When it comes to predicting the Golden Globes, the only sure thing is to expect the unexpected. Hollywood Foreign Press voters are known for making bold choices (“Mozart in the Jungle,” “The Affair,” “Girls,” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” have all won top series prizes in recent years), and shining the spotlight on newcomers (“Transparent,” “Mr. Robot,” and “Homeland” all triumphed at the Globes first before going on to Emmy glory). With that in mind we’ve parsed the tea leaves on this year’s impressive line-up of TV nominees to gauge who’s out front heading into Sunday.
Television Series – Drama
For the second year in a row, HBO’s epic “Game of Thrones” is the only returning nominee in this category. But the ratings powerhouse and Emmy champ has never won. Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. voters have an affinity for flashy new entries, and this year they’ve got an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Netflix’s “The Crown” is a highbrow drama with an international angle Globe voters appreciate, while the streamer’s retro sci-fi sleeper hit “Stranger Things” was arguably the year’s buzziest show. Another sci-fi contender, HBO’s “Westworld,” proved the cabler can still find wide audiences for dramas beyond “Thrones,” and NBC’s time-jumping family drama “This Is Us” demonstrated there’s still creativity — and ratings juice — left in the network TV business. Give a slight edge to “The Crown,” but don’t count any of these shows out for the win.
Prediction: “The Crown”
Actor – Drama
Jon Hamm took the trophy last year for the final season of “Mad Men” as dapper drunk Don Draper meditated his way into TV history. This year, three returning nominees and two category first-timers vie for the honor. Liev Schreiber of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” is enjoying his fourth consecutive nom, an unusual hot streak given the HFPA’s tendency toward the new. And Bob Odenkirk (AMC’s “Better Call Saul”) and Emmy winner Rami Malek (USA’s “Mr. Robot”) also return from last year, both in their second year of eligibility. However, voters may gravitate to a fresh face, boosting the odds of Billy Bob Thornton from Amazon’s freshman legal drama “Goliath.” He won a Globe for “Fargo,” has four noms for film work, and looks like a real threat, unless voters turn to Matthew Rhys, earning his first Globe nom for the fourth season of FX’s “The Americans.” The critically acclaimed actor finally cracked the Emmy field this year and forced HFPA voters to take notice of a show they’ve been overlooking for far too long.
Prediction: Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Actress – Drama
Last year’s winner, “Empire” queen Taraji P. Henson, is MIA in a field that makes room for only one returning nominee: Starz’s “Outlander” leading lady Caitriona Balfe. Like her TV husband, Keri Russell is enjoying her first nom for FX’s “The Americans” in the show’s fourth season, but she won this category back in 1999 for her breakthrough work in “Felicity.” Winona Ryder also has a Golden Globe (for Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence”), and her first significant series TV role on Netflix’s “Stranger Things” has garnered her a first Globe TV nom as well. Evan Rachel Wood lands her third Globe nom thanks to expertly walking the line between robot and reality on HBO’s “Westworld” (she was also up for the film “Thirteen” and HBO’s “Mildred Pierce”). That leaves breakout star Claire Foy, who rules over Netflix’s royal saga “The Crown,” as the only true Globes newbie in the group — and the one to beat.
Prediction: Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Last year’s unprecedented line-up of only streaming and premium cable nominees in this category had little chance of repeating, as Globe voters couldn’t ignore FX’s hot freshman “Atlanta.” The Donald Glover creation is a critical darling and heavy favorite here. But ABC’s “Black-ish” also makes the cut, marking a return for major broadcast networks to the category for the first time since 2013 (a year when ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox all had nominees — how times have changed). The other three nominees return from last year: HBO’s Emmy favorite “Veep,” which has never won a Globe in any category, but now has its second comedy series nom; Amazon’s “Transparent,” up for its third consecutive Globe in its third season, having won in season one; and Amazon’s reigning category champ, “Mozart in the Jungle.”
Actor – Musical or Comedy
The last two winners in this category — “Transparent” star Jeffrey Tambor and “Mozart in the Jungle” lead Gael García Bernal — are both back in the running for their respective Amazon series, but only a handful of performers can claim multiple wins in this category. This year’s favorite is Donald Glover, star and creator of FX breakout “Atlanta,” who lands his first nom as his career heats up. But don’t count out “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson, in the Globes race for the first time alongside his series and co-star Tracee Ellis Ross. And then there’s a quirky nomination that’s just so Golden Globes: Nick Nolte for his star-turn in the little-seen Epix political satire “Graves.” The screen veteran has four previous Globe noms, including one win, dating back to 1976’s TV mini “Rich Man, Poor Man.”
Prediction: Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
Actress – Musical or Comedy
The previous two winners — Rachel Bloom of the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and fellow CW star Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin” — return in a prime example of how frequently the Globes differ from the Emmys, where neither of those acclaimed performances has earned a nom. Emmy favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus earns her fifth consecutive nom for HBO’s “Veep,” but has never won for the show. Nevertheless, look to the newcomers, including Globes favorite Sarah Jessica Parker — she’s a four-time winner with four additional noms — who makes the cut for HBO’s freshman “Divorce.” ABC’s “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross lands her first Globe nom in a big year overall for her series, but it’s Parker’s HBO schedule-mate Issa Rae, the face and the voice of cult favorite “Insecure,” who fits the recent winning pattern of breakout talent.
Prediction: Issa Rae (“Insecure”)
Limited Series or Movie
There may be no safer bet than FX’s Emmy-winning “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” which leads all small-screen contenders this year with five total nominations. But if there’s an upset, AMC’s “The Night Manager” is right behind with four noms. It could be a dark-horse surprise if HFPA voters feel “O.J.” has already been rewarded enough given its Emmy triumph. Or there’s HBO’s “The Night Of,” which landed three noms, and is the only nominee that voters can honor before the Emmys have their chance. ABC’s “American Crime,” up for a second consecutive year, and Starz’s “The Dresser,” the only TV movie in the race, round out the category.
Prediction: “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Actor – Limited Series or Movie
Here’s where the limited race gets interesting. Courtney B. Vance, of FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” already has an Emmy for his indelible portrayal of Johnnie Cochran and should be the favorite. But Tom Hiddleston lands his first-ever Globe nom as the suave spy at the center of AMC’s “The Night Manager” and is exactly the kind of likable rising star HFPA voters love to celebrate. Remember, Oscar Isaac won the category last year for HBO’s “Show Me a Hero” before missing out on an Emmy nom. At the time, he was also on the big screen in the latest “Star Wars” movie, which could benefit another nominee this year: “Rogue One” player Riz Ahmed, up for HBO’s “The Night Of.” Ahmed’s co-star John Turturro is also nominated for his much-praised work in the acclaimed examination of the criminal justice system. And then there’s Bryan Cranston, who collects Globe nom number seven for a powerhouse portrayal of political icon Lyndon Johnson in HBO’s “All the Way.”
Prediction: Tom Hiddleston (“The Night Manager”)
Actress – Limited Series or Movie
After creating one of those infamous Golden Globe watercooler moments by crowning Lady Gaga last year, the HFPA has an unimpeachable line-up this time out. Emmy winner Sarah Paulson is the presumptive favorite for her celebrated work as Marcia Clark on FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” She’s been nominated for two prior Globes without a win. Previous Globe winner Felicity Huffman earns her second nom for ABC’s “American Crime,” and previous nominee Kerry Washington is up for HBO’s “Confirmation.” But if anyone were to upset Paulson it would likely be a left-field pick such as ingenue Riley Keough, the riveting center of Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience,” or veteran Charlotte Rampling, landing the first Globe nom of her career with BBC America’s “London Spy.”
Prediction: Sarah Paulson (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”)
There’s an epic showdown brewing between Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown, the heart of FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” and John Lithgow, the scene-stealing standout of Netflix’s “The Crown.” And there’s a potential spoiler in the mix in the form of two-time Globe winner Hugh Laurie, up this year for AMC’s “The Night Manager.” That probably leaves last year’s winner, Christian Slater of USA’s “Mr. Robot,” and the category’s biggest name — John Travolta, another two-time Globe winner, earning his eighth nomination for “People v. O.J.” — as underdogs in the race.
Prediction: Sterling K. Brown (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”)
The only acting category in film or television where every nominee is a first-timer at the Globes, any one of these ladies could expect to hear her name called. Two of them — Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz — hail from the same show, NBC’s breakout “This Is Us,” potentially splitting the vote, while another — Thandie Newton — is also on a drama series nominated in its first year, HBO’s “Westworld.” HBO has a second contender in “Game of Thrones’ ” formidable queen Cersei, Lena Headey, who lands the show’s second-ever acting nom in Globes history. And the sole nominee not from an ongoing drama series is Olivia Colman, so spellbinding in AMC’s “The Night Manager.”
Prediction: Thandie Newton (“Westworld”)