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The TV Column

Critics raise annual flag for their TV best picks

By Michael Storey

This article was published June 5, 2014 at 2:34 a.m.


HBO’s True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey (left) and Woody Harrelson, has multiple TCA Awards nominations this year.

I know readers anxiously await this time of year to find out which shows made the annual TCA Award nominations.

No? Well, they should. The highly paid (well, paid anyway), discerning, dedicated professional TV writers in the Television Critics Association have put our collective heads together online and produced this year's list of the best of TV's best.

We watch a lot -- a lot -- of bad TV so you don't have to. Or, if you prefer bad TV, our scathing, cynical, sardonic, snarky reviews are your clues to tune in. However it works, we appreciate you.

I've been a TCA member since 1993, when the organization was made up exclusively of print media folks, mostly newspapers. Times have changed and these days the TCA consists of 220 full-time writers who cover television for newspapers, magazines, trade publications, news wire services, syndicates and text-based Internet news organizations across the United States and Canada.

You'd recognize the Canadians. Even their negative reviews are extremely polite.

Are the TV critics and their nominations elitist? Why are there so many dang cable shows? Where, you may ask, is Hell's Kitchen or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, your favorite shows? Where is the hilarious Modern Family or any of the 22 cop shows on CBS? Hey -- NCIS is TV's most-watched show. Why isn't it on the list?

I'll answer by saying that the TCA awards are our one time a year to say thanks for the really good stuff. It's our opportunity to give a nod to all those shows that aren't cheap reality swill or formulaic derivatives -- the shows that move us and make us proud of our professions.

Cable is where the best, intelligent comedy and drama is taking place. It just is. And I recognize that witty, evocative, creative programming is not what many people turn to TV for when they just want to relax and let it flow over them.

The broadcast networks have their bright spots, but all too often they must bowdlerize quality to meet Federal Communications Commission standards and to reach the broadest audience possible. That's why, when such an outstanding series such as The Good Wife makes it to a network, it's duly recognized.

Here's this year's list. Play TV critic and see how many of the nominations with which you agree.

Individual/drama: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (AMC); Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (CBS); Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black (BBC America); Matthew McConaughey, True Detective (HBO); Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX).

Individual/comedy: Louis C.K., Louie (FX); Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project (Fox); Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO); Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory (CBS); Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation (NBC).

Drama: The Americans (FX); Breaking Bad (AMC); Game of Thrones (HBO); House of Cards (Netflix); The Good Wife (CBS).

Comedy: The Big Bang Theory (CBS); Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox); Louie (FX); The Mindy Project (Fox); Veep (HBO).

Movie/miniseries/special: American Horror Story: Coven (FX); Broadchurch (BBC America); Fargo (FX); The Returned (Sundance TV); True Detective (HBO).

News and information: CBS Sunday Morning (CBS); Cosmos (Fox); The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central); Frontline (PBS); 60 Minutes (CBS).

Reality: The Amazing Race (CBS); RuPaul's Drag Race (LogoTV); Shark Tank (ABC); Survivor (CBS); The Voice (NBC).

Youth programming: Adventure Time (Cartoon Network); Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (PBS); The Fosters (ABC Family); Sesame Street (PBS); Switched at Birth (ABC Family).

New program: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox); Fargo (FX); Orange Is the New Black (Netflix); Sleepy Hollow (Fox); True Detective (HBO).

Career achievement: Mark Burnett; James Burrows; Valerie Harper; Jay Leno; William Shatner.

Heritage Award: Lost (ABC); Saturday Night Live (NBC); South Park (Comedy Central); Star Trek (NBC); Twin Peaks (ABC).

Program of the year: Breaking Bad (AMC); Game of Thrones (HBO); The Good Wife (CBS); Orange Is the New Black (Netflix); True Detective (HBO).

Full disclosure: I've never actually seen RuPaul's Drag Race. It might be the best reality show on the tube, but I wouldn't know.

The search for America's next drag queen superstar has been on the air since 2009 and could contain some of the best faux scripted unscripted drama around. Or not.

Grim numbers. The bloom is definitely off the Idol. The final Nielsen ratings are in and it was a bad, bad year for singing competitions. Both The Voice and American Idol suffered a sharp decline in viewers.

The season finale of The Voice was seen by 11.7 million, down from the 14 million who watched in December and 15.6 million a year ago.

This year's Idol finale was seen by fewer viewers -- 10.1 million -- than any finale since the first season. In 2011, 29.3 million tuned in. That's a stunning 66 percent drop in only three years.

It's been a steady decline since Idol's heyday of 2006, when a ratings-busting 36.4 million tuned in.

Nothing lasts forever.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

Weekend on 06/05/2014

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