Monday, December 11, 2017

Speculative fiction and science at the 2018 Critics' Choice Television Awards

I told my readers to "Stay tuned for the television nominees after a post about the Nobel Prize winners" at the end of 'The Shape of Water' leads speculative fiction at the 2018 Critics' Choice Movie Awards.  I begin my delivery of that promise with the acting and series nominees for comedies and dramas from KTLA on YouTube.

This segment aired on the KTLA 5 Morning News, Wednesday, December 06, 2017.
Unlike the movie nominations, no one series dominated the nominations for television series, as six drama series earned three nominations each.  Four of them are speculative fiction series, "American Gods," "Game of Thrones," "The Handmaid's Tale," and "Stranger Things 2," all of which are nominated for Best Drama Series.  The other two are "This is Us," also nominated for Best Drama Series, and "The Good Fight," which has three acting nominations.  Two other speculative fiction shows, "Outlander" and "Orphan Black," both have their female leads nominated for Best Actress in a Drama Series.  Two shows that are speculative-fiction-adjacent thrillers, "Bates Motel" (horror) and "Mr. Robot" (science fiction), also have one nomination each, "Bates Motel" for Actor in a Drama Series and "Mr. Robot" for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.  That's 16 out of 30 possible nominations in the drama categories for speculative fiction, a very good showing for genre television.

Speculative fiction didn't fare as well in comedy, as there is only one nominated comedy series that qualifies as speculative fiction, "The Good Place," a fantasy.  It has two nominations for acting, Ted Danson for Best Actor in a Comedy and Kristen Bell for Best Actress in a Comedy.  Otherwise, the shows that are adjacent are comedies about scientists and engineers, "The Big Bang Theory" and "Silicon Valley," which have two nominations each.  None of them are the most nominated comedy series.  That honor goes to Netflix's wrestling show "GLOW" with four, including Best Comedy Series, where its competition includes "The Big Bang Theory" but not "The Good Place" or "Silicon Valley."

Deadline has the rest of the nominations for miniseries, movies, and animated shows.  There, one show did stand out, "Feud: Bette and Joan" with six nominations, the most of any show at these awards.  Fortunately, the sole nominated speculative fiction miniseries, "American Horror Story: Cult," is not competing against it in any category, having been nominated for Best Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series.  Neither is one of the two nominations about science and scientists, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," which is nominated for Best Movie Made for TV.  On the other hand, "Genius," is competing against "Feud: Bette and Joan," having been nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series.

The final category consists of almost nothing but speculative fiction.  Best Animated Series has "Archer," "Bob’s Burgers," "BoJack Horseman," "Danger & Eggs," "Rick and Morty," and "The Simpsons" as nominees.  The middle three, "BoJack Horseman," "Danger & Eggs," "Rick and Morty," probably have the strongest fantastic and science fictional elements, while "The Simpsons" has aliens as guest stars and an annual horror show on Halloween.

Follow over the jump for all the categories that include speculative fiction nominees along with my thoughts about their chances. 

Unlike the KTLA clip, the official list begins with drama.
Best Drama Series

American Gods (Starz)
The Crown (Netflix)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
This field looks like the one for the comparable award from this year's Emmys with "Westworld" replaced by "Game of Thrones" and "American Gods" filling in for both "Better Call Saul" and "House of Cards."  I'm particularly glad to see "American Gods" recognized for headline awards instead of just technical ones like Main Title Design and Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role.  That written, I don't think it will win this category.  Nor will the show I'm rooting for, "Stranger Things 2."  Instead, I suspect that a lot of the voters overlap with those for the Television Critics Association Awards, where "The Handmaid's Tale" won the equivalent category plus Program of the Year.  Added to the five awards "The Handmaid's Tale" won on the last night of the Emmys, where it won the equivalent award as well, and I'd say that the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian classic is the favorite to win this category.
Best Actor in a Drama Series

Sterling K. Brown – This Is Us (NBC)
Paul Giamatti – Billions (Showtime)
Freddie Highmore – Bates Motel (A&E)
Ian McShane – American Gods (Starz)
Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul (AMC)
Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan (Showtime)
Seeing Ian McShane nominated for his role as Mr. Wednesday reminds me of the second half of a comment I left to Men Unlike Gods at Ecosophia, the first half of which became the opening of More from the Archdruid and his readers on zombies, part 2.
Changing the subject, all this talk of Wotan reminds me that he's been appearing in American popular entertainment first as Odin in the Marvel Thor movies and most recently as Mr. Wednesday in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods."  The latter is more germane to the discussion here, as Mr. Wednesday is organizing the Old Gods (not the ones of Lovecraft) such as Anansi, Czernobog, Anubis, Thoth, Eostre, and Loki to fight the New Gods of Media, Technology, and The Market for supremacy.  That might make for a useful metaphor.  I expect that, as "an eccentric with a taste for old things" as well as someone seeking a nature-centered spirituality, you might sympathize with the Old Gods in their struggle against human creations turned into deities.  On the other hand, the New Gods might just fade away when the civilization that supports them collapses.
John Michael Greer was less than impressed, although he did take the side of the old gods as I expected.
[T]he old gods have seen all of this before. They’ve watched Roman emperors declare themselves divine and the Empire immortal, and smiled to see sheep grazing in a pasture that used to be the forum. The “new gods” are not gods but idols, empty images meant to reflect humanity’s supposed omnipotence back at us for our entertainment, and as they sit there grinning idiotically at the ruins of our civilization, the old gods will smile again and continue their timeless lordship…
This is not good news for one of the "new gods," who is nominated in a later category.  Fortunately for her, Greer is not one of the voters; the TV critics are.  The same is true for McShane.  However, that doesn't help him, either.  Sterling K. Brown was the only actor in a drama series nominated at this year's Television Critics Association Awards and he won Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series at the Emmy Awards, so he is the favorite.

Before I move to the next category, I want to make an observation about Freddie Highmore, who is currently starring in "The Good Doctor." When I realized he had played young Norman Bates in "Bates Motel," it explained a lot.  My wife found his performance as Dr. Shaun Murphy a bit creepy.  It may not have been just because Highmore is portraying someone with Asperger's.  He's had a lot of practice playing someone who is earnestly creepy already and it may be bleeding through.  That written, the show is growing on us.
Best Actress in a Drama Series

Caitriona Balfe – Outlander (Starz)
Christine Baranski – The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Claire Foy – The Crown (Netflix)
Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black (BBC America)
Elisabeth Moss – The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Robin Wright – House of Cards (Netflix)
Half of nominees represent speculative fiction series, Caitriona Balfe for "Outlander," Tatiana Maslany in "Orphan Black," and Elisabeth Moss in "The Handmaid's Tale."  If this were up to a vote of the viewers, Balfe would win.  It's not.  I think it's between the past two Emmy winners for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, Maslany, who won last year and Moss, who won this year.  I might have more to say about Christine Baranski, Claire Foy, and Robin Wright, who are all starring in political dramas, in a future entry about political shows nominated for awards.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Bobby Cannavale – Mr. Robot (USA)
Asia Kate Dillon – Billions (Showtime)
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones (HBO)
David Harbour – Stranger Things (Netflix)
Delroy Lindo – The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Michael McKean – Better Call Saul (AMC)
On the one hand, David Harbour is the only member of this field that was nominated in this category at the Emmys.  On the other hand, Peter Dinklage and Bobby Cannavale have both won two Emmy Awards in this category, Dinklage for the same role.  Dinklage has also won a Golden Globe.  I'd give the advantage to the actor of "The Imp."
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Gillian Anderson – American Gods (Starz)
Emilia Clarke – Game of Thrones (HBO)
Ann Dowd – The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Cush Jumbo – The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Margo Martindale – Sneaky Pete (Amazon)
Chrissy Metz – This Is Us (NBC)
Gillian Anderson is the actress playing one of the "new gods" I mentioned earlier.  She plays Media in "American Gods."  Joining her in representing speculative fiction shows is Emilia Clarke and Ann Dowd.  Dowd won the Emmy, so I would say she is the favorite, although Margo Martindale is a perennial winner of the guest actress Emmy Award, so she might be able to pull off an upset in a supporting role.
Best Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Black-ish (ABC)
GLOW (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Modern Family (ABC)
Patriot (Amazon)
Emmy winner "Veep" wasn't even nominated, so this field is right open.  "Big Bang Theory" has a lot of speculative fiction references and is the most popular comedy on U.S. television, but that probably won't sway the critics.  The People's Choice Awards will be where it shines.  Instead, I expect the critics will pick "GLOW," the most nominated comedy series at these awards.
Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson – Black-ish (ABC)
Aziz Ansari – Master of None (Netflix)
Hank Azaria – Brockmire (IFC)
Ted Danson – The Good Place (NBC)
Thomas Middleditch – Silicon Valley (HBO)
Randall Park – Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
"Atlanta" did not air in 2017, so Emmy winner Danny Glover was not eligible.  I hope that improves the odds for Ted Danson, but instead, I think it will help Thomas Middleditch and Aziz Ansari.
Best Actress in a Comedy Series

Kristen Bell – The Good Place (NBC)
Alison Brie – GLOW (Netflix)
Rachel Brosnahan – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Sutton Foster – Younger (TV Land)
Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Constance Wu – Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Again, no nominations for "Veep," so Kristen Bell has a chance.  Unfortunately, I don't think it's a good one, as Alison Brie is the star of the most nominated comedy series, so she's running closer to the inside of the track.  The other veteran nominees are Ellie Kemper and Constance Wu, both of whom have easier paths to victory.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Tituss Burgess – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Walton Goggins – Vice Principals (HBO)
Sean Hayes – Will & Grace (NBC)
Marc Maron – GLOW (Netflix)
Kumail Nanjiani – Silicon Valley (HBO)
Ed O’Neill – Modern Family (ABC)
Kumail Nanjiani is nominated both for his movie work in "The Big Sick" and here for "Silicon Valley," which is as close to a speculative fiction show as one gets in this category.  The other actors who I think have a good chance are Ed O'Neill and Sean Hayes -- never underestimate the power of nostalgia.  I'm not so sure about Marc Maron, even though he is in "GLOW."
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Alex Borstein – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Betty Gilpin – GLOW (Netflix)
Jenifer Lewis – Black-ish (ABC)
Alessandra Mastronardi – Master of None (Netflix)
Rita Moreno – One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Mayim Bialik may be representing the closest thing to a speculative fiction show here, but I know better than to root for her.  Instead, I think the favorite is Rita Moreno, who has an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony).
Best Movie Made for TV

Flint (Lifetime)
I Am Elizabeth Smart (Lifetime)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)
Sherlock: The Lying Detective (PBS)
The Wizard of Lies (HBO)
The science story here is "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," a story I should have blogged about already, although I mentioned her once.  I'll root for it, but I think the favorite is "The Wizard of Lies."
Best Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series

Jeff Daniels – Godless (Netflix)
Robert De Niro – The Wizard of Lies (HBO)
Ewan McGregor – Fargo (FX)
Jack O’Connell – Godless (Netflix)
Evan Peters – American Horror Story: Cult (FX)
Bill Pullman – The Sinner (USA)
Jimmy Tatro – American Vandal (Netflix)
"American Horror Story: Cult" is the one true speculative fiction show, so Evan Peters is the representative of the genre, but I think I would expect Robert De Niro would be the favorite.  After him would be Bill Pullman, then Ewan McGregor, then Jeff Daniels.  I don't think Peters has much of a chance against that field.
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series

Johnny Flynn – Genius (National Geographic)
Benito Martinez – American Crime (ABC)
Alfred Molina – Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Alexander Skarsgård – Big Little Lies (HBO)
David Thewlis – Fargo (FX)
Stanley Tucci – Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Alexander Skarsgård won the Emmy for "Big Little Lies," so he's my favorite.  Too bad, as "Genius" is the science nominee.
Best Animated Series

Archer (FX)
Bob’s Burgers (FOX)
BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Danger & Eggs (Amazon)
Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
The Simpsons (FOX)
My picks for favorites are "Archer," "Bob's Burgers," and "BoJack Horseman."  If it were up to the fans, "Rick and Morty" or "The Simpsons" would win, but that's not going to happen here.

That's it for the speculative fiction nominees at the Critics' Choice Awards.  I might have something to say about the legal and political nominees at least a week from now.  Until then, I have something special planned for the special senatorial election in Alabama on Tuesday.  Stay tuned.

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