TCA Awards Preview: Will ‘Empire’ and ‘Transparent’ Win?

There’s no doubt the Television Critics Assn. Awards event is unlike any other kudosfest celebrating the best of what TV has to offer.

The winners of the 31st Annual TCA Awards will be announced at the invitation-only event Aug. 8 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel as part of the non-profit group’s biannual press tour.

Nominees include Fox’s “Empire” and Amazon’s “Transparent,” with four noms each, as well as “it” girl of the moment Amy Schumer. The host of this year’s event is James Corden of CBS’ “The Late Late Show.”

But if you aren’t an invited guest, don’t expect to see the ceremony on your TV.

First, it isn’t televised (though it has been in the past). And even if you are nominated, it doesn’t get you a ticket in the door. Only the winners in each category are invited to attend the event, along with members of the TCA and one guest — singular — each.

“The TCA Awards have always been distinct because they’re given by people who watch, analyze and write about TV for a living,” says TCA president Scott Pierce, television critic for the Salt Lake Tribune and who has covered the business for 25 years. “I daresay our membership has a different — and I would argue, better — perspective on television than any other organization.”

There are only a dozen categories, and male and female lead and supporting actors all compete on equal footing under the individual achievement in drama and comedy categories. Independent of any campaigning, the more than 200 professional TV critics and journalists from the United States and Canada nominate two choices for each category. The categories include news and information, youth, reality, drama, comedy, movies, heritage and career achievement.

“Our goal is not to hand out dozens of awards,” Pierce says. “Our individual awards are gender neutral — it’s not best actor or actress, it’s outstanding individual achievement in comedy or drama.”

Tina Fey even talked about the idea of competing against the guys in her 2008 acceptance speech.

“I have to say I find it very exciting that at these awards, this category is not separated by gender,” Fey said, when picking up the Individual Achievement in Comedy Award. “Because it doesn’t really need to be. It’s not weightlifting.”

The other point of distinction in the awards: The scribes, not the talent, hand out the awards. It’s a moment when the presenter, who probably tirelessly championed the show, can give what is hopefully a heartfelt, albeit brief, introductory speech.

And for this low-key, intimate affair, A-listers and respected veterans from Tom Hanks to Carol Burnett have shown up to accept their awards.

“It’s a night unlike other awards shows, because winners know they don’t have to walk a red carpet and that they can say whatever they want,” Pierce says. “We get the funniest, most heartfelt and most honest acceptance speeches.”

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