Here at TV.com, we love the concept of awards shows. But in practice, awards shows always seem to lean a little too heavily on the common denominator—in addition to kowtowing to influence from big studios that reap rewards whenever their products' trophy cases get a little heavier. Yeah, I just called the Emmys a total sham.
Before I make myself sound even more like an insufferable tool who's whining about not getting his way, let me explain it more bluntly: The Emmys and its ilk play things too safe. They try to balance credibility with mainstream popularity in order to maximize their stature and ratings, respectively. The result is usually a watered-down ceremony during which everyone pats each other on the back as soon as they finish scratching each other's backs.
That's why the recently released nominations for the inaugural Critics' Choice Television Awards, from the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, are such a breath of fresh air. The categories are typical, but several of the nominees are not. Let's take a look at some of the highlights. (The full list of nominees in the Drama and Comedy categories appears at the bottom of this page).
1. Genre shows are getting their due in the Best Drama category
The CCTAs followed the model of the Academy awards by overloading its two main Drama and Comedy categories with nominations, but at least they realized that Lost isn't the only award-worthy sci-fi/fantasy show out there. Among the 10 nominees in the category are Fringe, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead—three shows that are deserving of drama kudos but will likely scare off Emmy voters because (over-generalization alert!) they're all old curmudgeons who still think science-fiction is the domain of teenage boys. My only minor gripe is that Men of a Certain Age didn't get any love. (Note: Eligible series aired between June of 2010 and May 31 of this year, hence no Breaking Bad.)
2. Historically Emmy-ignored drama actors are getting the recognition they deserve
Breaking into the Emmys club isn't easy, as voters love to repeat nominees in the acting fields from year to year. I guess the thinking goes that if an actor was nominated last year and is still on the show, he or she is still good enough to be nominated. But that makes it harder for breakout performances to shine through (Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston is an exception). Case in point: Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler didn't get recognized for his superb work until last year, about four years too late. But the CCTAs aren't afraid to throw new names in the mix: Timothy Olyphant earned a nod for Justified (though to be fair, I think he'll be an Emmy nominee this year, too), as did his castmates Walton Goggins and Margo Martindale. But the names on this list that surprised me most are those of Anna Torv and John Noble of Fringe, who have quietly been doing award-worthy work. The Emmys completely ignore network shows that are ratings-challenged, and I'll eat my shoe if Noble and Torv appear on the Emmys ballot this year. Props to the CCTAs for giving these two their due.
3. The Best Comedy nominees include shows that are actually funny
This may be a direct result of having 10 nominees, but any Best Comedy list that includes both Archer and Louie is okay in my book. I think we can agree on one thing: Archer, the raunchy FX 'toon about an arrogant superspy, will NEVER get nominated for an Emmy, even if the Emmys eventually create a category for "Best Animated Series About an Arrogant Superspy" (the award would probably just go straight to Mad Men). Louie, which is also on FX, faces a similar situation: The show a free-form mining of Louis C.K.'s perverse, yet insightful, brain. Constantly talking about masturbation is a surefire way to not be invited to the Emmys. The Golden Globes, maybe, because they just want anyone to pay attention to them. But the Emmys, no way. Community, the most innovative network comedy by far, has also been nominated in this category for the CCTAs. But what will its chances be come Emmy time? I get the feeling it's simply too weird for the Emmys, even though it's arguably the best comedy on TV right now. One gripe: no nomination for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I know it's not as good as it used to be, but are there really 10 comedies out better than Sunny?
I'm not sure if The Critics' Choice TV Awards will ever become a hit, but at least it's starting off in the right direction. The awards will air on Reelz Channel on June 22, but can be watched live on June 20 on VH1.com.
Here's the full list of nominees in the Drama and Comedy categories:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Michelle Forbes, The Killing
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Margo Martindale, Justified
Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Chloë Sevigny, Big Love
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation
Ed O’Neill, Modern Family
Danny Pudi, Community
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Which shows and actors do you think are most deserving of these noms? Is anyone missing from these lists?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom