Golden Globes: More New Contenders Cause Increased Voting Issues

Danielle Turchiano

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Last year, the amount of original scripted television series hit an all-time high at just under 500. This year the number is on track to top out well above that, with 154 of those shows being brand new launches for the calendar year (in a combination of ongoing series and limited events). And the kicker is that 94 of those freshmen premiered June 1 or later, making them first-time awards contenders at the 77th Annual Golden Globes.

Despite such a high volume, it should be good news for them because, as Gold Derby’s Chris Beachum puts it, historically “Globes will abandon things that won last year to get the new stuff in.”

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Last year, four out of the five dramas nominated were series seeing their first awards acclaim: Amazon Prime Video’s “Homecoming,” BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” FX’s “Pose” and Netflix’s “Bodyguard.” This year all five spots could be claimed by a true newcomer, with 44 of those new first-timers eligible in this category. (“Killing Eve” and “Pose” are eligible again, and are top contenders, but there is much more competition for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s attention.)

“The increased volume is great for the television business and is very exciting for actors and creative people, but it jeopardizes some good shows from being recognized, especially if episodes and talent haven’t been aggressively channeled to the HFPA in the past months,” says Richard Licata of Licata & Co. “The HFPA has to shift their focus after Labor Day to the feature film world, so that cuts down even more laser-focus on the new shows that are emerging.”

Most notably, there are a handful of dramatic players from Apple’s highly anticipated new streaming service, Apple TV Plus, grabbing the spotlight in this category. These include the timely Jennifer Aniston/Reese Witherspoon-starrer “The Morning Show”; Ronald D. Moore’s alternate history space exploration series “For All Mankind”; the Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard-led futuristic series “See”; and “Servant,” a psychological thriller/family drama from executive producer and director M. Night Shyamalan. Additional new contenders include Facebook Watch’s “Limetown” adaptation, starring Jessica Biel, and both Damon Lindelof’s “Watchmen” adaptation and Zendaya’s teen drug drama “Euphoria” from HBO.

“The awards process is changing along with the industry. The streaming services and the premium television networks have an advantage now because they produce all of their episodes upfront, whereas broadcast networks are still in post-production week to week to get them on the air,” Licata says. “It can sometimes help [a voter] to see the whole trajectory of the season.”

On the comedy side last year, only Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method” and Showtime’s “Kidding” were completely new to the awards circuit when they scored their nominations. But this year, there are 27 freshman awards contenders in the running in that category. Netflix alone has a doozy of a duo of contenders in “Living With Yourself,” which stars Paul Rudd in dual roles, and Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician.” Showtime, meanwhile, is also coming in strong with “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” starring and executive produced by Kirsten Dunst, after snagging that quirky period piece from YouTube. Apple TV Plus is also making a strong push for “Dickinson,” in which Hailee Steinfeld takes on the titular role of poet Emily Dickinson. And “Mad About You,” which garnered three Golden Globe noms (one win) in the comedy or musical series category during its original 1990s run, returns with a revival on Spectrum.

The limited series/TV movie race this year actually does include a familiar face in “El Camino,” Netflix’s followup movie to “Breaking Bad.” This time Aaron Paul is thrust into the lead role as his character Jesse Pinkman gets the resolution that was left hanging after the flagship series signed off in 2013. The show was a hit with the HFPA, picking up two noms (one win) for drama series, and Paul scored a supporting drama actor nom for that final season, too. It’s shaking up an otherwise always fresh race, which this year sees 23 limited series (and 10 TV movies that didn’t count toward the overall series total) as first-time contenders. Key entries include “Truth Be Told” from Apple TV Plus, which stars Octavia Spencer, Lizzy Caplan and Paul, this time in a supporting role; the relationship anthology “Modern Love” from Amazon that boasts single-episode performances by everyone from Anne Hathaway to Tina Fey to Dev Patel; Showtime’s Roger Ailes biopic “The Loudest Voice”; HBO’s historical “Catherine the Great”; Netflix’s true-life tale of a sexual assault investigation, “Unbelievable”; and a dramatic turn from Sacha Baron Cohen in that same streamer’s “The Spy.”

For any show at awards time, the essential question is, what are they doing to get in front of the voting populace? The HFPA is a small group, comprised of just under 100 journalists from around the world, so it is arguably easier for studios and networks to plan screenings, panels and other events to entice them to vote for their shows, notes Beachum. But the timing of these events is equally important.

“Early has always been the secret sauce of the Golden Globe process,” says Licata. “Truthfully if you get to September and you haven’t introduced something to them, you’re behind the eight-ball — unless something premieres out of the broadcast season that lands so spectacularly. The smart campaigners give them multiple opportunities to see the shows.”

This allows the HFPA to make informed decisions when mailing in their nomination ballots by the Nov. 25 deadline.

With such a wealth of series from which to choose, Beachum says that it is easier for a small group such as the HFPA to “be strategic and check a few [boxes] over here, a few over there” in order to ultimately offer a well-balanced ballot full of selections from multiple networks, should they want to be so political. Groups with thousands of voting members, from SAG-AFTRA to the Television Academy, are less able to maneuver as efficiently. Still, the sheer volume of content that needs to be reviewed could end up being a barrier to entry for everyone.

“There’s just tons of possibilities. I can predict five people, and it could be five other people — in at least one category. There’s just so many possibilities,” Beachum says.

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