to the fun of it. – DM

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Pablo Schreiber
(American Gods)

Mad Sweeney was a fan favorite character before Neil Gaiman’s American Gods was adapted for TV, and the terrific Pablo Schreiber did a phenomenal job of bringing the belligerent leprechaun to life. The episode “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney” was a standout, bringing new depth to the character, showing him not as just a hotheaded leprechaun, but as an ancient, complicated being, who went from being a king and a god, to a forgotten man down on his luck. Throughout the show’s first season, Schreiber portrayed Mad Sweeney with the perfect amount of unpredictability, vulnerability, humor, and a whole lot of panache. – SF

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
D’Arcy Carden
(The Good Place)

Janet, a chipper anthropomorphic vessel of knowledge, could easily have been a one-dimensional character, but thanks to Carden’s impeccable comedic timing, she’s one of the highlights of The Good Place. Her arc is not as dynamic as some of the other characters, but Carden brings subtle nuances that make her growth a joy to watch. And in Carden’s capable hands, Janet the best girl. Robot. Janet. – SF

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Aubrey Plaza
(Legion)

During the first season of Legion, it was difficult to know what was real. Was Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny real, or a figment of David Haller’s imagination, or something in between? It almost didn’t matter – whenever she was on screen, Plaza was magnetic. Sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying, but always thoroughly entertaining. – SF

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Logan Browning
(Dear White People)

Every episode of Netflix’s masterpiece adaptation has a different protagonist, examining the life of black students at a fictional Ivy League school from a new perspective in each instalment. Pulling these threads together was the story of Sam White played with irresistible charisma and astonishing nuance by the unforgettable Logan Browning who broke out with “please put her in everything!” force in 2017. – KB

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Claire Foy
(The Crown)

All hail the Queen. Literally. Pulling back the royal purple curtain on the world’s most famous monarch can be no easy task, but Claire Foy makes it look effortless. Her unwavering poise, strength, and humanity make it even harder to accept that she’ll be passing on said crown to Olivia Colman next season. – DM

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Keir Gilchrist
(Atypical)

This overlooked Netflix dramedy was one of my favourite viewing experiences of the year, a heartfelt and optimistic family story unafraid of honest ugliness. Keir Gilchrist’s brilliant central performance as an 18-year-old autistic boy who thinks he’s ready to start dating is as subtle as it is committed, proving once and for all that literally every single person who worked on United States of Tara is perfect. – KB

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Justin Theroux
(The Leftovers)

Over the course of three season of The Leftovers, Justin Theroux has been able to pull off a feat of acting that is becoming more and more difficult: making the audience empathize with a handsome, straight, white, male police officer. Not only that, but he has a unique ability to emote disbelief and belief simultaneously, expressing confusion with the circumstances, but understanding of the emotional context. Every performance on The Leftovers is beautifully and heartrendingly wrought, but Theroux’s is the skeleton key that unlocks the full power of the uniquely curious emotional experiment that is The Leftovers. – CK

Outstanding Guest Actor
Cameron Monaghan
(Gotham)

A diehard Shameless devotee, a part of me has always feared how great Cameron Monaghan is in his recurring guest role on FOX’s wackadoo superhero drama; it’s the kind of breakout star-making performance that can pull a young actor away from the unsung work they were doing before. As the show’s proto/maybe/decoy-Joker, Monaghan fully abandons the understated calm that usually defines Ian Gallagher in favour of manic danger that easily puts him in the top echelon of Jokers (not exactly an unimpressive club). The section of his arc that played out in 2017 was a defining point in contemporary TV horror. – KB

Outstanding Guest Actress
Ann Dowd
(The Handmaid’s Tale)

Speaking of contemporary TV horror, may I present Aunt freaking Lydia. Cattle prod in hand and hurt in her eyes, Ann Dowd delivered my favourite performance in a show packed with performances so haunting it’s a shock any of us have slept since the premiere. Aunt Lydia’s unspeakable crimes are memorable enough but it’s the pain that makes Dowd’s performance so brilliant. She’s a participant and a perpetrator but, as a woman in Gilead, Dowd never lets us forget that beneath the treachery is a fellow victim. – KB

Outstanding Variety Performance
Tiffany Haddish
(Saturday Night Live)

In not-so-breaking news, Tiffany Haddish is funny. Dangerously funny. So of course we knew she’d kill hosting Saturday Night Live. What we didn’t know is that she’d bring tears to our eyes as she wore the same dress she bought for the Girls Trip premiere because she damn well earned it and when she thanked her social worker as the show signed off for the evening. – DM

Outstanding Sketch Artist
Aidy Bryant
(Saturday Night Live)

Kate McKinnon gets the praise and won an Emmy award (rightfully so), but Aidy Bryant has been the unsung hero of Saturday Night Live for six seasons. Whether she’s nailing her impression of Sarah Huckabee Sanders or getting down as Lil’ Baby Aidy in a digital short, Bryant is the secret sauce that makes our Saturday nights that much funnier. – DM

Outstanding Talk/Variety Host
Samantha Bee
(Full Frontal)

In what seems to be a golden age of late night television, it can be hard to stand out from the pack. But Samantha Bee, with her biting commentary on current issues, and her unique field pieces, does just that. While her blistering takes on the biggest news stories of the week are always strong, it is the show’s third act stories that elevate Full Frontal to another level. In 2017, some of the highlights were Bee’s segments “Life After Hate”, “The Rikers Debaters”, “Meet the Badass Peshmerga Women”, and “Government Worked! Rape Kit Backlog Revisited”. Bee explores different angles to current events, or talks to people whose stories are overlooked or forgotten, and she does so with an infallible sense of humor, but also, and equally importantly, she does so with compassion. – SF

Outstanding Reality Host/Coach/Judge
Lindsay Arnold
(Dancing with the Stars)

So You Think You Can Dance alum Lindsay Arnold has brought her celebrity partner to the Dancing With the Stars finals more times than makes sense. She’s never had anyone with the tiniest bit of dance experience or age-appropriate chemistry potential before and yet she’s made it work with killer (and clever) choreography and a never-say-die coaching attitude. When she finally was assigned the partner of her dreams (Grease Live sweetheart Jordan Fisher), she soared not only to an easy victory but straight into our hearts with routine after routine of sheer excellence. – KB

Outstanding Reality Star
Ika Wong
(Big Brother Canada)

In fans vs. favourites season Big Brother Canada 5, returning all-star Ika proved that her well-earned reputation as the Queen was no fluke. She built on her legacy of drama, shade, and good feeds, all while showing us a sweeter side as Canada watched her fall in love on screen. Her dedication to her family, her strategy, and never giving up the fight gave us everything we wanted and more in a TV show, all while playing a game that took her just short of snatching the crown for real. – LB

Outstanding New Show
American Vandal
When I told my teenage cousins that I loved this Netflix mockumentary series, they giggled and said “the one where the kid drew the dicks?!”. Yes, the one where the kid drew the dicks. Or did he? The superficially stupid premise of American Vandal was blended with a hilariously self-serious tone and a boatload of incisive cultural commentary to make it one of the great television achievements of the year. Without ever losing its humour, American Vandal took us to task for our self-righteous mob culture, our internet-fuelled obsessiveness, our useless naval-gazing, and the biases we let go unchecked. If the aliens come tomorrow and ask us about contemporary life in North America, I think I’ll show them American Vandal. – KB

Outstanding Cancelled Show
Pitch
God I loved this baseball drama from Dan Fogelman (who also created This Is Us in 2017 and for that I will never forgive him). A solid semi-soapy sports story grounded in human relationships and irrepressible ambition, this casually feminist show about a woman who signed up to be an athlete and became an unwitting icon was immediately my favourite network drama in years… and just as quickly became my saddest quick-cancellation story since Pan Am. – KB

Outstanding Reality Show
RuPaul’s Drag Race
RuPaul’s Drag Race is the most political show on television, and it takes the responsibility seriously. It casts a diverse group of drag queens from around the country who articulate their struggles and triumphs to an audience ranging from those who need it most (young gay kids, parents trying to understand, sheltered Americans who have never encountered these identities) to those who are just here for the fun and the mind-blowing talent of these contestants. Because at the end of the day, with all that the show represents in terms of discourse, inclusivity, and artistry, it’s still a colorful glitter ball of fun, and exactly what we need in this moment. – LB

Outstanding Comedy
The Good Place
People ask me all the time for TV recommendations. I don’t like to give TV recommendations because it’s such a hyper-personal thing and I hate to force someone into such a big time investment if I’m not sure it’ll pay off for them. So I usually dodge the request, but only after I’ve double checked “you’re watching The Good Place, right?”. Every smart person I know is watching and loving this brilliant rule-breaking expectation-defying sitcom about the afterlife. If you’re not, you need to start. And don’t you dare quit just a couple episodes in. Trust in Mike Schur; he’s smarter than you. – KB

Outstanding Drama
The Crown
It sounds like a stuffy British soap favored by your grandmother, but The Crown is that and so much more. The reign of Queen Elizabeth II makes for watchable prestige television almost by default, but writer/creator Peter Morgan’s commitment to historical accuracy with snippets of historical interpretation make this series as addictive as any set in Westeros or Westworld. -DM

Best Couple
Jake & Amy
(Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

All signs pointed to Sam & Diane when this lovely and consistent and enlightened but not exactly groundbreaking cop show let their will-they-won’t-they get together but smart, insightful character writing and superb cast chemistry has meant that this pairing only elevated the show. They make each other better, funnier, and sweeter and the show’s writers haven’t missed a beat as they embrace storytelling without romantic drama or singles antics to lean on. – KB

Moment of the Year *spoiler alert*
“Holy Motherforking Shirtballs…”
(The Good Place)
Oh my god SPOILER ALERT. Like, if you haven’t watched The Good Place and maybe might one day watch The Good Place (for the love of god, please watch The Good Place!) please don’t read this paragraph before watching The Good Place. Actually, you know what? If you’ve watched The Good Place, you know what this is, and if  you haven’t, I’m not gonna tell you. It’s only the single best twist in TV history. – KB

Emerging Artist
Amber Ruffin
(Late Night with Seth Meyers)
I adore Seth Meyers, his “Closer Look”s are consistently the funniest and most clear-eyed take on the news available anywhere on TV. And yet, when he has Amber Ruffin on Late Night (which happens a couple times a week), he gets upstaged every single time. A staff writer who regularly appears on screen for segments like “Amber’s minute of fury”, “Amber says What?” and “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell”, Amber Ruffin is the next brilliant “GIVE THIS GIRL HER OWN SHOW” commentator in line for a desk job. – KB

Performer of the Year
Carrie Coon
Carrie Coon’s monologue near the end of “The Book of Nora,” the series finale of The Leftovers, has more emotion, intrigue, and narrative power than an average show achieves in an entire season. In fact, most shows would never attempt a monologue like this, but the team behind the The Leftovers knew that they had Carrie Coon, so it wouldn’t be a problem. Besides closing out The Leftovers with her typical brilliance, Ms. Coon also proved to be the steadfast soul of Fargo’s third season (delivering another jaw-droppingly great finale monologue), and the secret weapon in Steven Spielberg’s The Post, taking the audience from zero to tears as she relays the Supreme Court’s decision to the anxious newsroom. Coon’s star has been slowly rising for the last few years, but the versatility she showed in 2017 solidified her status as one of our finest performers. This will almost certainly not be the last time she is the “Performer of the Year.” – CK

Fan Favourite
Darren Criss
Every year when we announce the nominees on January 1st we get a little social media bump, mostly from nominees sharing the news and some supporters throwing out early Fan Favourite votes. This year, honest to god like 80% of that bump was just crazy Darren Criss fandom. The endlessly charming triple threat was nominated for his guest starring role on the Flash/Supergirl crossover musical episode (he played the villain, it was delicious) and boy did we hear how much his fans wanted him to win. He didn’t win, but there was absolutely no way he wasn’t winning Fan Favourite. – KB

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