Will the new Critics' Choice TV Awards succeed?
New show biz trophies are about to be born –- the Critics' Choice Television Awards, to be given out at a luncheon Monday at the Beverly Hills Hotel. How will they fare?
On the surface of things, they look hopeful. They're created by the same organizers behind the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, which are a respected annual event. But staging a TV equivalent may not be so easy. The film awards are bestowed the Friday of Golden Globes weekend every year. Contenders are already in town. They're not shooting films. They've picked out fancy duds and are in a party spirit as they hop into limos to arrive at an evening event being telecast live internationally via VH1.
The new Critics' Choice TV Awards are being streamed live during lunchtime on VH1 –- the website, not the network. Later, an edited version will be shown on the Reelz Channel, the cable network that recently achieved notice by picking up "The Kennedys" miniseries after it was ditched by the History Channel. The awards are being handed out at a time when many TV stars are supposed to be on set shooting their shows.
If nominated, will the stars show up at a new awards show? Critics Choice chief Joey Berlin told Awards Tracker that he doesn't plan to entice stars by telling them ahead of time if they've won, but that may be a promise he can't keep if celebs get uppity. Then, if he tattles, he needs to be transparent about it or else he could encounter a heap of trouble with the FCC if caught staging a deceptive event on TV. The Golden Globes got booted off television back in the 1980s for such practices. Today you'll notice a disclosure that flashes quickly, for example, at the end of the People's Choice Awards confessing that winners knew ahead of time that they had won. At some point, Reelz Channel may be forced to run a similar disclosure at the end of these Critics' Choice TV Awards.
Staging televised events for critics awards have had a dubious history. The Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. tried it back in the 1980s. It flopped and so the awards show went back to being a private affair, off air, involving winners informed ahead of time. The Television Critics Assn. tried it years ago on E! Entertainment Network too, but it turned out to be disastrous and the telecast was scrapped. Now the awards are passed out off air to winners invited to accept their trophies.
In 1977, a new group called the Television Critics Circle was created to bestow awards meant to rival the Emmys. CBS aired the ceremony, but the response was so lackluster that the telecast and group were nixed.
Now here comes the creation of another group of tube wags –- the Broadcast Television Journalists Assn. –- which is behind the new Critics' Choice TV Awards. Many members are legit, some are even famous, but quite a few have dubious credentials and at least one of those sits on the nominating committee. Presumably, the organization will evolve and edit its membership as its sister organization, the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., did a while ago, casting out questionable members.
But, meantime, the awards are seriously flawed as they're currently set up. They slobber over celebrity too much and fail to recognize the true talent behind great TV –- writers, directors, film editors, etc. As a result, as things stand, the Broadcast Television Journalists Assn. is a group of writers that slaps other writers.
Berlin insists that such additional awards will come in time, just as he eventually created more and more film awards to include the crafts categories, but in the meantime, the group's priorities seem seriously skewed.
We wish the new Critics' Choice TV Awards well, but beware: Many attempts have been made to create other TV awards that failed –- like the American Television Awards, which ABC launched back in 1993 as a TV equivalent to the American Music Awards. Another dud that felt the wrath of the network executioner's ax: Twice TV Guide Magazine tried to launch its own televised awards show, but without success.
Stay tuned, as they say in the TV biz. The verdict will be known soon –- in just a few hours when the first ceremony concludes.
-- Tom O'Neil
Photo: An article published in the Los Angeles Times on March 17, 1977, touting the ill-starred Television Critics Circle Awards. Click on image for larger view.