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First comes award, then series premiere

Critics Choice kudofest takes unusual step of honoring

When your TV series wins an award before the pilot airs, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s nice someone noticed the show’s promise. But now you have to deliver on it.

That’s the happy dilemma facing the makers of the eight programs chosen as the Broadcast Television Journalists Assn.’s biggest curiosity: most exciting new series. Half of the honorees don’t yet have launch dates. And few of the shows’ creators knew about the award or the fledgling group bestowing it until the phone rang with the announcement.

“It was thrilling to get the news, to be validated so early in the journey,” says Theresa Rebeck, creator of NBC’s buzzed-about musical “Smash,” which will bow at midseason. “It’s a tall order, but we’re grateful for the interest.”

Add Nahnatchka Khan, exec producer with David Hemingson of ABC sitcom “Apartment 23”: “We are thrilled to be named … and now we feel enormous pressure to deliver a show that doesn’t suck. Thanks a lot for saddling us with this crushing responsibility.”

They’re kidding. (We think.) But while the response seems entirely appropriate, BTJA member William Keck thinks the award is in line with the work most of the group is doing this time of year.

“Right now, I’m always prepping for fall, so I’m watching these shows,” says Keck, senior editor for TV Guide. “Now whether our nominees pan out remains to be seen. Some shows have excellent pilots, but don’t deliver as long-term series. It is fun to spin things forward a bit, though.”

Members who had seen the pilots and any available episodes were eligible to vote on the award. BTJA president Joey Berlin says the group will show clips from the honorees at its inaugural awards luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Berlin expects strong attendance from cast and execs associated with the shows for the group’s “tip of the hat.”

“It’s a unique award, one that I think motivates networks to get pilots into our members’ hands and one that I think is beneficial to the networks, too,” Berlin says. “That’s the beauty of awards. When done right, the process is good for everybody.”

EXCITING NEW SERIES HONOREES
• “Alcatraz” (Fox)
• “Apartment 23” (ABC)
• “Awake” (NBC)
• “Falling Skies” (TNT)
• “New Girl” (Fox)
• “Ringer” (CW)
• “Smash” (NBC)
• “Terra Nova” (Fox)

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