Critics Choice Awards Voters Guide: 2022 TV Races Heat Up, Thanks in Great Part to Squid Game

The Critics Choice Awards stand out in part because the organization combines film and television categories into one night of mega-celebration. But not all elements are created equal on the road to gold.

Here, Variety breaks down what is notable about the television submission process and side of the ballot for this year’s awards, which take place Jan. 9 in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be simulcast on the CW and TBS.

Two Phase 1 Timelines
The Critics Choice Assn. (CCA) does not require formal submissions for film categories, but it does for the television categories. This year, that period was between Sept. 27 and Nov. 15. The nomination committee began deliberations on Nov. 16, and the TV nominations will be announced on Dec. 6. In contrast, film branch members of the organization won’t receive their nominating ballots until the next day, Dec. 7, with the deadline of midnight PT Dec. 10 to return film ballots. (Film nominations will be announced Dec. 13.) Film and television voting merges for the final ballots, with members receiving them on Jan. 5 and only having two days (until 9 p.m. PT on Jan. 7) to return them.

Expanding Ballot Expectations
Since the eligibility period is the calendar year, many of last year’s nominees and winners will have to sit this one out. In the drama race, only one series will be eligible for consecutive nominations: Paramount Plus’ “The Good Fight,” which streamed its fifth season from June to August. On the comedy side, the reigning champ, Apple TV Plus’ “Ted Lasso,” is back in the race again, as are FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” and Hulu’s “Pen15,” which drops the second half of its second season on Dec. 3, just before the eligibility window closes. That leaves many spots open with the potential for triumphant ballot returns for such dramas as HBO’s “Succession,” which won in 2020 but was ineligible for the 2021 awards earlier this year, and the final season of FX’s “Pose,” which was nominated consecutively in 2019 and 2020. The final season of Netflix comedy “The Kominsky Method,” which was nominated in 2019, is also in the running. All the open spots also allow voters to be the first to celebrate brandnew series and their stars. There, the possibilities seem endless. In comedy alone there are titles including Netflix’s “The Chair,” starring Sandra Oh and Jay Duplass; Tracy Oliver’s “Harlem” for Amazon Prime Video; FX on Hulu’s “Reservation Dogs” and Hulu’s Steve Martin/MartinShort/ Selena Gomez-starrer “Only Murders in the Building.” Drama offers creative new ventures such as the live-action “Cowboy Bebop” for Netflix, Marvel and Disney Plus’ “Loki” and “Yellowstone” spinoff “Mayor of Kingstown” for Paramount Plus.

Get Animated
For the first time in a few years, the animated series race is full of possibilities. This is not only because there is a wealth of shows in the running, but also because Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman,” which picked up the prize five out of the past six years, wrapped up its run in early 2020 and therefore is no longer eligible. Other past winners — Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” and FXX’s “Archer” — are once again top contenders and it would be a huge upset if they didn’t make the ballot. But there is stiff competition for the remaining spots. Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” a two-time past nominee, is eligible again, as are Apple TV Plus’ “Central Park” and Paramount Plus’ “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” which both made it on the ballot in 2021 for their freshman outings. Newcomers to watch this year include Amazon’s “Fairfax,” Fox’s “Housebroken,” HBO Max’s “Ten Year Old Tom,” Netflix’s “Maya and the Three” and Paramount Plus’ “The Harper House.”

Local-Language Goes for Gold
CCA has celebrated foreign-language films since 1995, and now local-language television series are getting in on the awards action, too. That is good news for streaming giant Netflix, which not only boasts a bevy of local-language series, from France’s “Call My Agent!” to Denmark’s “The Chestnut Man” to South Korea’s “Squid Game,” but also backs its titles in a big way. The combination of organic buzz when these shows launched and the marketing push through FYC season is bound to put them on the radar of voters. Amazon will submit “September Mornings,” a Brazilian five-parter about a trans woman who leaves her hometown to follow her dream of being a singer, but many other platforms, from Hulu to HBO Max, don’t have entries for this category this year. So this is one race that really looks to be Netflix’s to lose.

Time to Rethink TV Movie?
The limited series and television movie races are split into two distinct categories, but we’re hardpressed to figure out what may make the cut in the latter. The 2021 calendar year includes a few obvious contenders — namely Emmy nominees “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” from Lifetime and “Oslo” from HBO — but most movies (“The Many Saints of Newark” from HBO Max, for example) have theatrical releases and are therefore submitting on the film side of the ballot. This may be the perfect time for the organization to reconsider whether this needs to be its own category, or whether holiday films deserve a closer look. After all, Netflix’s “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” did win the television movie Emmy this year, and Roku has “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas” dropping on Dec. 1, just in time for CCA eligibility.

Limitless Options
On the other hand, limited series is once again a category so rich with possibilities that it does feel unfair to throw anything else into the mix. The three Emmy nominees that launched in 2021 — Amazon’s “The Underground Railroad,” Disney Plus’ “WandaVision” and HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” — are strong contenders but not all shoo-ins, due to the long list of other headline-grabbing series that have launched in recent months. Netflix once again comes in with volume with an adaptation of “Maid,” the Kevin Hart-Wesley Snipes two-hander “True Story” and the young Colin Kaepernick series “Colin in Black & White” from Ava DuVernay. Hulu boasts the duo of “Dopesick,” which examines the opioid crisis, and its adaptation of “Nine Perfect Strangers.” HBO also has two new entries: Mike White’s “The White Lotus” and the Oscar Isaac-Jessica Chastain two-hander “Scenes From a Marriage.” National Geographic has two series worth giving a closer look: the third installment of the “Genius” franchise, which is centered on Aretha Franklin, and the second installment of “The Hot Zone” anthology, subtitled “Anthrax.” Also, Apple TV Plus has the twisted true tale “The Shrink Next Door” and FX returned to the late 1990s for the third in its “American Crime Story” anthology, “Impeachment.

Will CCA Celebrate Controversy?
The Critics Choice Awards is the rare ceremony that has a category specifically for comedy special. Last time all six nominees came from Netflix and two tied to win (“Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill” and “Michelle Buteau: Welcome to Buteaupia”). For the 2022 awards, Netflix will have a few entries once again, including multiple Emmy-winner “Bo Burnham: Inside” and Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer.” The latter came under fire immediately upon its Oct. 5 release date due to jokes and comments he made about transgender people. The controversy around the special only continued to grow as time went on. Netflix employees staged a walkout and Chappelle released his own response on social media. The CCA is the first organization to be able to celebrate this special with awards acclaim, and undoubtedly the discourse around the content itself will have a heavy influence on voters.

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