Meet your equal-opportunity awards-giver, the Television Critics Assn.
In an approach that can be both inspiring and frustrating, the TCA combines men and women into its individual achievement categories for comedy and drama, setting up perhaps the most interesting awards races in TV but also slashing the potential for celebration.
While there seems to be no movement to divide the comedy and drama awards by gender, there is friendly debate over whether combining is a good idea.
“I’m definitely in the camp of thinking it would be preferable to split them up, and I say that knowing the reasons historically and logistically why it’s the case,” says Huffington Post TV critic Maureen Ryan. “I understand that it makes for a longer awards show, more people to award.”
The TCA definitely places a premium on running a tight kudos ship. The org didn’t even approve giving individual trophies until the 1996-97 season, 12 years after the TCA Awards were born. Adding categories like reality program came after much discussion.
“Let’s keep it simple, let’s keep it small,” says HitFix.com critic Alan Sepinwall of the overall mentality.
But as a consequence, the TCA sets itself up with even more difficult awards choices than the TV Academy faces for the Emmys. This year, Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) are up against the female trio of Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”), Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) and Monica Potter (“Parenthood”) in drama, while Louis C.K. (“Louie”) and Jake Johnson (“New Girl”) compete with Lena Dunham (“Girls”), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) and Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”) in comedy.
Though three of the past six prizes have gone to women — Jane Lynch of “Glee” (2009-10 comedy), Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife” (2009-10 drama) and Claire Danes of “Homeland” (2011-12 drama) — historically, the winners have tilted male. In comedy, 12 out of 16 honorees have been men; in drama, 13 out of 16.
“The most high-profile shows in the last decade have often been edgier shows, have often been cable shows, and those shows have more often given more ink to fantastic male actors,” Ryan says.
“I’m all for those people getting attention. … I just think it’s been hard to draw more attention to amazing female performances. Maybe the roles aren’t as noisy; maybe they’re on shows that have had critical success but not quite as adored. It’s just tougher for women to get the kind of acclaim that men get.”
Ryan adds there is too much concern over the breadth of the TCA Awards.
“I really don’t think talent is going to (complain) because last year’s ceremony was seven minutes longer,” she says. “I don’t see any diminishment of the awards if we open up the pool.”
Sepinwall says he isn’t wedded to the current system but is satisfied by it.
“I can see the arguments pro and con,” Sepinwall says, “but I like the idea of saying, ‘Look, we’re just going to declare who the best actor on TV is, regardless of gender. If it’s Claire Danes, let it be Claire Danes. If it’s Bryan Cranston, let it be Bryan Cranston.’ … I think Tatiana Maslany is going to win this year, and that will be more impressive for having beaten all the people she’s up against.”