Critics Choice Awards Turn 21 With Combined Kudos for Film, TV

mad max fury road
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The critics’ choice awards are turning 21 this year and appropriately enough they’re planning a star-studded coming-of-age birthday party.

The annual kudocast will be broadcast on A&E, Lifetime and LMN on Jan. 17 from Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, with actor and comedian T.J. Miller serving as the show’s host. And for the first time ever the show will combine honors for film and television.

“The big news this year is that we’ve combined the movie and television awards into one three-hour mega-show, where we’ll honor the finest in Hollywood storytelling,” reports BFCA president Joey Berlin. It’s a move spurred by “emerging platforms and the evolving business. Now you can watch movies on your phone, and stream TV on your computer, so we felt it made a lot of sense to bring these year-end awards together.”

The decision to combine the shows was made during the past year, he says. “We have a very strong television partner in A&E, who now reach over 96 million homes, and they wanted the show to continue to grow, and encouraged us to take this step. So it’ll be tricast on A&E, Lifetime and LMN for the first time, and we’re anticipating a much bigger audience.”

Berlin admits that this year’s new mega-show format amounts to a direct strike against close competitor the Golden Globes. “We certainly don’t shy away from comparison with the Globes, who do a great show with both movies and TV, and we’re in the same time-frame as we air a week later,” he says. “But we think our voters — and we have 400 compared with the HFPA’s 80 or so — are a little savvier and a little less starstruck, and I think we serve our audience a little better. It’ll be a little different [from the Globes’ show] and our nominees are a little different.”

Leading the nominations from the BFCA, the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, is “Mad Max: Fury Road” with 13, including best picture and director. “Carol,” “The Martian” and “The Revenant” scored nine nominations each, including best picture, director and cinematography.

“Spotlight” earned eight noms, followed by “The Big Short” with seven, and “The Hateful Eight” with six.

Jennifer Lawrence is up for three awards, for her work in both “Joy” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” while Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are both nominated for two acting awards.

In the television race, ABC, FX and HBO lead with 14 nominations each, followed by Fox with 12. Topping the list of nominated series is FX’s “Fargo” with eight.

The second seasons of HBO’s “The Leftovers” and Amazon’s “Transparent” lead the drama and comedy fields respectively with six noms, while NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” garnered five.

Over the past decade, the Critics Choice Awards have proven to be the most reliable predictor of the Oscars, which Berlin believes is a major selling point. “In fact, you have a better than 70% chance of getting an Oscar nomination, if we nominate you,” states Berlin. “However, over the same time period, and looking at the same film categories in the Golden Globes, you have less than a 40% chance of getting an Oscar nomination if they nominate you. So you can look at our show as the precursor to the gold standard — the Academy Awards.”

Berlin isn’t worried that the new three-hour mega-show will try the patience of today’s audiences with shorter attention spans. “I’m more worried that it’s not long enough,” he insists. “We always have so many huge stars attending, we have so many interesting categories, and as it is, we’ll only have time to present about half of the awards we’re going to vote on air.”

A&E will also broadcast the final hour of the show’s red carpet event immediately preceding the gala, “so in effect we’ll have a four-hour special,” notes Berlin. “And for the first time, we’re airing it on a Sunday night, because we think we’re ready for the big time. Sunday nights are when the biggest audiences are available, and the network’s very enthusiastic about the new scheduling.”

While the show started out small, it has grown considerably in recent years, and looking ahead Berlin allows that it may need “an even larger venue” in the future. “We have over 150 tables this year, which are already virtually sold out, so if someone knows of a place where we can fit even more together in one room, let me know.”