Critic's Notebook: 'This Is Us,' 'Westworld' Lead Shiny and New Golden Globes TV Field

Westworld Episode 5 - Evan Rachel Wood - H 2016
Courtesy of HBO

I hope the Hollywood Foreign Press Association never frequents hypnotist shows, because all you'd have to do is wave a glittery locket in front of them and they'd be collectively clucking like a chicken in no time. While other awards groups like to tinker with their formulas to yield different results, the HFPA is completely OK with the perception that they prioritize the shiny and new over the steadfast and true.

That perception is unlikely to be shifted much by Monday morning's Golden Globes TV nominations, particularly on the drama side of the ledger. 

The drama series category includes four new nominees in The Crown, Stranger Things, This Is Us and Westworld, joining returning favorite Game of Thrones. That meant that Globes voters had to eschew last year's shiny-and-new favorites like Mr. Robot (still recognized with Rami Malek), Outlander (still recognized with Caitriona Balfe), Empire and Narcos

With these five nominees, TV critics are contractually required to feel grumpy that The Americans, finally spotted by Emmy voters this year, didn't make the cut, but some of that bitterness is probably ameliorated by late notice for Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in the lead acting categories. Like the Emmys, Golden Globes voters only rarely stumble upon shows or actors late in their runs, so this counts as something of a surprise.

Those new drama series nominees also helped fill the acting categories with contenders including Winona Ryder, Evan Rachel Wood, Claire Foy, John Lithgow and Thandie Newton, but they didn't prove all-powerful. Matt Smith, for example, couldn't earn a lead acting nom in a surprisingly entrenched category that yielded only to Billy Bob Thornton's star power for Amazon's Goliath. And the catch-all supporting field was too filled with The People v. O.J. Simpson co-stars (and a bizarre return nomination for Mr. Robot's underused Christian Slater) for Westworld bigwigs like Anthony Hopkins or Ed Harris or Jeffrey Wright (who may have been misconsidered "leads").

So giddy were the voters for NBC's awards show at having an NBC drama to nominate for the first time since Heroes that they also gave supporting noms to Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore of This Is Us. I swear it's meant as no slight to Metz's very strong performance and Moore's hilariously weak old-age makeup to call that particular preference ludicrous. The Globes do that stupid thing where all supporting performances from dramas, comedies, movies and miniseries are lumped together in ungainly fashion and I'm challenged to accept any assessment of supporting female performances in which two This Is Us actresses need to be there in the place of (and this is only a partial list) anybody from Orange Is The New Black, The Americans, any supporting actresses from any comedy series, Regina King from American Crime, Melissa Leo from All The Way or, if we're getting hung up on the shiny and new, Millie Bobby Brown for Stranger Things and Vanessa Kirby from The Crown. There were choices! So many choices!

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association may fall out of love quickly, but some romances remain unabated, like the passion for Mozart in the Jungle and its lead, Gael Garcia Bernal, surprising winners last year and surprising returnees this year. The HFPA also remains enamored with The CW leading ladies Gina Rodriguez and Rachel Bloom, both former winners who could have been left in the wake of some new arrival or other. (That doesn't mean Rodriguez or Bloom deserved to be left out this year, but "Win one year, snubbed the next" used to be part of the HFPA's dating strategy.)

Generally, in fact, the comedy fields are less distracted by the shiny and new. Donald Glover and FX's acclaimed Atlanta were both no-brainers, but the other big gainer this year was ABC's Black-ish, which came out of nowhere to pick up a series nom and mentions for Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross in its third season.

There were breakthrough nominations for Insecure star Issa Rae, Globes favorite Sarah Jessica Parker of Divorce and, in one of those "Yeah, it makes sense for the Globes to do something this strange" moments, Nick Nolte for his growling work on Epix's Graves, but no accompanying series nominations.

The Golden Globes voters like to play kingmaker, and a lot of these new nominees will probably be back in play next summer for Emmy consideration, but the reverse wasn't exactly true. The HFPA had little respect for a slew of winners from the 2016 Emmys ceremony, including Louie Anderson of Baskets, Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black, Regina King of American Crime, Ben Mendelsohn of Bloodline and perennial favorite Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey.

The HFPA also passed on the opportunity to break the awards seal for a number of new shows and starring performances. 

My list of snubs would probably start with Pamela Adlon, both hilarious and compassionate on FX's Better Things. Fleabag's Phoebe Walller-Bridge, like Adlon a creator-star, seemed like she would have been a perfect Globes discovery. Any of the actors from Horace and Pete might have been worthy, but I understand how genre and distribution confusion might have set in for a voting group that already doesn't love Louis C.K. quite as much as the Emmys. I might have wanted to see an Alia Shawkat from Search Party sneak in, or to get a little love for a Queen Sugar or Underground or not-exactly-new shows like Catastrophe or Happy Valley, which might have played well with the international scribes of the HFPA. And if This Is Us is getting such a big home-field advantage on the NBC telecast, how does The Good Place get shut out entirely? Both Kristen Bell and Ted Danson feel like they could have been in the mix.

A few other quick Golden Globes TV thoughts:

*** Nice to see both John Turturro and Riz Ahmed popping up in The Night Of's first awards eligibility. They're in a tough category against Emmy winner Courtney B. Vance, Internet boyfriend Tom Hiddleston and latex-encased Bryan Cranston. Personally, I'd put my money on Ahmed winning, especially if Rogue One is a massive hit.

*** Starz generally plays the Golden Globes game very well and Riley Keough is quite deserving of her nomination for The Girlfriend Experience. The TV movie/miniseries actress category is full of powerhouses, but it's hard to imagine anybody stopping Sarah Paulson's Marcia Clark roll.

*** Golden Globe Winner Lady Gaga Dethroned! There's your headline, kids. Or not. 

*** Keri Russell's nomination, 18 years after she won for Felicity, is fun. Christian Slater's nomination, one year after he won for Mr. Robot, is silly. 

*** When I watched The Crown, my immediate reaction was that it was a show that had been marvelously concocted specifically to achieve Golden Globes glory. I still think Claire Foy and John Lithgow are likely to triumph, but the lack of noms for Matt Smith and possibly Jared Harris — he was stuck without an exactly perfect category, as kinda supporting and kinda a guest star — has me wondering if maybe The Crown and Westworld will split the "Chilly drama with lots of exceptional international actors" vote, letting This Is Us give NBC some winning warm fuzzies on Golden Globes night.