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Critics’ Choice TV Awards Predictions: Who Will, Should and Could Win

Critics' Choice TV Awards Predictions: Who Will, Should and Could Win

Though I’m not a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, there’s a certain pride in reading over the list of nominees for this year’s Critics’ Choice Television Awards and seeing so many of the fresh faces, new series, and under-appreciated gems whose absence from the Emmy ballot has me rubbing my temples every summer. With the exception of HBO’s “Looking,” unrewarded after a superb season, and AMC’s “Mad Men,” shut out in an apparent fluke of timing, rooting interests abound. (As expected, the lead actress categories are totally, completely, insanely stacked, and that’s with several painful omissions.)

Here are a few thoughts on likely winners, possible spoilers, and my own choices in advance of Sunday night’s ceremony.  

Best Comedy Series
Both “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” have justified HBO’s pair of nominations with their best seasons yet, but this category comes down to two debut sensations. Amazon’s “Transparent” and The CW’s “Jane the Virgin” share a warm, humane glow, whether in the shape of the streaming service’s flagship original series or the network’s winsome reinterpretation of the telenovela. But the slight edge goes to Jill Soloway’s extraordinary portrait of a California family working through the complications of its patriarch (Jeffrey Tambor) coming out as a trans woman. With a handcrafted aesthetic, as though culled from home movies, and a nuanced treatment of gender and sexuality, “Transparent” is an emblem of how and why we watch television in the digital age.    

“Broad City” (Comedy Central)
“Jane the Virgin” (The CW)
“Mom” (CBS)
“Silicon Valley” (HBO)
“Transparent” (Amazon)
“Veep” (HBO)
“You’re the Worst” (FX)

Will win: “Transparent”
Should win: “Transparent”
Spoiler: “Jane the Virgin”

READ MORE: “Transparent” and the New Queer Television

Best Actor (Comedy)
In “Transparent,” Golden Globe-winner Jeffrey Tambor weaves together Maura Pfefferman’s nervous excitement with a sense of dueling obligations—to herself and to her family—that emerge, over the course to the series’ first season, as one and the same. It’s such a finely wrought, empathic performance that the particular charms of Anthony Anderson and Chris Messina, my two runners-up in this category, seem almost pedestrian by comparison. There’s no serious spoiler that I can see: Tambor is in a class of his own.

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish” (ABC)
Chris Messina, “The Mindy Project” (FOX)
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent” (Amazon)
Johnny Galecki, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Thomas Middleditch, “Silicon Valley” (HBO)
Will Forte, “The Last Man on Earth” (FOX)

Will win: Tambor
Should win: Tambor
Spoiler: None

Best Actress (Comedy)
Want an indication of just how competitive this category is? Constance Wu and Ilana Glazer, embodying the comic ethos of their respective series, are the also-rans here—and that’s no knock on either. Rodriguez, a Golden Globe winner and first-time nominee, is the likeliest choice, perhaps aided by the fact that critics will want to reward “Jane the Virgin” somewhere. Coming up fast on the outside is Schumer, whose “12 Angry Men Inside
Amy Schumer” is the best single TV episode of the year so far, and two-time reigning champ Louis-Dreyfus, as the foul-mouthed Selina Meyer, can’t be counted out. My vote goes to Kudrow, however. As Valerie Cherish, in HBO’s revival of “The Comeback,” she uncovers new depths of emotion in Hollywood’s treatment of women, shifting between pathos and absurd humor. Just in case “The Comeback” doesn’t make another comeback of its own—after the note-perfect season finale, it doesn’t need to—I say give Kudrow the credit she deserves while we still have the chance.

Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central)
Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat” (ABC)
Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin” (The CW)
Ilana Glazer, “Broad City” (Comedy Central)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback” (HBO)

Will win: Rodriguez
Should win: Kudrow
Spoiler: Louis-Dreyfus

Best Supporting Actor (Comedy)
Though this season’s epic showdown between President Selina Meyer and her loyal aide, Gary, would seem to guarantee Hale’s victory, I submit to you “Peeno Noir.” The memorable music video, from Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” is a hilarious microcosm of Burgess’ Titus Andromedon, a struggling performer attempting to guide the naive title character (Ellie Kemper, sadly snubbed) through the rudiments of adult life in the big city. Though Miller, as the self-styled guru of “Silicon Valley”—and, I admit, the cast member I find most grating—may be Hale’s foremost challenger given the mixed reactions to “Kimmy Schmidt,” it’s Burgess who defines his series’ sunny, striving heart.  

Adam Driver, “Girls” (HBO)
Cameron Monaghan, “Shameless” (Showtime)
Jaime Camil, “Jane the Virgin” (The CW)
T.J. Miller, “Silicon Valley” (HBO)
Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
Tony Hale, “Veep” (HBO)

Will win: Hale
Should win: Burgess
Spoiler: Miller

READ MORE: In Fantastic New Comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, First Tragedy, Then Farce”

Best Supporting Actress (Comedy)
Janney, shelves already straining with five Emmys and the two Critics’ Choice awards she picked up last year (for “Mom” and her tremendous guest spot on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex“), is the clear favorite here, but if BTJA members are feeling frisky, Eden Sher, as the upbeat, oft-overlooked Sue Heck, is primed to give “The Middle” an upset. ABC’s sitcom about a working-class family in Indiana has more than a few passionate critical advocates, and Sher is its brightest bright spot. Even so, Lynskey ties up the loose ends of HBO’s “Togetherness” by finding beauty in the anxiety of aging, and emerges as its unassuming star. I’d give her my vote for the mid-season corker “Kick the Can” alone.   

Allison Janney, “Mom” (CBS)
Carrie Brownstein, “Portlandia” (IFC)
Eden Sher, “The Middle” (ABC)
Judith Light, “Transparent” (Amazon)
Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Melanie Lynskey, “Togetherness” (HBO)

Will win: Janney
Should win: Lynskey
Spoiler: Sher

Best Guest Performer (Comedy)
With the men stuck in rather insubstantial roles, this category becomes a battle of three mothers: Essman, as Ilana’s mom, Bobbi, on “Broad City”; Metcalf, as Sheldon’s mom, Mary, on “The Big Bang Theory”; and Baker, as Hannah’s mom, Loreen, on “Girls.” Metcalf may surprise, in part by riding the series’ popularity, but it’s Baker’s to lose. As in last season’s gorgeous “Flo,” the fourth outing of “Girls” finds Loreen buffeted by life-changing circumstances, and Baker transforms her vulnerability in the face of Hannah’s narcissism into one of the series’ last remaining strengths. 

Becky Ann Baker, “Girls” (HBO)
Bradley Whitford, “Transparent” (Amazon)
Josh Charles, “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central)
Laurie Metcalf, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Peter Gallagher, “Togetherness” (HBO)
Susie Essman, “Broad City” (Comedy Central)

Will win: Baker
Should win: Baker
Spoiler: Metcalf

Best Drama Series
With “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” out of the running, “The Good Wife” coming off a middling season, and “Game of Thrones” as polarizing as ever, Best Drama seems likely to be three-way race. “Justified,” though it went out on a high note, probably lost enough supporters in its weaker middle seasons to take it out of the running, and the same could be said of “Homeland” despite a thrilling return to form. Of the rest, FOX’s breathlessly entertaining freshman hit “Empire” may prove too soapy for some voters to stomach, and “The Americans“—the best series in this category, and perhaps the best on television—tends, as Salon’s Sonia Saraiya wrote last month, to invite admiration more than love. That leaves the strong second season of Netflix’s women’s-prison dramedy as the consensus pick, though I make this prediction with my fingers crossed. This category could offer a major surprise.

“The Americans” (FX)
“Empire” (Fox)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)
“Homeland” (Showtime)
“Justified” (FX)
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)

Will win: “Orange is the New Black”
Should win: “The Americans”
Spoiler: “Empire”

READ MORE: “Empire” and the End of “Least Objectionable Television”

Best Actress (Drama)
Another competitive category for leading ladies—strong performances by Farmiga, Green, and stalwart Marguiles (who’s been nominated in each of the five years since the awards began) seem unlikely to make much of a splash, and former winners Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) and Claire Danes (“Homeland”) aren’t even nominated. Though Cookie Lyon is “Empire,” with Henson stealing every moment she’s onscreen from her charismatic cast mates, and Davis lends the latest Shondaland potboiler necessary heft, it’s the understated Russell, as icy Soviet spy-turned-American suburbanite Elizabeth Jennings, who offers the most determined and affecting portrait of a woman in a man’s world.

Eva Green – “Penny Dreadful” (Showtime)
Julianna Margulies – “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Keri Russell – “The Americans” (FX)
Taraji P. Henson – “Empire” (FOX)
Vera Farmiga – “Bates Motel” (A&E)
Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)

Will win: Henson
Should win: Russell
Spoiler: Davis

Best Actor (Drama)
With critics in raptures over the debut of “Better Call Saul” and “Justified” bidding farewell this season, we’re in for an Odenkirk-Olyphant showdown, with the latter, nominated for a fourth time, the slight favorite. (Odenkirk will surely be back next year.) With Highmore, Hunnam, and Young unlikely to build broad support, the hope for Rhys may be a split vote, and he certainly deserves it. Even more than Russell, Rhys—after a narrative arc that pushed his character, Philip Jennings, to the very edge of his commitment to country—illustrated the attempt to carve a path through the overlapping moral, political, professional, and familial dilemmas that defined the FX drama’s extraordinary third season.  

Aden Young – “Rectify” (Sundance)
Bob Odenkirk – “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Charlie Hunnam – “Sons of Anarchy” (FX)
Freddie Highmore – “Bates Motel” (A&E)
Matthew Rhys – “The Americans” (FX)
Timothy Olyphant – “Justified” (FX)

Will win: Olyphant
Should win: Rhys
Spoiler: Odenkirk

Best Supporting Actress (Drama)
It’s high time for Baranski, now on her third nomination for “The Good Wife,” to be rewarded for her stellar work on the CBS drama, but she has a few hurdles to clear first. With the beloved “Parenthood” now over, popular Whitman is the toughest competition—critics can be a surprisingly sentimental bunch—and though I don’t think it likely, Toussaint’s fearless performance as the villainous Vee Parker on “Orange is the New Black” could be considered another dark horse. Nevertheless, none can compare to Coon’s stricken Nora Durst, who lost her husband and two children in the Rapture-like occurrence that precedes the events of “The Leftovers.” In “Guest,” evolving before our eyes from a minor character into an
emblem of the series’ title, Coon is simply astounding, conveying
every shade of what it means to lose what we hold dear.

Carrie Coon – “The Leftovers” (HBO)
Christine Baranski – “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Joelle Carter – “Justified” (FX)
Katheryn Winnick – “Vikings” (History)
Lorraine Toussaint – “Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)
Mae Whitman – “Parenthood” (NBC)

Will win: Baranski
Should win: Coon
Spoiler: Whitman

Best Supporting Actor (Drama)
As one of the few critics who defended “The Leftovers” almost from the start, especially after his invigorating, pained performance in the early episode “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” I’d argue that Eccleston should win. But I must admit a certain soft spot for likely winner Walton Goggins. Perhaps even more than Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, Goggins’ slimy, terse turn as Boyd Crowder symbolized the discomfort with easy answers and stock characters that defined “Justified” throughout its run, and with this, his third consecutive nomination, the BTJA finally appears ready to recognize him. That said, neither Patinkin, fresh off a season of “Homeland” that showcased Saul Berenson’s frailties as well as his strengths, nor Mendelsohn, cited as a mesmerizing presence even in the most negative reviews of “Bloodline,” are outside the realm of possibility.

Ben Mendelsohn – “Bloodline” (Netflix)
Christopher Eccleston – “The Leftovers” (HBO)
Craig T. Nelson – “Parenthood” (NBC)
Jonathan Banks – “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Mandy Patinkin – “Homeland” (Showtime)
Walton Goggins – “Justified” (FX)

Will win: Goggins
Should win: Eccleston
Spoiler: Mendelsohn

Guest Performer (Drama)
If for some reason voters decide not to reward Goggins for “Justified,” he may sneak a consolation prize from his guest performance on “Sons of Anarchy,” but this race boils down to two screen veterans. The legendary Tyson, the favorite here, tussled and then made amends with on-screen daughter Viola Davis in a moving depiction of inter-generational black womanhood, but it was Smith, whose screen debut came in Elia Kazan’s “East of Eden” (1955), who ended up knocking me flat. Her appearance in “The Americans” episode “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” is, in its simplicity, quite devastating. Over the course of a night held hostage in a tiny office, her character revisits life and confronts death with immense courage, and Smith’s performance sets the moral compromises made by the protagonists in sharp, almost unbearable relief.

Cicely Tyson – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
Julianne Nicholson – “Masters of Sex” (Showtime)
Linda Lavin – “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Lois Smith – “The Americans” (FX)
Sam Elliott – “Justified” (FX)
Walton Goggins – “Sons of Anarchy” (FX)

Will win: Tyson
Should win: Smith
Spoiler: Goggins

Best TV Movie
With the early reviews for HBO’s “Nightingale” (which I have not yet seen) decisively mixed, this category belongs to “Bessie.” Though not without flaw, including a disappointing adherence to the traditional rhythms of the Hollywood biopic, Dee Rees’ portrait of blues maven Bessie Smith is buoyed by two expert performances and a bracing interest in the history of black political thought. Had lead actor Tom Hollander been nominated for his depiction of Dylan Thomas, I might take “A Poet in New York” more seriously as a spoiler, but alas, my peers saw fit to honor Kiefer Sutherland instead, despite the fact that his Jack Bauer is more threadbare than the old CTU’s shredded copy of the Geneva Conventions. As for the ghastly “Killing Jesus” and “Stockholm, Pennsylvania,” well, let’s just say they’re non-starters. It’s “Bessie” in a walk.    

“Bessie” (HBO)
“Killing Jesus” (National Geographic Channel)
“Nightingale” (HBO)
“A Poet in New York” (BBC America)
“Stockholm, Pennsylvania” (Lifetime)

Will win: “Bessie”
Should win: “Bessie”
Spoiler: None

READ MORE: Might as Well Give Mo’Nique Her Emmy for HBO’s “Bessie” Now

Best Limited Series
It’s more or less inconceivable that “Olive Kitteridge” won’t take home an armful of awards Sunday, especially because it drew unqualified raves from critics when it aired last fall. With the exception of this critic, that is: I thought its way of reducing Olive’s sour, jaundiced view of human endeavor to a series of “wise” aphorisms maddeningly pat. The decision, for me, comes down to the sumptuous, fleet-footed “Wolf Hall,” the closest competitor to “Kitteridge,” and Sundance’s sterling “The Honorable Woman,” a searing fable of Middle Eastern politics that you should catch up with right this minute. (You’re welcome.)

“24: Live Another Day” (FOX)
“American Crime” (ABC)
“The Book of Negroes” (BET)
“The Honorable Woman” (Sundance)
“Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
“Wolf Hall” (PBS)

Will win: “Olive Kitteridge”
Should win: “The Honorable Woman”
Spoiler: “Wolf Hall”

Best Actor (Movie or Limited Series)
The reason to tune into “Nightingale,” based on the reviews I’ve read, is Oyelowo, and his cause here is helped by lingering disappointment over his Oscar snub. Jenkins, in the acclaimed “Kitteridge,” surely has a chance to unseat him, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Nesbitt, who cultivates a father’s flaws to fine effect—he’s intensely
unlikeable, even selfish, existing in the gray area between hero and suspect—as he searches for his missing son in Starz’s original series. Yet it’s Rylance who impresses most of all. Playing Henry VIII’s trusted advisor, Thomas Cromwell, with subtle cunning, his careful mannerisms and low voice nevertheless convey what made Hilary Mantel’s historical novels so compelling, which is their authoritative vigor.

David Oyelowo – “Nightingale” (HBO)
James Nesbitt – “The Missing” (Starz)
Kiefer Sutherland – “24: Live Another Day” (FOX)
Mark Rylance – “Wolf Hall” (PBS)
Michael Gambon – “The Casual Vacancy” (HBO)
Richard Jenkins – “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)

Will win: Oyelowo
Should win: Rylance
Spoiler: Jenkins

Best Actress (Movie or Limited Series)
While McDormand, the likely winner, is excellent in the title role of “Olive Kitteridge,” and Latifah brings her expressive musical talents to bear in her stripped-down performance as Bessie Smith, Maggie Gyllenhaal is so sharp-edged, so vulnerable, so thrilling in “The Honorable Woman” that her very physicality—the arch of her back, the translucence of her skin—begins to suggest her contorted, ultimately quite powerless position in a diplomatic game of life and death that dates back generations. She’s so good you don’t even want to blink.

Aunjanue Ellis – “The Book of Negroes” (BET)
Felicity Huffman – “American Crime” (ABC)
Frances McDormand – “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
Jessica Lange – “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
Maggie Gyllenhaal – “The Honorable Woman” (Sundance)
Queen Latifah – “Bessie” (HBO)

Will win: McDormand
Should win: Gyllenhaal
Spoiler: Latifah

READ MORE: “Oliver Kitteridge,” “The Leftovers” and the Uses of Disenchantment

Best Supporting Actor (Movie or Limited Series)
This category baffles me because it contains not a single performance that I especially admired. Murray turns up toward the end of “Kitteridge” with the same hangdog expression he’s been wearing since “Lost in Translation,” and Smith, though affecting, gets lost in the shuffle of the miniseries’ endless sorrows. Wittrock may have an ass worthy of Ryan Murphy’s sustained attention, but the performance itself is a flat caricature. “American Crime” came off as schematic, not organic, despite the cast’s best efforts, and about “Stockholm, Pennsylvania,” the less said the better. Pryce, at least, is effective, even if his role is paper-thin, so he gets my vote. I don’t know who will win—Murray, the biggest name, seems a safe bet—but more to the point, I don’t care.  

Bill Murray – “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
Cory Michael Smith – “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
Elvis Nolasco – “American Crime” (ABC)
Finn Wittrock – “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
Jason Isaacs – “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” (Lifetime)
Jonathan Pryce – “Wolf Hall” (PBS)

Will win: Murray
Should win: Pryce
Spoiler: Smith

Best Supporting Actress (Movie or Limited Series)
By contrast, the ranks of Supporting Actress brim with possibilities, and in any other year I’d call this a close race between Foy—sharp, flirtatious, and knowing as Anne Boleyn—and Paulson—playing conjoined twins with such distinctive flair that even Tatiana Maslany would approve. But it’s not just any other year. As Bessie Smith’s mentor Ma Rainey, Oscar winner Mo’Nique is a magnetic force, snatching “Bessie” from under Queen Latifah’s nose and cutting through the screenplay’s clutter with intense, razor-like charisma. Consider the Critics’ Choice award just a stepping stone to the Emmy: Mo’Nique’s EGOT watch begins now. 

Claire Foy – “Wolf Hall” (PBS)
Cynthia Nixon – “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” (Lifetime)
Janet McTeer – “The Honorable Woman” (Sundance)
Khandi Alexander – “Bessie” (HBO)
Mo’Nique – “Bessie” (HBO)
Sarah Paulson – “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)

Will win: Mo’Nique
Should win: Mo’Nique
Spoiler: Foy

Best Talk Show
In the four years the BTJA has awarded Best Talk Show, Stewart and Fallon have racked up two wins apiece, and it’s only the former’s looming departure from “The Daily Show” that gives me any confidence in my prediction here. But I hope I’m wrong, because the best “talk show” on television is barely a talk show at all. Rather, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is a sublime blend of news, commentary, satire, sketch comedy, and the odd
interview, sewn together by the host’s particular brand of jovial fervor—and his commitment to providing viewers with hard facts as well as hard laughs. Whether the series comes out on top or not, it does Stewart and Fallon one better: it is, without hyperbole, essential viewing.

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central)
“The Graham Norton Show” (BBC America)
“Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC)
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO)
“The Late Late Show with James Corden” (CBS)
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (NBC)

Will win: “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
Should win: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
Spoiler: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

The Critics’ Choice Television Awards air Sunday, May 31 at 8pm on A&E.

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