Winners were announced today for the 2021 Critics Choice Real TV Awards, honoring nonfiction programming across television and streaming platforms as chosen by members of the Critics Choice Association (of which I’m an executive member as the documentary branch president). Among the honorees, Apple’s 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything received the award for Best Limited Documentary Series, while PBS’ Frontline was recognized for the second year in a row as the critics’ choice for Best Ongoing Documentary Series.
A number of other documentary series won awards in non-documentary-specific categories, too. HBO’s excellent multi-part true-crime documentary I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which was also nominated for the Critics Choice Real TV Award for Best Limited Documentary Series, was named the Best Crime/Justice Show. And ESPN’s ongoing anthology series 30 for 30 (surprisingly not also nominated in the ongoing documentary series category this year) won the award for Best Sports Show.
Also, three separate series focused on food and travel were named winners at the 2021 Critics Choice TV Awards across categories honoring those two interests and more: Hulu’s Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi was named Best Culinary Show while CNN’s Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy was named Best Travel/Adventure Show. Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil (which was also nominated in the Best Travel/Adventure Show category), won the award for Male Star of the Year for its host, Phil Rosenthal (Stanley Tucci was also nominated for that award). Another foodie favorite, Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was one of two shows that tied for Best Structured Series.
Netflix got some additional love from the Critics Choice Association with its docuseries Life in Color with David Attenborough, which was recognized as the Best Animal/Nature Show, and Love on the Spectrum, which critics chose as the Best Relationship Show. The streaming service was also the most-honored outlet of all with wins for the reality series Deaf U, Queer Eye, and The Great British Baking Show as well. HBO, which had been the big outlet for doc nominees, came in second with three wins, including one for its nonfiction programming overall.
Sadly, this was the second year in a row (of only three years of its existence) that the awards show was not held live and in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But winners of the 2021 Critics Choice Real TV Awards were informed ahead of time to allow them to submit acceptance videos, some of which are featured above and below (the rest can be seen on the CCA website). Hopefully, everything will be back to normal next year for the fourth annual awards to involve a full ceremony. Makers of nonfiction programs deserve a party, and nonfiction fans deserve a fun showcase for that party.
Here are all of the winners of the 2021 Critics Choice Real TV Awards:
BEST COMPETITION SERIES — TIE!
RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)
The Great British Baking Show (Netflix)
BEST COMPETITION SERIES: TALENT/VARIETY — TIE!
The Masked Singer (Fox)
The Voice (NBC)
BEST UNSTRUCTURED SERIES
Deaf U (Netflix)
BEST STRUCTURED SERIES — TIE!
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (Food Network)
The Oprah Conversation (Apple TV+)
BEST BUSINESS SHOW
Shark Tank (ABC)
BEST SPORTS SHOW
30 for 30 (ESPN)
BEST CRIME/JUSTICE SHOW
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (HBO)
BEST ONGOING DOCUMENTARY SERIES
BEST LIMITED DOCUMENTARY SERIES
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (Apple TV+)
BEST SHORT FORM SERIES
Issa Rae Teaches Creating Outside the Lines (MasterClass)
BEST LIVE SHOW
Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
BEST CULINARY SHOW
Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi (Hulu)
BEST GAME SHOW
Jeopardy! (CBS Television/Syndicated)
BEST TRAVEL/ADVENTURE SHOW
Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (CNN)
BEST ANIMAL/NATURE SHOW
Life in Color with David Attenborough (Netflix)
BEST LIFESTYLE: FASHION/BEAUTY SHOW
Queer Eye (Netflix)
BEST RELATIONSHIP SHOW
Love on the Spectrum (Netflix)
BEST LIFESTYLE: HOME/GARDEN SHOW
House Hunters International (HGTV)
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN AN UNSCRIPTED SERIES
RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)
BEST SHOW HOST
John Oliver – Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
MALE STAR OF THE YEAR
Phil Rosenthal – Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix)
FEMALE STAR OF THE YEAR
Sandra Lee – Dr. Pimple Popper (TLC)
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NONFICTION PROGRAMMING BY A NETWORK OR STREAMING PLATFORM
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NONFICTION PRODUCTION