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Golden Globes nominees avoid obvious pitfalls, but won't restore awards' luster

Snoop Dogg presents the nominees for Best Performance By An Actor during the 79th Annual Golden Globe Award nominations at The Beverly Hilton.
Kevin Winter
Getty Images
Snoop Dogg presents the nominees for Best Performance By An Actor during the 79th Annual Golden Globe Award nominations at The Beverly Hilton.

In perhaps a sign of just how long the road will be for the Golden Globes to crawl back into Hollywood's good graces, the nominations announcement was led by a famous face who isn't primarily known for work in film or TV: rap legend Snoop Dogg.

Snoop, cool as he is, stumbled over the names of quite a few nominees, including megastar Ben Affleck. (He was, however, styling a knit cap emblazoned with the word "murder.") He also didn't give any indication why he was chosen to read these nominees in the first place – other than perhaps being the best-known Black celebrity willing to overlook the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's past scandals and bring a little star power, which was not the best look.

But beyond the HFPA's year of controversy – including exposés revealing allegations of corruption and the fact that the group's members in early 2021 didn't include any Black people – the current nominations for the 79th annual Golden Globe Awards needed to make an urgent argument:

Why should we still care about this awards show?

Predictable nominations don't make case for relevance

It's tough to see how the nominations revealed for films and TV shows in 2021 — which weren't particularly groundbreaking — argue for the Globes' influence, especially on the television side. I wrote in February about how the TV nominees for 2020 pointedly excluded a show that landed on many critics' best of the year lists and starred a Black woman: Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You.

At least, this year's nominees didn't repeat that mistake, with several Black-led series receiving nods, including Amazon Prime Video's The Underground Railroad for best limited series and Netflix's Lupin and FX's Pose for best drama.

Last time, no Black woman was named in the Globes' 20 slots for acting nominations in television. Now, Uzo Aduba and Michaela Jae Rodriguez were nominated as best actresses in a drama for their work on HBO's In Treatment and Pose, respectively. In comedy, Issa Rae from HBO's Insecure and Tracee Ellis Ross from ABC's Black-ish got nods for best actress.

But, aside from nominations for Lupin and FX's Native American-led comedy Reservation Dogs, there wasn't much of a sense that the Globes were elevating new voices or shows into the awards season conversation. The most nominated TV shows – HBO's Succession, Apple TV+'s The Morning Show and Ted Lasso, Hulu's Dopesick and The Great – all have that combination of big stars, industry buzz and/or international ties that usually result in attention from the Globes.

If anything, perhaps the controversy pushed the Globes into paying attention to shows it should have championed anyway. Since the HFPA is a collection of critics and journalists working for outlets based outside the U.S., it follows that they should have nominated South Korea's blockbuster Netflix hit Squid Game and France's popular Lupin.

Similarly, the most-nominated films – Kenneth Branagh's Belfast, Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog and Adam McKay's Don't Look Up – are also considered Oscar contenders already. Though these Globes nominations did include two women in the best director category – Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Lost Daughter and Campion – the previous cycle saw three women nominated in that category, including Regina King and eventual winner Chloe Zhao.

Even this cycle's snubs — which included no nods for Adam Driver or Al Pacino from House of Gucci (superstar Lady Gaga, was nominated as best actress in a drama, of course), Meryl Streep in Don't Look Up and Jennifer Hudson's turn as Aretha Franklin in Respect – weren't that surprising. Because they mostly made sense.

One surprise: streaming service Netflix got the most nominations overall and the most nominations in film. But the most nominations in TV went to HBO, followed by Hulu and Netflix. Continuing the domination of streaming and cable in awards ceremonies, ABC was the only broadcast network to get any nominations, thanks to nods for the two leads from its comedy, Black-ish.

Why does the Golden Globes exist?

The HFPA insists it has changed to address past criticisms, adding 21 new members — including six Black people — along with a list of other reforms distributed to journalists with their list of nominees.

In the past, the Globes offered a few advantages: It was one of the first major awards ceremonies to announce winners in the film industry, helping assess which work might be contenders for later honors. Their ceremony was famously informal, with nominees encouraged to drink and get loose on camera, drawing a fun distinction with the more stuffy Academy Awards.

And in TV, despite a preference for shows that featured big movie stars and British actors, they could honor deserving talents before the Emmys got around to it — giving awards to Mad Men star Jon Hamm and Amazon's groundbreaking dramedy Transparent.

But times have changed. The scandal led NBC to drop televising the awards ceremony on Jan. 9; the HFPA said nothing during its nominations presentation about how the winners will be announced.

So there likely won't be images of tipsy stars breaking the rules on a nationwide broadcast – unless they show up at the Critics' Choice Awards, which also take place on Jan. 9 and will be televised by The CW network.

Those of us who track these things have groused for a while about odd choices the HFPA often made in Golden Globe nominations and winners — wondering why a group which now boasts just over 100 members should garner such attention from Hollywood and the media.

If they hope to bring the Globes back to its previous status, they will have to find a new niche for their awards that elevates something other awards shows aren't already honoring. This year's batch of nominees shows that level of rebuilding may still be a long ways in the future.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.