Having become a factor in the movie awards season, broadcast critics are now extending their franchise to television. The inaugural Critics' Choice Television Awards will be presented on June 20 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The new TV honors, which will focus on shows and stars, won’t be televised -- at least not yet. “The model is to let it grow organically,” explains entertainment reporter and critic Joey Berlin, who was a founding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and is currently president. “On the movie side we did it for five years before we sought a television deal. I would hope that time line might be shorter this time.”
The Critics' Choice Movie Awards, which were presented for the 16th year this past January, air on VH-1 under a multi-year deal. They have become an important stop during movie awards season attracting top stars as presenters, guests and honorees, at least in part because of the group’s uncanny ability to pick the same winners that are honored by the Oscars weeks later.
For instance in 2009, the Critics' Choice picks accurately foretold the selection of Hurt Locker as best picture, Kathryn Bigelow as best director, as well as best actor, supporting actor and supporting actress. It did choose a different best actress than Oscar.
This past January, the Critics' Choice best picture went to Social Network, which did not win an Oscar. But the group’s winning picks were in line with the Oscar choices for actor, actress, supporting actor and supporting actress, among others.
“We like to say the single best thing you can do if you want to get an Academy Award nomination, statistically, is to get a Critics' Choice Award nomination,” says Berlin. “The industry understands that.”
Now says Berlin, they are putting themselves on “the Emmy calendar.”
At a time negotiations for the Emmy broadcast deal are stuck, Berlin says they will be in place to be part of the cycle no matter where the TV Academy honors air. The Critics' Choice TV nominations will be announced the day the Emmy ballots become available, and the winners will be announced a couple days before the Emmy ballots are due, says Berlin.
Berlin and others from the BCFA have met with most of the major networks, channels and studios in recent days, and he says they have indications of support for the show.
The timing is at the end of the broadcast season. It is also shortly after the networks announce fall schedules. In line with that, Berlin says they will present an award for the most promising of the new fall programs, based on viewing pilots of announced shows.
Berlin says he thinks his members are well qualified to make choices. “People who vote for the Emmys are making television shows. They’re not watching everybody’s else’s shows,” says Berlin. “We are watching everybody’s shows, so it makes sense for critics to weigh in.”
Actually, critics already weigh in through the Television Critics' Association Awards, which are presented in July.
The new awards event will actually be presented by a new group being spun off from the BFCA called the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (which he pronounces as Bet-Ja). Berlin is acting head and expects members from BFCA will overlap with those in the new group. The BTJA will include not just critics but also journalists on TV, radio and the Internet (if they meet certain criteria) who cover television. The new group and awards program will be officially announced in about two weeks.
This is not the only new competitor to the Emmys. The Paley Center has committed to presenting an awards show that will also focus on TV shows and stars, with the first one scheduled for May 2012 in New York City, at the time of the network upfront presentations. That show is expected to be televised.
If they all continue, that would put the Critics' Choice sandwiched between the Paleys, as they are being called, and the TCA Awards, all precursors in theory to the Emmys.
Berlin says the development of a TV awards show is a continuation of his group’s mission, which is to “improve the lot of broadcast journalists, help them get better access to screeners, DVDs, interviews and photos.”
Berlin says it has been proven, by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual Golden Globes, the Critics' Choice Awards and others, that the best way for journalists to get attention in Hollywood is “if you’re a voter for a significant awards show. It gives you a little more clout in your day-to-day dealings with the networks and channels.”
While some members of BTJA will also be employees of the same media companies that own the networks that air the nominated shows, Berlin isn’t concerned about conflicts of interest. “We expect our members to adhere to professional standards,” says Berlin. “These are professionals. We think they can do it honestly. Let’s face it: In this business that is always going to be a risk. Certainly for the Academy Awards people vote their studio line sometimes. That’s the nature of the beast.”