The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has long been fond of nominating new TV shows for Golden Globe contention, feting such acclaimed series as AMC’s “Mad Men” and ABC’s “Modern Family” during their freshman seasons.
But this year the HFPA went even newer, plucking two little-seen, off-the-radar cable shows from near oblivion; Showtime’s “Episodes” fielded tepid ratings and HBO was ready to axe “Enlightened” prior to the Globes nom.
While HFPA’s picks reaffirm its commitment to fledgling smallscreen fare — and its tradition of edging out past winners to make room for the new; “Mad Men” wasn’t eligible this time around — it’s also left crix and auds wondering what it is about the two fringe series that has so entranced foreign voters.
“I can only think that the HFPA has clearly acknowledged what I did on first reading David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik’s scripts,” posits Jimmy Mulville, exec producer of “Episodes,” a satirical, behind-the-scenes send-up of the making of a TV series starring Matt LeBlanc as a pampered, navel-gazing version of his real-life self. “The script was comedy writing of the highest order, about a well-defined world populated with great characters, great storylines and, of course, scintillating — and painfully recognizable — dialogue.”
According to Mulville, the series’ most obvious draw for HFPA’s international voting pool is that its two lead protagonists, played by Stephan Mangan and Tamsin Greig, are British writer-producers who become disillusioned with Hollywood.
“The device of having two foreign observers in the shape of Sean and Beverly, our British couple, shines a light on the craziness of Hollywood and gives the show a wonderful cutting edge,” says Mulville. “Maybe some members of the HFPA could identify with some of the situations and feelings of our two Brits who suffer for their craft.”
Mike White, creator and star of “Enlightened,” says when it comes to professional accolades, what matters most is not the number of people who tune into a show but the level of their enthusiasm.
“Not everybody has seen the show but the people that do watch it on a regular basis have been really, really passionate about it,” says White of the series, which casts Laura Dern in the role of an aggressively optimistic, emotionally ravaged sales exec who attempts to change the world but winds up alienating everybody in the process. Dern’s bold, risk-taking performance no doubt helped to reel in the HFPA, declares White.
“To me it was really important to not let her be this sanctimonious saint,” White says. “Because I know this kind of person in real life. They are compassionate and want to make changes, but they’re in your face. It’s a really complicated character.”
Regarding the Globes nom, White is definitely psyched. “HBO believed in ‘Enlightened’ but for whatever reason feet were dragging so far as picking up the show,” he says. “So it was definitely huge for us — and totally unexpected — when the show got nominated. The nomination gives us more than just the opportunity to stick around for another season; it gives people a chance to check it out and see what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish. And for that I’m so grateful.”
Showtime scored a critical and ratings coup with “Homeland,” another first-time Globe contender for best drama series. The deft psychological thriller boasts a complex lead heroine in Claire Danes’ bi-polar CIA operative, who embarks on a furious (and madly frustrating) quest to prove that an American Iraq War hero is an Islamic terrorist plotting an attack on U.S. soil.
Per “Homeland” exec producer Howard Gordon, the series won favor with the HFPA for its universal themes that extend far beyond Hollywood’s insular red-carpeted boundaries.
“It’s a show that has the broader appeal more so than just an American appeal,” Gordon says. “It’s about issues we’re all dealing with in every country.”
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