Globes’ TV Picks Play It Safe

They used to be ahead of the curve, but now HFPA voters prefer big stars to big risks

Last Updated: December 15, 2009 @ 2:19 PM

(See the complete list of nominees.)
(Pond: Globes’ surprises are in the snubs.)

When it comes to TV, Golden Globes voters are a lot like the character of Phil Dunphy on ABC’s "Modern Family": Despite their best attempts to act cool and hip, deep down they’re pretty conventional.

Consider the lead actress in a comedy/musical category. Choosing breakout star Lea Michele from "Glee" keeps the Globes ahead of (or, in the Twitter era, right on the edge of) the curve, much like its nomination of a then-unknown Keri Russell ("Felicity") a decade ago.

But how predictable that Globes voters would nominate Monica, er, Courteney Cox for "Cougar Town"– while overlooking Amy Poehler of NBC’s "Parks and Recreation"? The "Friends" alum is doing fine work on the steadily-improving ABC series, but her nomination is more a reflection of her star power than anything else.

By contrast, Poehler this season has been shaping a character that could end up nearly as iconic as Steve Carell’s Michael Scott. A Globes nom would have represented some much-needed validation for "Parks" and would have demonstrated that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is as uber-cool as it likes to pretend it is.

Likewise, the best comedy/musical series category feels like it could have been put together by Emmy voters– three years ago. "Glee" and "Modern Family" are welcome additions, but in a year when TV comedy is finally springing back to life, the HFPA chose to play it boring by mostly nominating the usual suspects "Entourage," "The Office" and "30 Rock"– even though all three have had off-seasons this year.

Where’s the love for "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which just wrapped its most-watched season ever? And while Poehler is the star of "Parks," the strong ensemble and great storylines should have made it a contender for best comedy over its older cousin "The Office," which at this point is quickly headed into what could be the home stretch.

And then there’s "The Big Bang Theory." As long as we live in a world where "How I Met Your Mother" isn’t an awards magnet, I’m not going to get too worked up about "BBT" getting dissed.

Still, it would have been nice for the HFPA to acknowledge that CBS has the top-rated comedies on TV, and that at least two of those half-hours– "HIMYM" and "BBT"– are also critically admired, pop culture hits.

Performance-wise in the comedy categories, if the Globes were as cool as they think they are, we would have seen Aziz Ansari snag a nomination for his layered performance in "Parks." Nick Offerman also would have been a deserving nominee, but it’s clear the HFPA has never seen the show. Their loss.

On the drama front, meanwhile, it’s hard to see how HFPA voters could be so culturally tone-deaf.

Their snubs of both FX’s "Sons of Anarchy" and AMC’s "Breaking Bad" are kind of stunning, particularly given the inclusion of "House" (a good show that’s had its moment). Full disclosure: I don’t watch either show yet (although I plan to via DVD), but even I know they’re clearly both among the top five series on TV.

We’ll forgive the HFPA for not including "Lost," since awards voters overall seem clueless about the greatness of this series.

The drama actor and actress categories show some signs of spunk by the HFPA. It’s hard to argue about Glenn Close being nominated for anything, and while "The Mentalist" is hardly cutting edge TV, Simon Baker carries the show brilliantly.

Likewise, there’s nothing exciting about Carol, er, Julianna Margulies being nominated for "The Good Wife." But it’s a worthy nomination and a recognition that interesting, intelligent dramas and performances exist outside the rarefied air of cable.

But seriously: Hugh Laurie? Again? Bryan Cranston should sue.

Also a bit puzzling: No love for Patricia Heaton in "The Middle," who’s proving every week that she’s gotten even better since "Everybody Loves Raymond." Of course, such a choice would have been pretty conventional, so we can’t ding the HFPA for not playing it safe.

As for pleasant surprises, it’s great to see Jane Lynch up for supporting actress. And, with all due respect, bravo to the HFPA for avoiding another nomination for Tony Shaloub on "Monk."

In the end, however, it’s worth noting that in TV land, the Golden Globes have never really carried that much weight.

Until recently, most media coverage of the HFPA’s TV picks was limited to a few paragraphs at the end of stories. After all, while the Globes are a key part of the Oscar race, they’ve never had much impact on the Emmys and there’s no evidence they do much to move ratings.

"Today the twitics will debate an excuse for a TV special based on appx. 80 foreigners’ opinions of American television," a TV executive with the Twitter handle @maskedscheduler noted this morning, summing up how many in the small screen world feel about the Globes.

Nonetheless, in the age of saturation coverage of all things pop culture, the TV nominations are getting some more attention. As long as the HFPA continues to play it so safe, however, it’s unlikely the Globes’ stature in the TV community will increase anytime soon.