Awards Tracker: A Look at What Network TV Has to Offer

Network TV
This is the first post in an on-going Awards Tracker series focusing on what network TV shows have awards heat through the winter and into next year’s Emmy season.

Fall awards season can make or break a new TV show, especially on network TV. Just last year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and critics shockingly awarded an unknown Rachel Bloom for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, giving the little-seen musical enough buzz to be saved from cancellation. The year before, Gina Rodriguez had her “a star is born moment” and was then almost immediately cast into the Star Wars universe. Ten years ago, SAG and the HFPA gave Desperate Housewives the top award long before it even competed at the Emmys.

However in 2016 network TV hasn’t brought us any huge successes besides continuing the trend of giving aging 90’s stars uninteresting material (Matt LeBlanc, Damon Wayans, Kevin James) instead of creating a new star. 2016 may not have given us the next Shondaland hit or a FOX camp classic, but there are some new shows worth mentioning even if it’s becoming increasingly unlikely for the guild awards or the Emmys to throw a bone network TV’s way. They haven’t honored a network show in its premiere year since Grey’s Anatomy and Lost for dramas and Glee and Modern Family for comedies. At least the HFPA and BTJA are much more likely to open their arms.  These are the four broadcast shows to keep an eye on this awards season.

This Is Us  

After years of near irrelevancy, NBC finally has the most buzzed about show of the TV season with their family dramedy This Is Us. Critics are embracing the show, it continues to grow in ratings, and Entertainment Weekly even gave it a cover story over shows with much more star power. Even with all that success, the show still has an upward battle in terms of awards momentum. Broadcast dramas are having an increasingly difficult time breaking through (only Empire and The Good Wife have been successful), and it took seasons for the voting groups to even acknowledge NBC’s other generational drama, Parenthood.

If critics, guild members, and the HFPA choose to ignore the excessive schmaltz of This Is Us and attempt to reward one of the only new shows curbing the decline of network TV, they’ll likely champion either Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown or newcomer Chrissy Metz. HFPA voters could easily be swayed to honor Brown for his current work instead of honoring something for which he has already won an Emmy, especially since all of the supporting genres are combined at the Globes. Critics, on the other hand, are more likely to honor Chrissy Metz the breakout performance on any network show this fall.

Best Bet

Supporting Actress, Chrissy Metz: Critics Choice

Possible Contenders

Supporting Actor, Sterling K. Brown: Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice

Worth Mentioning

Drama Series: Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice

network TV
(Photo: ABC)

Speechless

Ten years ago, a Minnie Driver-led sitcom about a lower-middle-class family with a physically disabled son would emerge as the most embraced comedy on television. Driver without a doubt would be the front-runner for every major award. However, the network TV landscape changed, and, as groundbreaking as ABC’s inclusive lineup is, guild members and the foreign press aren’t as impressed anymore although the BTJA always makes an effort to honor a sitcom for every HBO or streaming hit.

Even if Speechless is bound to be pushed aside for a wave of auteur comedies, the show still has a chance of being honored through lead nominations for its star, Academy Award-nominee Minnie Driver. The HFPA loves Oscar nominees, and they love Brits so Driver should be an easy sell. The critics nominated just about every leading mother of an ABC comedy since the awards began six years ago. In a sea of Wendi McLendon-Coveys, Patricia Heatons, and Martha Plimptons, there stands a strong likelihood that Minnie Driver doesn’t factor in at the Critics’ Choice.

Strongest Contender

Lead Actress in a Comedy, Minnie Driver: Critics’ Choice, Golden Globes

network TV
(Photo: ABC)

Designated Survivor

The Hollywood Foreign Press loves to bring back old stars to the champagne table (James Spader in The Blacklist, Rob Lowe in The Grinder to name a few), and, other than Sarah Jessica Parker, there is no bigger returning icon on TV this year than Kiefer Sutherland. After winning just about every major award, his return to television was inevitable, and there’s no better way to entice awards groups to welcome him back than turning him into a politician and having him watch the rest of Washington literally explode.

Sutherland appears as the saving grace of network TV, but Designated Survivor doesn’t emerge as the type of drama that critics, journalists, and guild members get excited over. Kerry Washington reaped a lot of nominations for Scandal, but the show never received top recognition anywhere. The Good Wife started off strong, but everyone from the HFPA to SAG became distracted by flashier streaming and cable shows. Quantico can only boast a People’s Choice Award – and a minor one at that. If Designated Survivor was an unavoidable ratings juggernaut, the case exists for a series nomination. Yet, with ratings quickly diminishing to half of what the premiere produced, the show feels easy to write off.

Possible Contender

Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Kiefer Sutherland: Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice

network TV
(Photo: NBC)

Superstore

Superstore is a small show that, after a year of word of mouth from everyone from NPR to our own ADTV, the show is slowly becoming one of the most surprising sleeper hits of 2016. The workplace comedy doesn’t seem like an obvious awards contender, but it boasts a few interesting factors going for it even if the show won’t be anywhere near the guild awards.

America Ferrera has been a Golden Globes staple ever since the HFPA turned her into the television darling of the year. She received two more nominations and a hilarious presenting spot in last year’s ceremony. Bringing Ferrera back to the party would also be the easiest way for the foreign press to honor their host network.

Even if Superstore lacks contender status at the Golden Globes, the workplace comedy demonstrates the potential as the perfect type of comedy that the critics love to pretend they “discovered” at the Critics’ Choice awards. Critics love to honor breakout performances (like Eden Sher), and no other supporting actor fits that bill more than Lauren Ash, although the chances of the Second City alumna standing out against a sea of big names seems incredibly unlikely.

Possible Contenders

Supporting Actress in a Comedy, Lauren Ash: Critics Choice

Worth Mentioning

Lead Actress in a Comedy, America Ferrera: Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice

Other Possibilities

Of course there are other big names that might pop up this season, especially if the foreign press resorts back to their star gawking ways. Geena Davis is earning positive reviews for FOX’s remake of The Exorcist. With three wins and eleven total nominations, Ted Danson (The Good Place) merits consideration at the Golden Globes, especially if NBC Universal campaigns for him. Kylie Bunbury (Pitch) could become the ingénue of awards season just like Gina Rodriguez was two years ago, although the show is one that critics seem to adore even if it is sinking in ratings.

What new broadcast shows are you predicting to emerge as awards favorites at the end of the year? What new shows are you hoping break out throughout awards season?

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2 comments

  1. Rodrigo 3 years ago

    It seems like cable shows are the best new shows so far again, with Atlanta, Better Things, Stranger Things, Westworld and Insecure.

  2. Alan of Montreal 3 years ago

    As far as This Is Us goes, I would add Ron Cephas Jones as a possible Supporting Actor contender for Critics Choice and the Emmys (the Globes are hobbled by the fact they merge all the TV supporting categories into one category for each sex). I also think Gerald McRaney is a shoe-in for Guest Actor at the Emmys for the pilot. I also wouldn’t discount Mandy Moore from possible attention, though I’m not sure what category she would be placed in in such an evenly divided ensemble piece. Will they go the friends’ route and slot everyone in supporting? The only thing I can guarantee is that Justin Hartley will not be nominated for a one-note performance of a one-note character.

    For The Good Place, I don’t think Kristen Bell can be overlooked for any of the TV awards. She’s thrown herself into her character with a lot of gusto, and I think she’s shown a lot of different layers to her character. I also think D’Arcy Carden is hilarious in her role, particularly in the season’s third episode where she’s testing different ways of behaving, and I think that performance deserves consideration in Supporting, and might even do so with the Critics Choice. I believe the show itself could break through at The Globes and Critics Choice, as well.

    While Designated Survivor might seem like House of Cards Loud ‘n’ Lite, it is an entertaining show, and there is one other performance beyond Sutherland’s that warrants attention–Virginia Madsen’s. She’s one of the most underrated actresses currently working, and I think her role as the only surviving Republican Congress Rep has given her something to show her chops. As another former Oscar nominee who also won plenty of critics awards for Sideways, the Globes, Critics Choice, and Emmys could award her with a nod if the show lasts the whole season and is picked up again for the next.

    The Exorcist is much better than I had anticipated it would be, and while I don’t think the show itself will receive any awards recognition, there could be a bone thrown Alan Ruck’s way for his performance as a father with a brain injury. And Sharon Gless was just introduced last week as Davis’ mother, so as a past Emmy winner she might very well be in contention, though it’s probably still too early to tell.

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