Critics' Choice TV Awards: Do the Results Tell Us Anything About What to Expect at the Emmys? (Analysis)

Better Call Saul S01E05 Still - H 2015
Ursula Coyote/AMC

Better Call Saul S01E05 Still - H 2015

At Sunday night's fifth annual Critics' Choice Television Awards, the winners — chosen by the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, of which I am a member — were almost all shows or people from shows that the TV Academy has habitually snubbed at the Emmys (i.e. The Americans and Justified) or not yet had a chance to recognize because they are new (i.e. Better Call Saul, Empire and Transparent).

Does this mean that we're in for a very different-looking Emmys than the one we saw last year, which looked a lot like the Emmys from the year before?

The BTJA has, in its four previous years of awards-dispensing, had a mixed track record when it comes to anticipating what the TV Academy will do. In 2012, it named Homeland as the year's best drama series before the TV Academy did the same, and it also anticipated Breaking Bad's win in the same category last year. But Modern Family, which has won the best comedy series Emmy every year that the BTJA has been giving out awards, has won a Critics' Choice TV Award only once, in 2011. Additionally, of the 16 lead acting prizes that both groups have given out over the past four years, only six have gone to the same performer in the same year.

This is not to say that the TV Academy's choices are poor. Many people, including me, wish the TV Academy would have awarded Mad Men's Jon Hamm its prize for best actor in a drama series by now, as did the BTJA in 2011, or even just nominated Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany for best actress in a drama series, the category in which she won the Critics' Choice TV Award in each of the past two years. And nothing would have made me happier than if last year's best comedy series Emmy had gone to Orange Is the New Black, as did the Critics' Choice TV Award.

It is my sense that many of the 84 BTJA members — like many of the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, another relatively small group that dispenses awards (namely the Golden Globes) — gravitate more toward new or new-ish shows than do members of the TV Academy, feeling that there's something nice about being able to say, "First!"

This year, though, the TV Academy changed its rules to democratize its post-nominations voting process, stripping power from select blue-ribbon panels and inviting all of its members to weigh in about who should take home prizes. I suspect that, as a result, we will see fewer repeat Emmy winners and more edgy choices along the lines of several of those made by BTJA members this year.

Among the safe bets to follow their Critics' Choice TV Award win with at least an Emmy nomination are best actor in a comedy series Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), who also won the corresponding Golden Globe; best supporting actress in a comedy series Allison Janney (Mom), who won this prize and the Emmy for the same show last year; and Better Call Saul's Jonathan Banks and Orange Is the New Black's Lorraine Toussaint, best supporting actor in a drama and best supporting actress in a drama, respectively.

Silicon Valley, which won best comedy series and best supporting actor in a comedy series (T.J. Miller), is a sure-thing to land a second consecutive Emmy nom in the former category; the latter could go either way, since there are a considerable number of worthy candidates — including others from Silicon Valley — who could displace Miller.

It seems likely that best actor in a drama series winner Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) will follow in the footsteps of Vince Gilligan's previous muse, Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston (who won the Emmy for his show's pilot), and land an invite to the big show — but the category is very hard to predict in a year without Cranston or contenders from True Detective and with a plethora of great new options. Best actress in a drama series winner Taraji P. Henson (Empire) and best actress in a comedy series winner Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer) are contending in similarly competitive categories.

As for best drama series winner The Americans, I suspect that FX would be thrilled if the show is merely nominated for an Emmy, since TV Academy members, to the surprise of many, didn't even accord it that measure of recognition for either of its highly acclaimed first two seasons. This year, the TV Academy announced that it will be expanding its best drama series and best comedy series categories from six slots to seven, so that also boosts the prospects of the Cold War-era spy-thriller finding some overdue love.