Films have always been the main event at the Golden Globe Awards. Movie stars occupy the tables near the stage, while TV winners often face a long hike from the back of the Beverly Hilton's ballroom to accept their statuettes.
But with more shows and networks scrambling for an ever scarcer audience, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s boozy bash has become a major TV launching pad. The group's willingness to embrace the new — evident this year in an abundance of nominations for streaming networks — is making its television trophies increasingly vital in helping less established shows and platforms find an audience.
"The Golden Globes hands down changed so much for myself and the show," said Gina Rodriguez, who won the lead actress comedy Globe last year for CW's "Jane the Virgin." "It gave us a visibility for many who weren't drawn to the CW network most likely because they believed they weren't the demographic. After the Globes, many checked it out and saw how the CW was expanding that 'demographic.'"
Heading into the ceremony Sunday night, the network with the most Globes nominations is not awards titan HBO, but Netflix. The subscription service received eight nominations, including nods for first-year series "Narcos" and "Master of None." Other upstarts did well too: Starz earned six noms, Amazon five. Meanwhile, the ceremony's broadcaster, NBC, was completely shut out.
Networks and streaming services see the Globes, which typically averages around 20 million viewers, as a way to attract an audience as well as validate their own overall standing. After Amazon's "Transparent" won the comedy series Globe last year, the service saw a "significant uptick" in viewership, Amazon Studios chief Roy Price said, both for the show and other programming.
"It was a vindication of the show and to some extent a vindication of our approach, which is to find super talented people who want to bring something new and interesting to the screen," Price added. "It was also reassuring to the creative community that their work will be recognized in a digital environment."
The Emmys, by comparison, are notorious for rubber-stamping the same winners ("Modern Family," anyone?) year after year. The HFPA likes to spread the love around.
Yes, "Mad Men" won three years in a row for drama series, but the group also recognized the "The Shield" in 2002, years before Emmy got wise to the whole cable thing. Other notable drama winners include "Grey's Anatomy" and "Nip/Tuck," both influential and groundbreaking shows that have been largely ignored by Emmy voters.
"The Emmys nominate the same shows every year, and some years those shows deserve the nominations and some years they just get there by inertia, by default," FX President John Landgraf said. "The Golden Globes tend to refresh their nominees and winners every year They're more open-minded and adventuresome about the shows that they've been willing to sample."
This year, instead of nominating settled drama favorites as "Mad Men" or "Downton Abbey," the HFPA recognized three freshman programs: "Narcos," which follows the rise of Pablo Escobar; "Mr. Robot," a critically beloved hacker drama from USA; and "Outlander," an ambitious time-travel adventure from Starz.
The category also included "Empire," Fox's hit hip-hop soap opera, whose first season began too late for consideration last year. HBO's "Game of Thrones" is the only returning nominee in the field.
The HFPA's taste in comedies and musicals has been even more idiosyncratic. While it has honored such awards favorites as "30 Rock" and "Modern Family," the group has also made unexpected choices with "Ugly Betty," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "Extras." Even by its unpredictable standards, the HFPA outdid itself this year, nominating "Veep" and "Silicon Valley" (both from HBO) along with a whopping four shows from streaming networks: "Casual" (Hulu), "Mozart in the Jungle" (Amazon), "Orange Is the New Black" (Netflix) and "Transparent" (Amazon).
"Even if something isn't necessarily a mainstream hit or a precious Hollywood industry darling, it's something that they're not afraid to endorse," said Chris Albrecht, chief executive of Starz. The premium cable network had a breakout year in the nominations.
Albrecht also suggested that the HFPA, composed of journalists who write about the entertainment business, may be more up to date with the latest shows — and less biased — than the members of other awards societies made up of "cliquey peer groups" of actors, writers, directors and other industry professionals.
"I really do feel like the HFPA, whose job it is to cover television, are the most likely people to have really watched the shows before they vote for them," Albrecht said.
The HFPA's 82 voting members take some of the cues from a three-person television committee, chaired by Australian writer Jenny Cooney. The committee organizes press conferences with TV series creators and casts, events that Cooney says can be instrumental in piquing voters' curiosity about programs.
"They are relentless," said Thomas Castaneda, an awards consultant hired by networks to court the HFPA. "When it comes to television, they are the most forward-thinking awards group."
But there's a fine line between "forward-thinking" and "jumping the gun." Some prominent members of the TV industry gripe that the HFPA sometimes favors, in one exec's words, "the new and the shiny," even if it's not warranted.
Last year, "The Affair" and its lead actress, Ruth Wilson, won Globes for the first season of the inventive show, which told the story of an adulterous relationship from the divergent perspective of each partner. This year, neither Wilson nor the series is nominated.
Not that you're ever going to hear the winners complain. Reflecting on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine's" win for comedy series two years ago, show co-creator Dan Goor says of the HFPA: "Their taste in television, especially in the year 2014, is impeccable."