By Randee Dawn
Reality series can be about almost anything: catching fish, surviving on an island, finding a business investor, celebrities learning how to dance. But on July 16, the only thing that will matter to many reality TV shows is whether they’re nominated in one of four key categories by the Television Academy for the 67th Emmy Awards. But which names and shows will likely appear on the ballot? Cynsiders corralled three critics and TV experts to get the lowdown on this annual amazing race that will generate both survivors … and biggest losers.
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
About the category: Around since 2003, it’s regularly dominated by CBS’ The Amazing Race, which has won 10 times, including 2014. NBC’s The Voice and Bravo’s Top Chef have each won once.
Breakdown: “This category is so desperately in need of fresh blood,” says Christy Grosz, contributor to Variety and AwardsLine. “If Amazing Race gets nominated for a 12th time, it’s likely they’ll win again.” That said, adds TVRecapper’s Delight editor Elaine Flores, both Race and Chef are great shows but “I could see Lifetime’s Project Runway as a contender. People have to display actual talent, and be good at it,” she says. And Gold Derby senior editor Marcus Dixon feels that CBS’ Survivor “is having one of its best seasons ever,” adding that it had two seasons of eligibility this year (as did Runway). Either way, he’s hoping for a shakeup: “When it’s so easy to predict the winner of a category, it loses its fun.”
Dark Horses: Child Genius (Lifetime); So You Think You Can Dance (Fox); Hollywood Game Night (NBC)
Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program
About the category: A new category from the 2013-14 season, Unstructured had been paired with Structured under the general heading of Outstanding Reality Program. The only winner in this category so far is Discovery’s Deadliest Catch.
Breakdown: Flores believes Catch will reel in another nomination. “You can look at that show and say, ‘I love crab, I can’t believe it took all that to get crab to my table,” she says. Dixon thinks AMC’s Comic Book Men has a chance to slip in, and floats the notion that E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians may have a shot, thanks to the Caitlyn Jenner story. “People may feel a connection with [Jenner] and want to give the show something,” he says.
Dark Horses: A&E’s Wahlbergers (“Mark is a formidable force in television now,” says Grosz); Dance Moms (Lifetime); Cops (Spike)
Outstanding Structured Reality Program
About the category: The other half of the split Outstanding Reality Program, this category has also had only one year of eligibility; ABC’s Shark Tank won in 2014.
Breakdown: “This is a more classy category [than Unstructured],” says Dixon. “I can’t see why Shark Tank wouldn’t win again.” Also likely to make it: PBS’s consistently-nominated Antiques Roadshow and evergreen Mythbusters from Discovery. “Other shows are getting a little long in the tooth,” says Grosz. “[Last year’s nominee, CBS’] Undercover Boss is a great concept, but once you catch on it has less of a hook.”
Dark Horses: She may be one of the few, but Flores says, “I’m still ride or die with [HGTV’s] House Hunters. It gives you inspiration, and the international version is like a travelogue.” American Pickers (History) and Naked and Afraid (Discovery) also have potential this season.
Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program
About the category: Debuted for the 2007-08 season; Survivor‘s Jeff Probst won four times; Dancing With the Stars‘ (ABC) Tom Bergeron; Runway‘s Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum; and Game Night‘s Jane Lynch all each have one win (Lynch won in 2014).
Breakdown: Tom Bergeron is a clear nominee to Grosz: “A lot of what he does is ad-libbed and on the sly, and being able to react to what happened is a skill in and of itself,” she says. “He’s a host of hosts.” Carson Daly (for The Voice) is another strong contender: “I feel this may be his year,” says Dixon. “They do two seasons a year, so there are a lot of episodes to choose from.” For Flores, Klum and Gunn are a formidable team: “They don’t just stand there; they’re really involved in the process.” Additionally, So You Think‘s Cat Deeley won Best Reality Show Host at May’s Critics’ Choice Awards.
Dark Horses: Anthony Bourdain was a nominee last year for ABC’s The Taste, which has since been canceled, and despite its many wins, Phil Keoghan of Amazing Race so far has no awards of his own – which hardly seems fair.
The nominations for the 67th Emmy Awards will be announced on July 16 at 11:30 a.m. ET.
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