Golden Globes: Ahead of the Crowd

Foreign press has a knack for identifying breakthrough shows
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What do John Goodman, Jerry Seinfeld and Jane Wyman have in common? None
of them have won a single Emmy for acting, but all three have been honored with
Golden Globes.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has a long tradition of
bestowing the glitzy statue on actors and shows that have been overlooked by
the Emmys. That means there could be some surprises on Dec. 13 when the group
announces nominees for its 2005 awards.

Since the group started handing out awards for TV programming in 1956,
when honorees included Dinah Shore, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, it has
developed a knack for identifying breakthrough shows. The Sopranos won the Golden Globe for Best Drama in
January 2000—almost five years before it got its Emmy.

The show has a relatively unrehearsed feel and is promoted that way.
Viewers feel that anything might happen during the telecast, partly because
there have been many gaffs over the years:

  • Two years ago, when Bono used the f-word in an acceptance speech,
    the show's producers weren't able to bleep it out of the telecast. His
    utterance drew widespread attention—and a hefty FCC fine.
  • In 2001, Dick Clark ran onto the stage to interrupt Elizabeth Taylor
    to keep her from mistakenly announcing the winner of the Best Dramatic Film
    Award without bothering to name the nominees.
  • Christine Lahti had to be pulled out of the ladies room in 1998
    when she was called up to the stage to receive an acting award.

It's not just a looser broadcast. There's more suspense. Winners
tend to be harder to predict than with the Emmys or Oscars, partly because
it's the first high-profile awards show of the year.

Those differences may have something to do with size. The Golden Globes
are selected by some 90 people, all of them journalists who work for overseas
publications. The Emmys are picked by more than 13,000 Academy of Television
Arts & Sciences members, virtually all of whom derive their livelihood from
television production.

“With the Emmys, it may be a little bit too political,” says
Judge Judy executive producer Randy Douthit.
“They've got their biases.”

A one-time broadcast journalist who has five Emmys, Douthit says the
foreign journalists who select the Golden Globe winners have some distance from
the industry, which might make them more objective than the Academy members who
vote for the Emmys.

In the 1980s, the group embraced low-brow shows that were hits in the
U.S. and overseas but failed to win the praise of critics.
Dynasty, the long-running Aaron Spelling
soap, was named Best Drama in 1984. Joan Collins and Linda Evans also received
acting awards for it.

Academy members were watching Dynasty, too, but they weren't as generous. The show
got only one Emmy: for Outstanding Costume Design in 1984.

The foreign press got pickier in the '90s. For the past 15 years, the
statues for Best Drama and Comedy have gone to shows that stood out from the
pack, often winning praise from critics but not necessarily high ratings.

“The members of the Hollywood foreign press pay very close attention
to the trends in both movies and TV,” says Barry Adelman, who produces the
Golden Globes show for Dick Clark Productions. “They are very good at
spotting things.”

Indeed, the dramas that have won since 1989 include
thirtysomething, China Beach, Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, NYPD Blue, The
X-Files, Party of Five
and The
Practice
.

In the comedy category, Sarah Jessica Parker got her first Golden Globe
for Sex and the City in January 2000 but
didn't get her Emmy until a few months ago. The
Sopranos
' James Gandolfini is another actor who was recognized
with a Golden Globe Award before winning an Emmy.

The most recent winner of the Best Comedy trophy was
The Office, a British comedy shown on BBC
America and probably seen by fewer than 1 out of every 100 Americans. It
wasn't even nominated for an Emmy.

Many shows that won Emmys for Best Comedy received Golden Globes first.
Among them: Ally McBeal,
Murphy Brown, Golden
Girls
and The Cosby Show.

A Different Sense of Humor

Sometimes, no matter how funny an American show is, the foreign press
simply yawns. They've yet to embrace Everybody Loves
Raymond
. If they don't do it this time around, they won't have a
chance since the show is going off the air after this season. “There might be
slight differences because we're foreign,” says Swiss journalist Marlene
von Arx, a voting member of the association for 10 years. “It might just
appeal to a different sense of humor.”

She takes her vote seriously. So do viewers. The Golden Globe awards
show has pulled in higher ratings than the Emmys every year since 1996,
although it's far behind the Oscars. In 2004, the gap was huge. Some 26.8
million Americans watched the Golden Globes, compared with just 13.8 million
for the Emmys. The Oscars had 43.5 million viewers this year.

Some say the Emmys are so far behind because the Golden Globes and
Oscars are more fun to watch. While the Television Academy hires a celebrity
host for each Emmys show, the Golden Globes organizers don't rely on any
single performer to energize the crowd. They say they prefer to let people feel
that it's hosted by all of Hollywood.

Stars Have a Soft Spot for the Show

Organizers bill the ceremony as an event that celebrities attend because
they want to, not out of a sense of obligation. Whether or not that's the
case, the celebrities who've been overlooked by the Emmys probably have a
soft spot for the show. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars got their first big
award in the form of a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer.

Nominated films and TV shows are generally still running when the awards
are handed out, so the Golden Globes can have influence. (That's not the case
with the Emmys, which are traditionally held before the start of the fall
season, which is generally too late to watch many of the nominated shows.)

The awards have come a long way since the first statues were handed out
by a small group of journalists in 1944.

When they're handed out on Jan. 16 at the Beverly Hilton, Robin
Williams is scheduled to claim a Cecil B. DeMille award. Although it's early
to start handicapping winners, likely nominees include Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, Lost and Kevin
Hill
.

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