HFPA Awards honor new TV titles first

If the Golden Globes earned their spurs as a bellwether for the Oscars, thanks to the vagaries of the calendar, the relationship between the January ceremony and TV has potentially become equally intriguing.

While the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. hasn’t been quite so reliably on the same page as the Motion Picture Academy in recent years, the ability of Globes voters to weigh in on new programs eight months in advance of the Emmys has allowed them to pounce more quickly — in a “what’s hot?” manner well suited to our caffeinated culture — on series, which are especially eager for such validation.

Granted, part of that has to do with a tendency within the HFPA — despite its reputation for skewing older than just about any group except perhaps the Fox News audience — to be drawn to that which is shiny and new.

In the past 11 years, the Globes have recognized eight first-year comedy or drama series, considerably more than the Emmys have been prone to do.

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That roster includes “Girls” a year ago, as well as “Homeland” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

In addition, the timing lets the Globes identify programs just as they are taking off, honoring “Homeland” almost immediately after its first 12-episode season ended. The Emmys would have to wait another eight months — as the less-well-regarded second season was getting under way — to its own recognition to the Showtime drama.

In addition to their penchant for prescience, there’s also a prevailing sense the HFPA voters are shrewd about maximizing ratings potential through its nominations, largely by widening its net to include as many marquee actors as possible.

Small wonder the Globes would extend nods to both Laura Dern and her mother, Diane Ladd, for the little-seen HBO series “Enlightened,” bringing additional star wattage to the proceedings, if not exactly a ratings leviathan.

The structure of the categories is also favorable in advancing that goal, with a mere 11 TV categories (by way of comparison, the Emmys honor two dozen during the primary telecast), geared almost exclusively toward programs and performers.

If there’s a down side to all this, it’s the question of whether the Globes are sometimes too quick to fete newcomers, particularly given the more complex nature of TV these days, where it’s not unusual for a promising contender to quickly veer off course.

A broadcast show that bows in September — such as past freshman winners “Desperate Housewives,” “Ugly Betty” and “Glee” — will usually have aired fewer than a dozen episodes by the time Globes balloting is conducted.

Thanks to all the jockeying for advantage that goes on prior to the Oscars and the proximity between those nominations and the Globes telecast, the voting will likely remain most closely watched for film categories, even if the overlap between them appears to have diminished.

Still, given all the praise heaped on TV these days as a primary mover of the cultural zeitgeist, the Globes find themselves with an especially good opportunity to achieve what — other than perhaps the show’s general care-free vibe — remains their top selling point: The bragging rights that come from the coveted perception of being even a step or two ahead of the curve.

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