Critic's Notebook: Predictably Unpredictable Golden Globes TV Nominations Dominated by Streaming

Big Little Lies S01E07 Still Reese Witherspoon - Publicity - H 2017
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

When it comes to critiquing the quirky decisions by the mystery journalists in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it's best to eliminate some facets of the TV Golden Globes nominations that just aren't worth getting angry about.

For example: The HFPA had no way of knowing that HBO would order a second season of Big Little Lies last week after nomination ballots were in, rendering it a completely fraudulent participant in the various TV movies/limited categories. It's tempting to wonder if both Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman would have made the lead actress in a drama field and to assume that their places in the movie/limited actress category might have been filled by somebody like Sarah Gadon for Alias Grace or Carrie Coon for Fargo (or more likely Elisabeth Moss for the second season of Top of the Lake). It's also tempting to wonder if HFPA voters will now lean toward a Jessica Lange from Feud, rather than just rubber-stamping Kidman in a category they now know she doesn't belong in.

Or for another example: Rather than the two nominations she should have received, Carrie Coon got zero nominations, but am I really going to get outraged that the Golden Globes ignored The Leftovers, a show they'd already ignored twice and that, let's be perfectly honest here, I'm assuming the HFPA just doesn't watch or understand? And why would the HFPA finally notice something like Halt and Catch Fire in its fourth season?

The HFPA is consistently predictably unpredictable and consistently eager to welcome the shiny and new, and Monday's (Dec. 11) Golden Globe nominations speak to that.

Look at the actress in a television series, comedy or musical, category where it's possible that the choice between Alison Brie for GLOW, Rachel Brosnahan for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Frankie Shaw for SMILF will be the decision that finally tears the HFPA apart. All three actresses are tremendously talented and completely worthy of this recognition, but they're also all representatives of the HFPA's love to make discoveries, especially in this category. The affection for newbies here is so strong that it's rather remarkable that Pamela Adlon and Issa Rae both made the cut for second seasons of Better Things and Insecure. When it comes to winning, I have to believe that either Brosnahan or Shaw has the advantage, since both of their shows also made the comedy series cut, with Brosnahan having the clearly meatier role, but Shaw having that creator-star cache.

It's that same instinct that points to how Katherine Langford ended up in the drama actress category for 13 Reasons Why. Like Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why was announced as a limited series and then was renewed for a second season, a choice that was made far enough ahead of time for it to be placed in the proper category. It happens that I think Langford was fantastic in 13 Reasons Why, so I've got no quibbles with her surprise nomination, though I'd expect a win for Elisabeth Moss for Handmaid's Tale, which feels like a seasoned award show veteran after triumphs at the TCA Awards and Emmys, but remains new by Golden Globes standards.

The Golden Globes have been ahead of the Emmys when it comes to recognizing the growing dominance of streaming platforms, and so it's not especially new to see five of the 10 series nominees coming from Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. It's almost a bigger shock that a pair of network shows — Black-ish and NBC's Will & Grace revival — made the comedy field ahead of GLOW or American Vandal or One Day at a Time or previously nominated Amazon favorites like Mozart in the Jungle and Transparent. Was Transparent completely shut out this year amidst controversy surrounding star Jeffrey Tambor? Is that also why the HFPA nominated Better Things star Adlon, but not the series itself? That's one of those things we'll never know, just like we'll never know if the HFPA actually watched this past season of Game of Thrones or just rubber-stamped it through to a nomination.

Honestly, once you accept that the Golden Globes votes aren't going to suddenly stop being the oddities they've always been, it's hard to find much to get angry about on the TV side of Monday's nominations.

That doesn't mean there aren't a few minor head-scratchers, both positive and negative.

Those include:

*** Freddie Highmore's nomination for The Good Doctor wasn't a hard one to predict. I think the bigger question was going to be whether or not the HFPA would find a way to nominate the ABC smash hit for drama series, which didn't happen.

*** The only other new network series getting major love was NBC's revival of Will & Grace and that's obviously only "new" in quotation marks. It wasn't a successful morning for other revivals, though. Curb Your Enthusiasm and star Larry David have been nominated multiple times in the past, but were shut out. [I'm not unhappy about that.] Twin Peaks won the 1991 Golden Globe for drama series and Kyle MacLachlan won for lead actor. The Showtime revival received only a nomination for MacLachlan and was deemed less worthy of a movie/limited series nod than USA's The Sinner. And speaking of The Sinner, I'm taking Jessica Biel's nomination as at least partial recognition for her self-effacing vocal work on Bojack Horseman.

*** The Globes voters blew it on Sterling K. Brown last year, so they had to slink back with their tails between their legs in nominating him here. He's great and deserves this nomination. He remains the reason I'm still watching This Is Us.

*** And speaking of reasons to watch shows, Jason Bateman is perhaps the fifth or sixth best reason to watch Netflix's Ozark, but there he is as the freshman drama's lone nominee. It helps to be a big name. See also Kevin Bacon, nominated for what is definitely a distant supporting performance in I Love Dick.

*** Do you think Golden Globes voters could explain why William H. Macy was worthy of nominations this year and in 2015, but not other years? Putting him back in the category feels like a, "Shrug. We couldn't think of anybody else." move. There's too much good TV for nonsense like that, especially when folks like Ted Danson, Zach Galifianakis and Hank Azaria are out there. Wouldn't this have been a great place for an oddball nomination like Jimmy Tatro for American Vandal? Indeed.

*** Most inexplicable nomination: Christian Slater for Mr. Robot. That's a category that includes limited series, comedies and dramas, and yet Christian Slater is nominated for an underutilized and unremarkable performance. Who could or should have been there instead? Let's start with Michael McKean for Better Call Saul, Louie Anderson for Baskets, Toby Huss for Halt and Catch Fire, Tony Shalhoub from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Cameron Britton from Mindhunter and nearly anybody from the ensemble of The Deuce. Speaking of...

*** Most inexplicable snub: James Franco playing two parts in The Deuce sure felt like a sure-thing nomination to me. Instead, Franco was nominated for his work in The Disaster Artist, but not for his TV return. [Good for Maggie Gyllenhaal and her The Deuce nomination.] I'm also perplexed that the Globes had Kristen Bell all dressed up at the podium at 5 a.m. and didn't nominate her or anybody else from The Good Place.

*** One of the things about loving the shiny and new — Issa Rae and Anthony Anderson are the only comedy leads nominated from last year who were nominated this year — is that you end up pushing out performances that are still mighty worthy. Tracee Ellis Ross won the Golden Globe last year and got a spectacular postpartum showcase episode this fall and wasn't nominated. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Julia Louis-Dreyfus and she wasn't nominated. And over on the drama side, what did the cast of The Americans do to the HFPA? Yes, I know it was a down season. It wasn't that far down.

*** OK, fine. Let's get a little bit preemptively angry about Big Little Lies. It's a drama series. I get that the nomination voting took place before the renewal, but anybody in the HFPA who votes for Reese or Nicole to win knows that they're encouraging future shenanigans. Don't encourage future shenanigans!