Last summer, the Television Critics Association voted to add a category to its annual awards to recognize the best reality television program, and today the surprisingly predictable nominees were announced.
- The Amazing Race
- Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
- Top Chef All Stars
- The Voice
Also nominated: HBO’s fictionalized film about An American Family, Cinema Verite, was nominated in the Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials category; while ESPN’s documentary series 30 by 30, HBO’s If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, and National Geographic’s Restrepo (whose co-director was recently killed) were all nominated in the Outstanding Achievement in News and Information category.
To be honest, I’m pretty disappointed with the reality show nominees from my fellow critics: Neither CBS competition had a strong year, and The Amazing Race has been going downhill for years. The Voice is good, but aired just one live episode by the time nominations were due, so I’m not quite sure why we’ve honored a show none of us have watched for a full season.
Mostly, I’m disappointed that smaller and sometimes better series didn’t at least get a nomination. The TCA Awards has been known for recognizing the (often unrecognized) best of television, though that’s not always the case, of course. Each of the 200+ members of the TCA could nominate two shows; there are no submissions from networks, producers, or cast members.
My nominees were Hoarders and Whale Wars, both of which are exceptional entertainment and very real. Those are far from the only two shows we could have selected that demonstrate to the world that reality TV isn’t just crap, but exceptional entertainment. Instead, we went the predictable route.
Perhaps there are simply too many reality shows. Because of the relatively small number of nominations, nominees can be decided by a single vote or two, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the shows that got enough votes to merit a nomination were mostly high-profile and popular. But still: disappointing.