The Golden Globes were conspicuously elevated to a new level in the mid-1990s, when Dick Clark sold NBC on the broadcast rights, causing ratings to soar and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s critics to grudgingly accept its influence. Yet in terms of recognizing creativity, the awards have come into their own, in part by embracing a more global view, at a time when some of entertainment’s old barriers and prejudices — even in television — are breaking down.
The movie industry, certainly, has awoken to the fact that its lens can no longer be confined to the U.S. That’s especially true in regard to movies that, admittedly, don’t carry much awards prestige, since Transformers blowing stuff up translates pretty easily into any language.
Television, however, has traditionally been deemed both smaller in scale and more culturally specific. Americans, moreover, were seen as being resistant to international fare, to the point when not so long ago hearing accents was usually a signal that somebody was receiving a sizable tax credit — and other incentives associated with shooting abroad — to help subsidize production.
So what’s changed? For starters, the fragmentation of the TV audience and proliferation of players hungry for original content has made programs with niche followings more viable. Simultaneously it’s made programmers receptive to acquiring series that didn’t originate in the U.S. Streaming services have been particularly aggressive on this score, exposing discerning viewers to a wider variety of programs. That even includes series with subtitles, from streaming original Danish drama “Forbrydelsen” — the series that inspired AMC’s “The Killing” — to SundanceTV’s acquisition of the French-language “The Returned” and Germany’s “Deutschland 83.”
As New York Times critic Neil Genzlinger recently noted, “The age of television abundance is also increasingly an age without geographic boundaries,” one where viewers in the U.S. are no longer limited to whatever PBS and (more recently) BBC America choose to bring Stateside.
Notably, this year’s Globes will air opposite another series, “Downton Abbey,” which has helped demonstrate a potential appetite for British costume drama that has gone far beyond the customary tune-in for “Masterpiece” fare. And the Globe nominations — as always, somewhat tilted toward Europeans — highlight the breadth of work being done, to the point where, in the TV supporting actor category, Christian Slater (“Mr. Robot”) is the only performer with a U.S. passport, joined by Damian Lewis, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Cumming and Tobias Menzies.
Other notable nominees include Netflix’s “Narcos” and its star, Wagner Moura, whose dialogue is entirely in Spanish; Menzies’ “Outlander” co-star Caitriona Balfe, as well as the Starz drama itself; plus Gael Garcia Bernal for Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle.” And one can argue, frankly, that even some homegrown entries on smaller platforms — such as Amazon’s “Transparent” and Hulu’s “Casual” — possess an almost European sensibility in their understated, melancholy approach.
The Globes being the Globes — and perhaps more mindful of Q Scores than anything except the People’s Choice Awards — these selections are mixed in with plenty of higher-profile and more-watched competition, including the mega-hits “Game of Thrones” (itself a pretty international endeavor) and “Empire.”
Still, this year’s awards do reflect a gradual shift toward a TV menu that’s less parochial. And if that doesn’t qualify as a revolution just yet, given the combination of economic necessity and the thirst for talent, the nominations at least symbolically demonstrate how rapidly the more narrowly defined television of yesterday is giving way to a whole new world.