After a partnership with Entertainment Weekly that resulted in the departure of nearly a sixth of its membership, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association announced the nominations for their seventh annual Critics’ Choice TV Awards. The newest crop of nominees resulted in less typical critical favorites and even more surprisingly produced some very audience-friendly nominees from Jeffrey Dean Morgan of The Walking Dead to best series nominations for This is Us and Stranger Things.
Where are the best reviewed shows of the year?
A disconnect seems to be growing between the BTJA’s favorite shows and performances of the year and the overall critical favorites of the year. Past Critics’ Choice nominees like Rectify, Casual, Catastrophe, Broad City, Orange is the New Black, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and You’re The Worst failed to earn a single nomination this year even though they are currently some of 20 best reviewed shows of 2016 on Metacritic. On top of that, some shows earned acting recognition but were shut out of the top races. This happened even though they were nominated in the past and are still some of the best reviewed shows of the year like The Americans, Transparent, and American Crime.
Instead, BTJA voters decided to bring back Modern Family (as well as Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen), nominations that haven’t happened since 2012. Voters also fully embraced Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with five nominations for a season a lot of critics and fans referred to as an aimless sophomore slump after the voting group ignored the show’s breakout first season. Overall, popular choices that gained buzz through articles and online support prevailed like Stranger Things and This is Us even without individual acting nominations over shows that earned universal critical acclaim.
Voters also made the interesting choice of showering shows with acting nominations but ignoring them when it came down to picking their favorite comedies, dramas, and limited series of the year. Ray Donovan (3), House of Cards (4), Outlander (2), and American Crime (4) all earned a lot of nominations but were left out of the conversations for best series in their respected genres.
The single most glaring snub of any series might be the complete shutout of the limited series The Night Of which is currently tied with The People v. O.J. Simpson for the best reviewed limited series of the year. Unfortunately, this might be a sign that the acclaimed limited series might struggle to stay in the minds of voters throughout awards season and into Emmy season.
In terms of individual acting nominations, it’s worth pointing out that voters embraced Better Call Saul across the board except for a supporting actress nomination for Rhea Seehorn who arguably earned the loudest praise from critics. The Veep fans among the group chose to honor Tony Hale once again even though the fifth season was a treasure cove of material for the rest of the supporting cast. With four nominations total, the Roots remake did well in terms of nominations, but Anika Noni Rose was left out after seemingly getting the most buzz when the miniseries aired last Memorial Day.
So overall, the question needs to be asked if the Critics’ Choice Awards are becoming less about what are the most celebrated shows of the year by critics than what exactly are they? What are these awards saying about the state of the television and what are they celebrating? And what is the point of yet another awards show if they aren’t making unique passion fueled choices but instead, for the most part, simply copying and pasting the choices of the Emmys?
A Silver Lining
Critics have always been relied on to celebrate smaller shows, especially ones that industry awards tend to ignore and although the recognition of new comedies this year were few and far between no surprise was more welcome than the two nominations for Fleabag. The little-seen British import might not have made huge waves when it was initially released but critics (including ADTV’s own Joey Moser) have been passionately championing the show and its star Phoebe Waller-Bridge since its release. Less surprising but equally deserving is the recognition of the best reviewed comedy of 2016 Atlanta and its creator/star Donald Glover who critics have been excited about since his time on Community.
A Confused Membership
In 2015, the BTJA voted on two sets of TV awards so that they could merge the eligibility calendar and ceremony with the film awards, and it looks like the change heavily confused some voters. Mandy Patinkin somehow snuck into the Supporting Actor in a Drama Race without a single new episode of Homeland to judge him off of. A day later the BTJA corrected their mistake by replacing Patinkin with Better Call Saul’s Michael McKean, but the embarrassment lingers and begs the question as to how necessary the BTJA is if they don’t even pay enough attention to television to know what shows are actually airing. On top of that voters also nominated Maura Tierney for the third season of The Affair, a season that hasn’t aired yet although the pilot is available to stream early online.
The Crown was one of the few new dramas that BTJA voters seemed to really love with nominations for Jared Harris and John Lithgow as well as Outstanding Drama. Shockingly, voters left out the star of the show Claire Foy. What makes their omission even more confounding is that Foy’s performance as Queen Elizabeth is probably the main reason critics fell in love with the show in the first place. If voters wanted to use the Critics’ Choice to influence industry voters, nominating the relatively unknown star of the show in a breakout performance would be the obvious choice. Instead, voters chose to celebrate Emmy nominees like Lithgow and Harris who need much less help being noticed by their peers. Even without a Critics’ Choice nomination, Foy still has a good chance of winning an award this winter with Golden Globes voters.
Readers, what are your reactions to this year’s Critics’ Choice nominees? What were you most excited to see and who do you think will win when the winners are announced next month?