NBC needs Globes to regain stamina

Network uses annual telecast as ratings grabber

One year after the writers strike forced Hollywood to stick a pin in its biggest party, the folks involved with the Golden Globes are itching to break out the bubbly and take another crack at the kudofest.

The 2008 ceremony was reduced to a somnolent reading of the winners at a press conference. Hardly anybody tuned in, of course, and now the big question is: Will auds return this time around?

NBC certainly hopes so. The fourth-place network could use the marquee attraction of a mid-January awards show that has been a reliable ratings getter for years.

“Last year was a hiccup,” says Craig Plestis, exec VP of alternative programming, development and specials at NBC. “I think everybody will be excited about the Golden Globes and it coming back. They want to escape these days, and this is the perfect kind of programming to start the year.”

Jorge Camara, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., is optimistic as well, though he realizes there are challenges this time around.

“I hope the effect of not having a show last year will be a positive and that viewers will be curious to see something they missed last year,” Camara says. But, he allows, “We are also working on a few new ideas in terms of promotion because we want to make as many people aware as possible.”

Recent ratings have established the Golden Globes as among the most consistently top-rated awards shows.

Before it was preempted last year, the telecast had increased its audience each of the two previous years, rebounding from a 10-year low of 16.8 million to top 20 million in 2007. That made it the season’s No. 3 awards show, behind only the Oscars and Grammys.

The Golden Globes are also defying the fragmentation and erosion that are hitting most television programming in this era: Its audience in 2007 was bigger than the first year it was carried by NBC in 1996 (18.5 million).

Perhaps one of the reasons why it has thrived is that it’s not beholden to the past as much as shows such as the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys, whose histories date back to the early days of television.

“The smartest thing about the Globes is that it’s not bloated with tons of awards that people don’t care about,” says Maureen Ryan, television critic for the Chicago Tribune. “It’s more streamlined, seems like a quicker show, and it looks like the people involved are having fun.”

Barry Adelman, back for a 10th year as exec producer, says he continues to “look for new ways to make the show more star-studded and to make the intimacy of the party even stronger for viewers.”

It’s that party atmosphere, Adelman believes, that makes top talent comfortable in the ballroom. And he credits the HFPA with setting the right tone.

“The HFPA is not a stuffy, uptight group,” Adelman says. “They’re for anything as long as the integrity and respect for the nominated work is upheld.”

The show is back on Sunday after a two-year experiment on Monday — a bid primarily to get away from the peak ratings for ABC juggernaut “Desperate Housewives.” While that show still scares up big auds on the night, it no longer frightens the powers that be at the Globes.

NBC’s Plestis is hopeful that the Globes can re-establish itself as a Sunday star. The Peacock is the top-rated network on Sundays in the fourth quarter thanks to football and would like to carry over its lead into the new year.

Among the programs expected to get trumpeted most during the kudocast are “Heroes,” “The Office” and “30 Rock” as well as the net’s coverage of the Super Bowl.”

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