This year the BTJA announced they are merging their May Critics’ Choice awards show for television into their film awards in January and because of this they are having a second set of 2015 nominations for the second half of the year. Because of the change in the awards schedule past nominees in the drama categories are not eligible like The Americans and Game of Thrones. Usually the BTJA likes to influence Emmy voters with high profile picks but a majority of the drama nominees this year aren’t necessarily typical awards fare.
Amongst the Critics’ Choice drama series nominees is a tech thriller (Mr. Robot), a gothic thriller (Penny Dreadful), a previous nominee (Empire), a scripted show about reality television (Unreal), and a bunch of shows that failed to garner any major attention from their first seasons (Rectify, The Leftovers, and The Knick). None of these programs are obvious awards bait but recently Mr. Robot has gained an incredible amount of guild support as well as a win at the Golden Globes. The other standout is The Leftovers, a show that was critically dismissed last season for being to bleak. This year the show is being celebrated for going through a creative transformation and was even recognized with five acting nominations. In the BTJA history every show that received five acting nominations went on to win their respected series category (with the exception of American Horror Story: Asylum).
The lead actor race consists of Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), Clive Owen (The Knick), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), Justin Theroux (The Leftovers), and Aden Young (Rectify). The closest contender to an Emmy frontrunner usually prevails in the lead acting races as well with past winners including Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Matthew McConaughey, and Bob Odenkirk winning in the past. Rami Malek is coming off of a SAG nomination and critics will most likely want to give him a boost for the upcoming Emmy season. The dark horse in the category is most likely Justin Theroux for being the face of a show that has exceeded expectations in a show that critics and audiences were ready to dismiss.
The lead actress group is by far the most eclectic in terms of representation from broadcast shows, premium shows, and even a new streaming show. The six nominees are Shiri Appleby (UnREAL), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), Eva Green (Penny Dreadful), Taraji P Henson (Empire), and Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones). Davis and Henson won every lead actress race in 2015 and voters could easily go with one of them again. The Critics’ Choice have the potential to surprise audiences by awarding Appleby or Coon. Shiri Appleby received an incredible amount of support from critics for her performance on UnREAL with one article declaring her character the first female antihero on television. In a world of Walter Whites and Don Drapers this is a big deal and I could see a scenario where critics want to reward her for this groundbreaking role. Carrie Coon was bumped up to lead after being nominated in the supporting race last year for the same role. In a category with so much completion being clearly beloved like Coon is could become a huge advantage.
Christian Slater has worked in Hollywood for over thirty years and is finally getting awards attention. He is coming off a win from the Globes and this will most likely be another case of the Critics’ Choice awarding him in an attempt to secure his status as a frontrunner for the Emmys. His competition includes Clayne Crawford (Rectify), Christopher Eccleston (The Leftovers), Andre Holland (The Knick), Jonathan Jackson (Nashville), and Rufus Sewell (The Man in High Castle).
The supporting actress category has a history of brazen and sometimes harsh characters winning including Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Bellamy Young (Scandal), and Lorraine Toussaint (Orange is the New Black). Constance Zimmer fits this mold perfectly for her supporting turn on UnREAL. After working on just about every show over the past decade, Zimmer finally gained awards attention as the unapologetic producer of a Bachelor-esque reality show. The other nominees include Ann Dowd (The Leftovers), Regina King (The Leftovers), Helen McCrory (Penny Dreadful), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), and Maura Tierney (The Affair).
The Critics’ Choice combines genders for the guest category which always leads to an interesting group of nominees. This year the nominees are Richard Armitage (Hannibal), Justin Kirk (Manhattan), Patti LuPone (Penny Dreadful), Margo Martindale (The Good Wife), Marisa Tomei (Empire), and BD Wong (Mr. Robot). The obvious choice would be BD Wong is the frontrunner for his role as a transgender hacker on Mr. Robot but the Critics’ Choice might want to spread the wealth and award someone from another show. Based off of nominations, the critics clearly loved Penny Dreadful and that might give Patti Lupone the edge. Being the most recognizable name in the category doesn’t hurt either.
In recent years the Critics’ Choice loves to award programs that aren’t getting any attention from Emmy voters and that have failed to find a larger audience. The critics championed Tatiana Maslany seasons before she was finally recognized with a SAG and Emmy nomination. In a year with so many possibilities what shows do you think will be singled out by the critics and what dramas are you rooting for?