With the Emmys behind us and the film award season heating up, it can be easy to forget that television is still on the hot seat, thanks to the Golden Globes' inclusionary approach to handing out prizes.
Yet the Golden Globes are not the Emmys in any number of ways, which means campaign approaches have to shift with the season. Not every popular or well-received American TV series has a real shot, and some with a low profile get singled out each year. The pool of several dozen Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. voters who choose winners for the Globes is a much smaller target to please than the approximately 14,500 who make up the final voting body of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. A show that is beloved by the academy can go utterly ignored by the Globes — and it can have nothing to do with quality.
Take "Breaking Bad," the AMC series with four acting Emmys and just a single nomination from the Globes. The subject matter of the show, senses creator and show runner Vince Gilligan, may be a sticking point for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.
"Meth does not travel well," he says. The series may have been sold in 178 countries, but it just hasn't made a dent on the international scene yet. "I'd love to say we're sweeping Europe and the rest of the world," he adds, "but if we are, we're moving like kudzu."
It's impossible to ignore that "foreign" part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. when considering what its critical voting body is interested in. Shows may be largely created for and airing on American networks, and quality is important, but a show with no international presence or content can be at a disadvantage come nomination time.
"Because of who makes up the voting there, the Globes have a more European sensibility," says Craig Zisk, executive producer of Showtime series including "United States of Tara," for which star Toni Collette — an Australian actress largely known for her American-accented roles — won her a Golden Globe in 2010. "Cable shows play better for that audience, where you don't have traditional storytelling, or follow a procedural. [Globe voters] lean more toward storytelling than big jokes."
Locations can draw the attention of potentially homesick Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. voters: USA Network outlier "Covert Affairs" took its spy stories to Istanbul, Turkey; Paris; Stockholm; Berlin; and Venice, Italy, all in the first season. The show, which went unnoticed by the television academy, garnered an acting Globe nomination last year for star Piper Perabo. "She uses a lot of languages [on the show], and on some level that may have been appreciated," says executive producer Chris Ord.
"I believe there's a natural sympathy toward shows with accents or that have international reach," says Perry Simon, general manager at BBC America, which has four Golden Globes. "Ultimately, they are foreign journalists and may have a more natural inclination to shows like ours."
Still, there's more to getting noticed than throwing a British lead into your lineup; Tom O'Neil of the awards-chronicling GoldDerby.com says Golden Globe voters' "chief job is to track the hottest new trends in pop culture, film and TV. They're looking for emerging superstars and sexy new talent."
He notes that in the past, series that win multiple awards are often "cool stuff": "The X-Files," "Sex and the City," and the actors are often up-and-comers such as Claire Danes, who won her first Globe in 1995 for "My So-Called Life" as a teenager.
"The Emmys are a little more mainstream and populist, whereas the Golden Globes sometimes tend to observe more niche programming because of the nature of their voting body and process," says the BBC's Simon, who notes that his network has even changed the timing of its series to run alongside the nomination and voting process for the Globes.
Because, in the end, the Globes do matter. A Globe win early on can have a strong effect on a series' future ratings numbers and at the next Emmys: "Ally McBeal" hadn't quite broken big in 1998 when it won a series Golden Globe, and, according to O'Neil, "after that, ratings jumped 50%. The Globes made it a must-see experience for America; later that year it won at the Emmys."
Yet with any voting body there's no guarantee of anything no matter how you interpret trends or tendencies. Katey Sagal's biker mama role in FX's "Sons of Anarchy" earned her a win last year, trumping Julianna Margulies, Elisabeth Moss and even the accent-friendly Perabo.
"Anarchy" show runner (and Sagal's husband) Kurt Sutter says Sagal was pleased ("it made me feel I'm not delusional") but not entirely surprised: He'd done his research even before pitching the show and knew the biker subculture was gaining popularity overseas even as it faded in the U.S. "We're the 'American Idol' of New Zealand," he says, chuckling.
And, adds Sutter, "not that the Emmy voters aren't smart enough to get it, but I do think there's an awareness on the part of the foreign press to have an appreciation or a more discerning eye for what's different or out of the box."