'The Crown,' 'Westworld' win at Critics' Choice Awards. Why are they hits?

First-season shows 'Crown' and 'Westworld' recently won awards at the Critics' Choice Awards. The Netflix and HBO programs are hits with reviewers for the TV content providers in the competitive industry.

John P. Johnson/HBO
Evan Rachel Wood stars in the HBO drama 'Westworld' as Dolores Abernathy.

Movies such as “La La Land” and “Manchester by the Sea” were honored at the Critics’ Choice Awards, while HBO and Netflix scored with two new TV shows, possibly indicating a boost for the TV content providers as more TV options demand viewers’ time. 

“Westworld” actress Evan Rachel Wood won the award for best actress in a drama series and Thandie Newton took the best supporting actress in a drama series prize for the same show; while John Lithgow of “The Crown” took the best supporting actor in a drama series prize for his work on the Netflix series.

“Westworld” and “The Crown” have both received high marks from critics after debuting earlier this year. The two TV shows were also recently honored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which distributes the Golden Globes ­­– both are nominated for best TV drama. “Crown” actress Claire Foy was nominated alongside Ms. Wood for best actress in a drama series. Mr. Lithgow and Ms. Newton are nominated for the Golden Globes for best supporting actor and best supporting actress, respectively. 

The TV shows may have been important critical wins for HBO and Netflix as the two TV subscription services continue to need to prove that they are required TV destinations.

Troy L. Smith of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that “for much of 2016, the once-mighty TV drama titan known as HBO was struggling a bit,” noting that the show “Vinyl” and the second season of “True Detective” struggled. 

“At a time when networks like FX, AMC, Netflix and Amazon are all vying for a bigger piece of the dramatic pie, HBO had taken a backseat,” Mr. Smith wrote. “Then came ‘Westworld.’ ” 

In addition to the critical acclaim displayed by the Critics’ Choice Awards wins and the Golden Globe nominations, “Westworld” has performed well in the ratings, too. (Season One recently concluded.) 

Meanwhile, “Crown” is Netflix’s latest critical hit with its awards season attention for Foy and Lithgow. (Since Netflix rarely releases ratings information, we know less about how “Crown” is doing with viewers and so whether it's a "hit" in the traditional sense.) The wins and nominations follow positive reviews for the show.

New York Times writer Joe Nocera writes that, like HBO, Netflix needs to keep bringing in new people who are intrigued by their shows. “Just because Netflix had essentially created this new world of internet TV was no guarantee that it could continue to dominate it,” Mr. Nocera wrote earlier this year, naming rivals like Hulu, Amazon, and the networks. “As its costs continue to go up, it needs to constantly generate more subscribers to stay ahead of others.”

“The Crown” has received attention for its costs, but Guardian writer Noel Murray writes this could have an advantage for Netflix. With “Crown” and reportedly expensive Netflix show "The Get-Down," "the price is part of the pitch, luring subscribers with the promise that their money is buying something they won’t find anywhere else," Mr. Murray writes.

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