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Voters seek the nom less traveled

BTJA Critics' Choice Television Awards 2012

“Sons of Anarchy” showrunner Kurt Sutter has famously railed against Emmy voters (“too old to understand my show”), but presumably, he harbors kinder thoughts for members of the Broadcast Television Journalists Assn.

The BTJA gave Sutter’s outlaw biker drama three acting nominations (Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff) for this year’s Critics’ Choice Television Awards, continuing an inclination to look beyond the usual set of shows favored by Television Academy members.

In its inaugural bow last year, BTJA voters gave Critics’ Choice noms to the likes of Eden Sher (“The Middle”), Busy Philipps (“Cougar Town”) and Anna Torv and John Noble of “Fringe.” This year’s nom slate demonstrates a similar willingness by the 70 BTJA balloters to embrace genre shows and a wider array of programs.

Among the more offbeat choices this year: Emmy Rossum and Chloe Webb from Showtime’s “Shameless,” Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans Jr. from ABC’s ensemble comedy “Happy Endings” and 20-year-old Ashley Rickards, star of MTV’s teen comedy “Awkward.”

Because BTJA members cover television full-time for broadcast and Internet outlets, org president Joey Berlin says they’re naturally going to see a wide variety of programming, finding shows and performances that their Television Academy counterparts might miss.

“There’s so much quality television these days that finding something that may be a bit off-the-beaten track is almost daunting,” says Berlin, who’s also an Emmy voter. “Our members pretty much have to watch everything, so we’re able to point out some quality shows that might not be getting as much attention.”

Another critical difference between the Critics’ Choice and the Emmys: BTJA voters likely watch serial dramas in their entirety, while Emmy voters might just be screening one submitted episode.

“A show like ‘Sons of Anarchy’ is all about how the story builds, not just one episode,” says Angel Cohn, managing editor of the website Television Without Pity. “Shows like that or ‘Community,’ where some of the episodes are absolutely crazy and bizarre, may be off-putting if you’re not a regular viewer.”

“I think familiarity makes you appreciate a show’s inventiveness,” Berlin adds. “You get what they’re trying to do.”

Or, in the case of “Awkward’s” Rickards, voters simply see them in the first place.

“She’s one of the most realistic teenagers on TV,” Cohn says. “She has a really great, quirky delivery that just makes the show work.”

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