'Handmaid's Tale,' 'This Is Us' honored at TV critics' awards

Television Critics Association awards 2017-06082017-0001
Host Kristin Chenoweth (left) and "This Is Us" star Sterling K. Brown perform a duet during the Television Critics Association Awards on Aug. 5, 2017, at the Beverly Hilton

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s gripping adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel about a post-U.S. society in which women have lost all civil rights, was named program of the year at the Television Critics Association’s 33rd annual awards on Saturday.

NBC’s This Is Us, the hit family drama created by Penn grad Dan Fogelman, was named outstanding new program.

Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, no stranger to glitzier awards shows — she’s won an Emmy and a Tony — hosted the event, which took place in the same Beverly Hilton ballroom from which the Golden Globes air, but without the distraction of TV cameras.

(People give much better speeches when the TV cameras aren’t rolling.)

Camera icon FREDERICK M. BROWN/Getty Images, Courtesy Television Critics Association
Host Kristin Chenoweth spoofs “The Handmaid’s Tale” as host of the 33rd annual Television Critics Association Awards (FREDERICK M. BROWN/Getty Images, Courtesy Television Critics Association)

Chenoweth, who arrived with a piano and an accompanist  as well as more than one change of costume (she first came out dressed in the distinctive habit of a handmaid), at one point got This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown to the stage for a duet. The pair sang “For Good,” from Wicked, the Broadway musical in which Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda.

Let’s just say This Is Us is going to need Randall to sing.

The first show from a streaming service to be named program of the year, Handmaid’s Tale stars Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) as Offred, one of the women stripped of her real name and enslaved for her fertility. It was also recognized for achievement in drama.

Also making critics association history: Carrie Coon, who was singled out for individual achievement in drama for her work on two different shows during the 2016-17 season, FX’s Fargo and HBO’s The Leftovers.

FX’s Atlanta won for comedy, and its creator and star, Donald Glover,  was honored for individual achievement in comedy. Glover, off filming in a galaxy far, far away, couldn’t make it, but he sent his brother, Stephen, a writer on the show, along with Atlanta costar Brian Tyree Henry, to accept the awards.

HBO’s star-studded limited series Big Little Lies was named outstanding movie or miniseries. Actress Reese Witherspoon, accepting on behalf of the cast and producers, explained that costar Nicole Kidman was in Australia, and then did her best to read Kidman’s remarks in an Aussie accent.

ABC’s Speechless, a very funny show about a family that happens to include a teenager (Micah Fowler) with cerebral palsy, won for youth programming, a category that in recent years has been variously interpreted by the critics as programming for children, teens, or the whole family.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (Baseball, The Civil War) won a career achievement award, less than a week after appearing before critics to promote his latest series, The Vietnam War, which premieres on PBS on Sept. 17.

The group’s Heritage Award went to Seinfeld.

Other winners included ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America, for news and information programming, and A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, for reality programming