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Golden Globes: What HFPA Gets Right in its 2015 TV Noms

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is sort of the journalistic equivalent of the College of Cardinals. A small but powerful group of older individuals, representing territories across the globe, secretly conducts their voting while the world waits (and in one case, wakes up before dawn) to discover what they’ve decided.

Both organizations, however, occasionally come up with interesting choices and, like the current head man at the Vatican, this year’s Golden Globes would seem to fit that description in terms of the nominated TV programs.
That’s no small feat, given how challenging TV has become, with series that are hard to categorize, and an overflowing bounty of worthy contenders.

In one respect, the Globes were able to be more nimble than the Television Academy, which provides producers considerable latitude in determining how they want to submit their progeny. By contrast, the HFPA pushed “True Detective” into the movie/miniseries category – where it rightfully belonged – freeing up spots in the drama series race for actors representing other programs.

Even some of the Globes’ historic biases and inherent blind spots have generally worked to the awards’ advantage, at least this year.

These include, but aren’t limited to, a habit of nominating stars wherever possible — not always a bad thing, given the meaty roles that are luring them to TV; spreading the wealth to multiple networks, which merely reflects how many channels and streaming alternatives are underwriting topnotch material; and a fondness toward Europeans, which is perfectly justified, given both the number of splendid British programs reaching U.S. shores and talent, such as “The Affair’s” Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, shedding their accents to headline American series.

As a consequence, the Globes’ 15 nods for drama series, actor and actress recognized 10 different programs, with 11 earning recognition on the comedy side. Among networks, 13 have at least one dog on the fight in the presentation’s 11 TV categories, including Netflix and Amazon.

Globes voters also capitalized on the movie/miniseries field (which creates its own strange bedfellows, but never mind) to load up on names with feature credentials, especially with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson under that umbrella. And while offerings like Cinemax’s “The Knick” and SundanceTV’s “The Honorable Woman” garnered considerable critical praise, one could still count on the HFPA to reach out to those lesser channels and offer Clive Owen and Maggie Gyllenhaal, respectively, a reason to attend its party.

In the past, the TV awards tended to be viewed as a pleasant afterthought for the Golden Globes. Because the program derives much of its cachet from its position as a possible predictor of the Academy Awards (even if those credentials have been sketchy in recent years), television provided a kind of zesty garnish to the main event. One need only look at the order of the presentations (the TV categories are usually all but exhausted about halfway through) to see where the priorities lie.

Nevertheless, with all the terrific work being done in TV having fostered a dialogue about its cultural importance relative to the movie business – and its prestige work generating enormous passion among viewers – that second-class status has changed.

A cynic, of course, would say the Globes essentially uses TV to further its primary objective, which is to cast the most star-studded awards show possible. Yet however they got there, the truth is when the smoke finally cleared, the nominations wound up in a pretty good place.

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