Emmys 2018: Why critics matter more than ever in the era of peak TV

The Television Critics Association announced their 2018 nominations on June 19, right in the middle of the voting period for the Emmy nominations. Will the TCA picks influence the television academy? The Emmys haven’t always listened to the proclamations of critics, but that could be changing in the era of peak TV.

The job of an Emmy voter used to be relatively easy. It wasn’t too long ago that TV was limited to just three broadcast networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. Then FOX entered the fray in 1986. Cable networks like TNT, HBO and Showtime started to make their presence known, but mostly with movies and miniseries. The WB and UPN launched in the 1990s, but Emmy voters’ solution to those was simple: just pretend they didn’t exist — sorry “Buffy,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Everybody Hates Chris.”

But in the last 10 years original TV programming has exploded. More and more cable networks got in the game. And the floodgates opened wide when streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon started producing original content. Unlike traditional TV networks which are at least limited by the number of available hours in the day, Netflix could premiere 50 hours of original programming instantaneously if they wanted to.

It was never possible for Emmy voters to watch every single TV show on the air, but it wasn’t too hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Now there is such a proliferation of content — at this rate your toaster oven may suddenly announce a first-look deal with Martin Scorsese — that it’s impossible to keep up with even the best of all TV. You could sit in front of a TV or computer screen for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you’d still miss shows you’d probably like.

That’s where critics come in. During the film awards season critics usually have the first say. The New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association announce their winners in December while most Oscar voters are probably still trying to prioritize what they need to see and what they could probably skip. It’s a critics job to see everything — or at least a lot more than the average viewer — so their choices could serve as a rudder on the awards ship.

The TCA Awards could do the same. An overwhelmed academy member trying to figure out what shows they should watch before casting their ballot could look at the leading five nominations for “Killing Eve” and give it a shot if they hadn’t already. They might do the same for “One Day at a Time,” “Counterpart,” “The Americans” and “The Good Place,” which also earned TCA noms.

Granted, there were only six days left of Emmy voting when the TCA noms were announced (the deadline for ballots is June 25), so the TCA’s impact might be limited. But even if some voters only catch on to one or two shows in that time it might be enough to move the needle for some programs. The last two TCA winners for Program of the Year, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” (2016) and “The Handmaid’s Tale” (2017), ended up sweeping the Emmys, and it’s possible their TCA wins helped.

But it’s not just the TCA Awards where critics could make an impact. They could tilt the awards conversation in their day-to-day work of discovering, watching and reviewing the shows they come across. A MetaCritic score can only tell you so much, but it can be a powerful sorting tool when weighing an almost unlimited list of viewing options. So if contenders like Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”), Matthew Rhys (“Americans”) or Rita Moreno (“One Day”) end up taking home Emmys in September, they should thank they academy, but they should probably thank the critics too.

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on July 12. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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