Golden Globe Awards: Television Goes for the Gold

Jan 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

Each year the promotional cry for the Golden Globes declares the awards are a “harbinger of the Oscars,” an allusion to the conventional wisdom that the votes of the 86 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association influence both the Academy Award voters and the box office.

The clout and cachet of the Golden Globes television nominations and awards are not as tangible or direct.

“TV is different than films in terms of the so-called power of the Golden Globes,” said Jenny Cooney, chair of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Television Committee, who writes for such publications as TV Week Australia and TV Guide New Zealand as well as a variety of outlets in the United Kingdom.

“Certainly, they are important in terms of the international profile of a TV show,” she said. “Studios rely more and more on foreign revenues, and the Golden Globes is important for those sales.

“Domestically it also is an aid,” Ms. Cooney added. “There are many examples of programs whose ratings increased after a Golden Globe win. ‘The X-Files’ was a marginal show, but after it won, the added publicity gave it a jump. A few years ago Calista Flockhart won as best actress in a comedy for ‘Ally McBeal.’ Fox said that the ratings increased after that because of the attention surrounding the show.”

The honors for the offbeat ‘McBeal’ were part of a long-standing Globes tradition of recognizing programming that deviates from the standard TV formula.

“Things that are a little out of the mainstream seem to appeal to the HFPA membership,” said Lawrie Masterson, an HFPA member from Australia and a former VP and board member of the organization. “One example is ‘Arrested Development,’ or the British version of ‘The Office.’ I’m guessing it has something to do with the cultural makeup of the organization.”

The Globes’ willingness to embrace the untraditional can work to the benefit of shows that are a little too quirky to gain acceptance from the more mainstream-oriented Emmys.

“‘The Office’ was given a bigger profile by the fact that it won a Golden Globe,” Mr. Masterson said. Last year the HFPA awarded a Globe to Ricky Gervais, the star of the British comedy, which was running on BBC America and had not been seen by most U.S. households. During the trip to Los Angeles for the ceremonies, Mr. Gervais sold the American version of the show to NBC.

“I don’t know whether the award had anything to do with the American version,” Mr. Masterson said. “But anything that comes a little bit out of left field obviously has a head-jerking effect on people, and they’ll be a little more likely to watch a second version.”

The networks are happy and eager to receive the nominations, but not all are sold on its muscle.

“Americans are the ones who let you know if you’re on the right track at the end of the day, and they do it through ratings,” said Stephen McPherson, ABC’s president of entertainment.

“The Globes are a barometer in terms of what’s working,” he continued. “But I think such awards are the kind of things that are great boosts for the people who work hard on the shows. It’s a terrific thing, and when you go on a set or speak with the people connected with a show that has nominations after they’re announced, you can feel the burst of energy it gives them.”

“Probably within the TV industry the Screen Actors Guild Awards have more prestige,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media TV. “Yet, the Golden Globes have more promotional value. You rarely if ever hear an actor introduced as ‘a SAG Award winner.’ But you do frequently hear them come on a talk show introduced as a ‘Golden Globe winner.'”

For that reason, those who represent actors are not about to ignore the Globes.

“Yes, the Golden Globes have some cachet,” said Michael Wallach, a personal manager and author of the recently published book “How to Get Arrested,” an informational novella for actors. “But with any award there is a gap between the media perception of what it means and what it is supposed to do for an actor’s career and what actually happens in the industry and with the public. We can all think of many actors whose careers seemed to go on a decline after they won the Oscar, or whose box office clout went flat despite the award.”

Still, Mr. Wallach said, from his own experience as a manager a Globe nomination “can raise an actor’s quote [asking price], particularly when the actor is new or it’s his first award. And it’s great for the actor’s psyche and confidence.”

Debuts Fare Well

This year’s nominations for the 63rd annual Golden Globes do include some repeats from previous years, but the HFPA can be categorized as not being shy about honoring series in their debut season, something that Emmy voters often do not do. New efforts such as “Commander in Chief,” “Rome,” “Weeds” and “My Name Is Earl” have Globe noms.

Part of the disconnect between the Globes and the Emmys as opposed to the Globes and the Oscars is that the Emmys come nine months later and the two awards have different calendar years. The Emmys are for achievement between July 1 of one year and June 30 of the next. Like the Oscars, the Globes run on a calendar year.

As a result, while the Globes get first crack at honoring series that premiered in the fall, the list of nominees is also laden with programs and performers that have already been honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences members. This is particularly true in the miniseries and TV movie categories, where such efforts as “Empire Falls,” “Lackawanna Blues” and “Warm Springs” had their Emmy-winning night last year.

“I think with miniseries the Globes may not matter in terms of a push because many were on just once and also were Emmy-nominated,” Ms. Cooney agreed. “On the other hand, I think

[HFPA] members have challenged the Emmy voters to open up to new shows. We nominated ‘Lost’ last year and then they did.

“There’s a perception that academy voters are more conservative and that they tend to nominate the same shows and artists every year,” she said. “On the other hand, our feeling is that once we have honored you, we move on. There are exceptions, but for the most part we seem to feel if we’ve given you the award, we need not do it again and again.”

“There is a sense sometimes that some level of cronyism plays a part in the Emmy choices,” said Carolyn Finger, VP of research for TVtracker.com, which provides data and background for industry clients.

“Then you look at Wentworth Miller being nominated for a Globe,” she said of the actor who stars in “Prison Break” on Fox. “He’s new, young and hot. At the same time, I was happy to see Kyra Sedgwick nominated for best actress, drama, for ‘The Closer,’ because she’s great. With the Golden Globes there is a feeling they’re dispersing the nominations without thought to network or industry ties, that they are ‘spreading the love,’ you might say.”

Mr. Carroll agreed: “The Golden Globes cast a wider palette. There is a sense they are looking for the new, the different, the show that’s breaking out.”

But the “Desperate Housewives” case muddies the argument that there is Globe influence on the Emmys. Last year Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross and Felicity Huffman from the ABC series were nominated in the Globes’ best actress, TV musical or comedy category, and Ms. Hatcher won. Many pundits thought this put Ms. Hatcher in the favored position to win as well the Emmy in the equivalent category, but Ms. Huffman took the award.

Neither group nominated Eva Longoria, who is also a lead on the series. Ms. Longoria has a Globe nomination this year.

“With Eva Longoria I think it was a case of the members just not knowing her,” Ms. Cooney said. “We were familiar with the other three actresses from their other work.”

The Golden Globes come with a suspicion factor as well. There are fewer than 100 members and few, if any,
are known to the general public. There is also the sense that the members can be swayed by parties and gifts. UPN earned its first Globe nomination ever, in the best TV series, musical or comedy category, for “Everybody Hates Chris.” The network sent DVD players along with sample episodes to each HFPA member.

Yet wooing with DVD players, parties and “screeners” is common to both the Oscars and the Emmys. It should also be said that “Chris” was considered by many analysts to be among the most promising new shows of the 2005-06 season and it earned a People’s Choice Award nomination as favorite new comedy.

“The Golden Globes does not have the same patina as an Oscar,” Ms. Finger said. “People have this desire to speak as if they’re going to see the highest-quality film. But there’s not the same imperative with TV.

“But it does make a difference for some shows because the awards come with proximity to the decisions being made about next season,” she said. “Perhaps Fox picked up ‘Arrested Development’ in its first year because the Globes recognized it.”

Mr. McPherson, as head of the entertainment division of a network, does not find a correlation between any award and a renewal order for a series, but he noted, “Whatever the analysis, [the Golden Globes event is] an important annual show. No question. It’s always a plus to get recognition.”