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Golden Globes Get Weird, Get British and Occasionally Get It Right in TV

Variety logo Variety 1/9/2017 Daniel Holloway
© Provided by Variety

Hours before the Golden Globe Awards kicked off Sunday in Beverly Hills, CW president Mark Pedowitz announced at the Television Critics Association winter press tour that he had renewed the bulk of his network’s fall lineup. Among the seven shows picked up for 2017-18 were two — “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” — that arguably may not still be on the air if their lead performers hadn’t won best TV comedy actress Golden Globes in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Those wins were unexpected at the time they happened, and helped raise the profiles of two shows that got glowing reviews but needed an extra lift to rise above the too-much-TV fray.

The Globes have a penchant for such pleasant surprises. They also yield a lot of WTF moments. A lot.

Case in point, Sunday night. The 2017 Globes served up well-deserved wins for shows such as “Black-ish” and “Atlanta” that represent the best of TV. But it was the head-scratchers that stood out. None was more head-scratching-ish than the first award of the night.

It would be unfair to say that Billy Bob Thornton’s win for Best Actor in a Drama Series came for work that was liked by neither critics nor audiences. After all, nobody knows how audiences feel about “Goliath,” because Amazon won’t say how big those audiences are. But critics met David E. Kelley’s legal serial with a resounding “meh.” The series drew a 65 score on the review aggregator Metacritic, and the lack of buzz it has generated in comparison to other Amazon offerings such as “Transparent” and “Catastrophe” matches that middling number. Thornton’s win appears to play to clichés about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s love affair with movie stars and foreign actors slumming it in TV. The same might go for Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, and Tom Hiddleston’s wins for “The Night Manager,” the lavish BBC miniseries that was an outsize hit in the U.K., but flew under the radar on AMC in the U.S.

But big names in TV are no longer a novelty, as the Globes demonstrated. (Yes, that was Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon promoting their upcoming HBO miniseries together.) And TV hasn’t been Hollywood’s creative slum for years. As “La La Land” — the film business’ note to self about how people used to really like movie musicals — racked up awards against a shallow pool of competition, Globes voters’ TV choices were made all the more confusing by the fact that the idiot-box categories were so stacked with amazing work. Among the shows that were beat out in the “Goliath” and “Night Manager” categories — “The Night Of,” “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Mr. Robot,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Americans,” “Game of Thrones,” and “This Is Us.” That pile of bodies says plenty about the state of television today versus film. It says more, frankly, than the list of winners does.

“The Night Manager” was part of a British invasion that saw Netflix’s “The Crown” take Globes in the Best Drama Series category and in Best Television Drama Actress for Claire Foy. But in both cases there was little surprise. “The Crown” played like a Masterpiece drama on steroids, and entered its first Globes competition as a deserving frontrunner.

What was surprising was the goose egg that HBO walked out of the Beverly Hilton holding. The premium channel drew the most nominations — 14 — of any TV network or streaming service. But it failed muster a win anywhere, despite the continued power of “Game of Thrones,” the emergence of “Westworld,” and critical adoration for “The Night Of.” It is difficult to imagine such a shutout happening at the Emmys.

Where the Globes were at their best Sunday night was early on, post-Thornton, pre-Brits, when it recognized “Atlanta” as best comedy series and Tracee Ellis Ross of “Black-ish” as best comedy-series actress. Ross thanked ABC for allowing “Black-ish” to “show the magic and the beauty and the sameness of a story and stories that are outside of where the industry usually looks.”

Glover, who created “Atlanta,” was arguably the night’s single biggest winner in TV, also taking home the last television award of the night, for best comedy actor. With his dual victories, Glover continues to breakout into superstardom. The “Community” alum wrapped up last year by landing the role of Lando Calrissian in an upcoming “Star Wars” spin-off movie for Disney.

Lando is a big deal. But he’s also a supporting character in what is arguably the most corporate franchise in film at a time when franchise pieces are film’s primary menu item. It’s television — FX, to be specific — that allowed Glover to create and star in a weird half-hour series that treads the line between drama and comedy and manages to be unlike anything else on screen at a time when there is more television than ever to choose from. Recognizing an achievement like that is the opposite of a head-scratcher.

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