When it came to honoring the best in television this year, the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. could have nominated “When They See Us,” a limited series about the so-called Central Park Five — a group of five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of rape and spent years in prison before their eventual exoneration.
The Netflix drama, co-written and directed by Ava DuVernay, deals with thorny, uniquely American issues of race and the criminal justice system — themes that resonate in the present day, especially given the role Donald Trump played in fanning the flames of outrage as the case made headlines in 1989. “When They See Us” was one of the best reviewed shows of 2019, earning 16 Emmy nominations.
Even the series’ young star, Jharrel Jerome, was passed over for a nomination, despite winning an Emmy in September for his wrenching performance as Korey Wise, who at the age of 16 was tried and convicted as an adult and faced a harrowing ordeal in prison.
Also passed over were several other performers of color who made a mark in TV this year, including Regina King, who plays a Tulsa, Okla., police detective in HBO’s alternate-history drama “Watchmen,” and Zendaya, whose depiction of a 17-year-old recovering drug addict in the edgy teen drama “Euphoria,” also on HBO, had been considered a strong awards contender.
Out of 40 acting slots, only three nonwhite performers — and zero women of color — were nominated: Billy Porter for “Pose” (FX), Rami Malek for “Mr. Robot” (USA) and Ramy Youssef for “Ramy” (Hulu).
This, apparently, was the year of #GlobesSoWhite — at least when it came to TV. The 90 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., who hail from more than 50 countries around the world, are an idiosyncratic bunch. Projects dealing with distinctly American themes don’t always resonate with this organization, which tends to have a weakness for big stars and European actors over unknowns.
Rather than nominating “When They See Us,” Globes voters recognized “Catch-22,” a high-profile adaptation of the Joseph Heller novel. Starring George Clooney, who also directed several episodes, the World War II satire was largely met with indifference when it was released by Hulu this spring. Christopher Abbott also secured a nomination for his portrayal of a bombardier desperate to complete his missions in the waning days of the war.
Showtime miniseries “The Loudest Voice,” about the rise and fall of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, also was nominated for limited series, despite mixed reviews, as was its lead, Russell Crowe, who played the late media titan.
In a year when fact-based tales dominated this category, other nominees included “Unbelievable” (Netflix), which follows a young woman accused of making a false rape allegation and the detectives on the hunt for a serial predator; “Fosse/Verdon” (FX), about the complex relationship between director Bob Fosse and his wife, actress Gwen Verdon; and “Chernobyl” (HBO), about the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine, which won the Emmy this year.
The snub of “When They See Us” did not go unnoticed on social media, where the subject began to trend Monday morning. Steven Canals, co-creator of “Pose” (which also was overlooked for drama series), made a veiled reference to the snub.
But DuVernay herself brushed off any suggestion she might be upset that the series was shut out at the Golden Globes. “These things are a cherry on top. The sundae is yummy with or without it. And this one has been particularly delicious,” she said on Twitter. She also responded positively to seeing “When They See Us” trending. “More light on the Exonerated 5 and the system of mass criminalization this nation has constructed,” she tweeted.
Though it tends to favor the shiny and new, the HFPA also overlooked “Watchmen,” HBO’s audacious first-year drama series. A loose adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, which presents an alternate history of the United States and deals head-on with the legacy of white supremacy and racism, the series has been widely praised by critics, as has its star, Regina King.
And while the buzz surrounding “Orange Is the New Black” has faded in recent years, the final season of the Netflix prison dramedy included several timely story lines about immigration and detention that earned critical praise but little love from the HFPA.
The group also snubbed the final season of “Veep.” The scathing HBO satire doesn’t deal extensively with race (or have a particularly diverse cast) but it does revel in the minute, absurd details of American politics in a way that may be off-putting to those who live well outside the Beltway. The comedy, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, has been nominated seven times but never won a Golden Globe.