Special Report Golden Globes: Broadcast Networks on the Comeback Trail

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

The re-emergence of the commercial broadcast networks in the nominations for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 64th Annual Golden Globe Awards took a bit of the attention away from usual runaway leader HBO this year, convincing foreign journalists to observe that the old guard may finally be joining the vanguard.

“Perhaps this means that the broadcast networks’ taste is catching up with our tastes,” said Jenny Cooney Carrillo, co-chair of the HFPA’s Television Committee and a writer for Australia’s Television Week and New Zealand’s TV Guide.

“But where the audience is concerned, I think this shows that they are getting into things that are not so generic,” she said. “Series such as `My Name Is Earl’ and `Ugly Betty’-these are also shows that the actors can sink their teeth into.”

HBO did, indeed, top the list in total nominations again this year with 14; and Showtime, which has often lagged behind in awards recognition, scored six nods, including four for its series “Weeds.” But ABC, powered by four nominations for “Grey’s Anatomy” and three for “Desperate Housewives,” had 11 total, and NBC’s offerings combined for nine, including two each for “Heroes” and “The Office.”

“We go through cycles, but I think it’s fair to say that the Globes demonstrate that the broadcast networks have regained some vitality in terms of series TV,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television Group.

Ms. Cooney Carrillo noted that CBS’s mere one nomination and Fox’s three reflect that those networks “are programming for the wider audiences, and I don’t think that’s our membership.”

“Where pay TV and cable have the upper hand is in movies and miniseries, a business that broadcast really isn’t in much any longer-except for PBS, which is represented in the nominations,” Mr. Carroll said. “In those categories you see HBO and cable networks dominating.”

Indeed, cable networks were hardly overlooked, particularly in the long-form categories, where even AMC-not known as a frequent venue for original programming-had three nominations for its first TV long-form, “Broken Trail,” including one for its star, Robert Duvall.

“For TV nominations, you can see that television has been able to attract the same caliber of performers as feature films,” noted Mr. Carroll.

An unusually large number of actors are nominated for work in both TV programming and feature films, raising a question as to whether the barrier that once existed between the media is dissolving.

Annette Bening, Helen Mirren and Toni Collette all received nominations in both the feature film and TV categories-Ms. Mirren with two TV nods-as did the lesser-known Emily Blunt and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ms. Blunt burst onto the American scene this year with key roles in “The Devil Wears Prada” on the big screen and “Gideon’s Daughter” on BBC America; Mr. Ejiofor, also from Britain and already an emerging star, was recognized for HBO’s “Tsunami, The Aftermath” and the big screen’s “Kinky Boots.”

Other big-screen nominees, such as Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Ferrell and Eddie Murphy, received their early exposure on TV even if they now work less frequently in the medium.

“The number of actors with nominations in both TV and feature film categories demonstrates once and for all that the lines between the two has not just blurred, they really no longer exist,” said personal manager and attorney Michael Wallach, author of the popular motivational book for actors “How to Get Arrested,” which will be published in a new edition from SCB Distributors in summer 2007.

“We’ve seen it happening for quite some time, but when the Golden Globes has so many actors with film and TV nominations, it now says to actors, `Hey, there are no rules. Go for the best part. Take what intrigues you.’ And the audience is all the better off for it.”

Another recent trend has been the disappearance of the time delay between the domestic premieres of U.S. shows and their appearance overseas. In previous years foreign audiences saw U.S. programs well after their domestic debut, but nowadays shows premiere in overseas territories almost simultaneously with their U.S. premieres. For the HFPA members that means they are voting on shows that quite possibly already have a fan base among their audiences. This could have some influence on the voting, noted Ms. Cooney Carrillo, and foreign TV executives seem to agree.

“The Golden Globes are beginning to mean more for the ordinary person in the street,” said Jeff Ford, director of acquisitions and Film4 for Channel 4, the powerhouse U.K. network, which has scored a ratings bonanza with perennial Globes favorite “Desperate Housewives,” among other series.

“To me it has always been important,” he said. “All TV nominations are important, though it does mean the shows will travel well across the pond to the U.K.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ford added, “Depending on the show and how we are selling it to the public” a Golden Globe nomination can be useful for promotional purposes in the U.K., as it can be for U.S. networks.

The awards ceremony, which airs in the U.S. on NBC, is also seen in more than 150 foreign markets.

All 85-plus members of the HFPA choose Golden Globes in a two-vote system. In the fall, members are sent a ballot with reminders as to which programs and performances qualify. They then can list five choices in each category, from which the nominees are compiled.

The actual ballot that determines the winner-in which every member votes from the announced nominees-is not due at HFPA headquarters in West Hollywood until five days before the Jan. 15 telecast.

While the ratings for the Globes broadcast have been dipping in recent years, as they have for all awards-based specials, they have not been eroding by as much as those for other awards shows, including the Daytime Emmys and Primetime Emmys, Ms. Cooney Carrillo said that’s because “the audience tunes in to watch the stars have a good time together and to see the blend of feature and TV stars together.”

“The TV stars love to be seated right there next to the feature stars,” she added. “It’s another way in which the lines have blurred between the two-and last year some of the best moments came from the TV people.”

Another reason for audience interest, aside from NBC selling the show as a preamble to the Academy Awards, which happen about six weeks later, is that unlike the Emmys, the Golden Globes offer no TV awards other than those for either productions or performers. The audience knows the faces that are on the stage.

And Ms. Cooney Carrillo noted that the event takes place in banquet style with wine pouring freely, which she said “does kind of lubricate the fun.”