Critic's Notebook: 'Kominsky Method' Over 'Atlanta' and Other Golden Globes TV Oddities

Four new dramas make the 76th Golden Globes nominations TV cut but not 'Succession'; voters don't nominate an Emma Stone/Jonah Hill show; and all hail Billy Porter on nominations morning.
Guy D'Alema/FX
'Atlanta'

We interrupt your end-of-year celebration of TV top 10 lists for analysis of an organization of voters who think that The Kominsky Method is a better comedy series than Atlanta.

The affections of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association wax and wane with the moon, or at least with the aggressive promotional pushes of their network friends, and Thursday morning's nominations for the 76th Golden Globe Awards were, especially on the TV side, the usual assortment of shiny new things, weirdly entrenched old things, baffling snubs and gratifying celebrations.

We can begin with the absence of Atlanta in the comedy series category, where you can't say that voters don't know the FX series exists because Donald Glover was nominated for lead actor in a comedy series this year and because Atlanta won for comedy series at the Globes just two years ago. Instead, it turns out that Globes voters just really, really like The Kominsky Method, and I'm not even opposed to the Chuck Lorre series, which fairly deftly blends broad comedy and sentimental aging hijinks and was reasonably worthy of the nominations received by both Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. 

The problem is mostly that the second season of Atlanta was so good, and not that the other comedy series nominees are so bad. Though the nomination for Jim Carrey was no surprise — HFPA voters love movie stars doing TV and Showtime plays the Globes game well — the series nod for the absurdist, melancholy pleasures of Kidding, a decidedly acquired taste, might have seemed a tougher get. Definitely last year's winner, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and newcomer Barry were always no-brainers. And that finally leaves first-time comedy series nominee The Good Place, which is practically carrying the torch for all of broadcast TV, picking up an additional nomination for star Kristen Bell.

The only other two noms for any broadcast network on Thursday? Lead actress in a comedy nods for Debra Messing for Will & Grace and Candice Bergen for Murphy Brown, showing that the Golden Globes voters are definitely caught up on the hottest TV comedy of the late '80s and mid-'90s. Were it not for the incremental awards growth of The Good Place, broadcast might be ready to slip off the map entirely, since formerly beloved This Is Us went nomination-free and not a single "new" broadcast show — and no, I don't count Murphy Brown — made the cut. Then again, what new broadcast show was even in the conversation this year? Manifest? New Amsterdam? A Million Little Things? It's not the HFPA's fault if the broadcast networks aren't even trying anymore. Last year, Globes voters did a little stretching to get Freddie Highmore and The Good Doctor into the mix. This year, nothing was even that close.

The HFPA found plenty of new stuff to love on the drama side, the field most reflective of the group's annual pleasure in being the first opportunity to toast all of the fresh faces premiering after the Emmys.

Three of the five drama series nominees fit that description, led by Amazon's half-hour drama Homecoming, nominated for series, leading man Stephan James and, in her first regular TV series role, Julia Roberts, who might as well have gotten free shipping on her Golden Globe trophy the minute she signed up for Amazon Prime. Also getting to put on their "Hey, we're awards players!" T-shirts on Thursday are drama series nominees Bodyguard, Netflix's British import with nominated star Richard Madden, and FX's groundbreaking Pose, which featured probably my favorite new nominee of the morning in Billy Porter. The Globes nominated Sandra Oh and went the Emmys one better by giving Killing Eve a drama series mention, but how do awards groups keep pretending that Jodie Comer isn't joined at Oh's hip when it comes to general Killing Eve excellence?

The final drama series nominee, then, is FX's The Americans, a first-timer in this category in its sixth and final season. How often does that happen? Basically never. Stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were both nominated for the second time, which you'd think would be their second straight nominations since once you start seeing how great those two are, surely you couldn't have temporary amnesia on the matter? Nope. Rhys and Russell were nominated in 2017, forgotten last year and brought back this year.

Maybe the same oddity will occur with The Handmaid's Tale, the Hulu drama that won for drama series last year and vanished in that category this year, though Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski were both nominated. The HFPA must have really hated that second Handmaid's Tale finale.

"Snubs" are, of course, in the eye of the beholder, especially in a TV landscape that doesn't lack for quality choices. Still, questions are raised.

Would Succession have fared better if HBO had submitted the pitch-black family saga as a comedy rather than a drama? Unclear, though Succession co-star Kieran Culkin is a worthy nominee in the catch-all supporting actor field that is, as ever, a peculiar mishmash of drama, comedy and movie/miniseries.

What happened to Better Call Saul? The Breaking Bad spinoff had another superlative season, yet perennial nominee Bob Odenkirk couldn't top Jason Bateman's monotonous Ozark performance, nor could Rhea Seehorn get a long-overdue awards breakthrough.

For that matter, what generally happened to AMC? How could the well-regarded Little Drummer Girl not get any notice for Alexander Skarsgard, winner last year for Big Little Lies, or for Florence Pugh, exactly the sort of international "discovery" the HFPA voters usually love to make? (The Golden Globe Awards ceremony is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which shares a parent company with The Hollywood Reporter.)

A few other Golden Globes odds and ends:

*** If the nominations inspire you to check out any one thing, make it Amazon's exceptional A Very English Scandal, a very strange and very funny and very sad offering that will lose to The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story for movie/miniseries. Star Hugh Grant will probably lose to Darren Criss as well, but watch out for Ben Whishaw, really a co-lead, in the supporting pack.

*** For all of our/my talk of the HFPA and its love for movie stars doing TV, some of the morning's biggest absences are actors with "Oscar Winner" permanently emblazoned in front of their names. Patricia Arquette may have gotten a nomination for Showtime's Escape at Dannemora, but co-star Benicio Del Toro was left out. When Sean Penn signed on for Beau Willimon's Hulu drama The First, that sure seemed like it would be an awards player, but it's entirely absent. And, other than the movie being completely bland and mediocre, how did Al Pacino playing Joe Paterno in an HBO movie fail to yield either Emmy or Golden Globes recognition for the iconic star?

*** This is really a corollary to the last bullet point, but: Maniac, anybody? It speaks to how Netflix and its stars prioritized this strange little limited series, because how could Emma Stone and Jonah Hill possibly do a TV project and have it ignored completely by the Golden Globes voters, of all people?

*** Fine, one more on this same point. J.K. Simmons in Counterpart? Come on, y'all. Oscar-winning actor wonderfully plays a dual role in a meaty, twisty drama and Emmy and Golden Globes voters look several other ways? Come on. I'm blaming Jason Bateman for this one also.

*** Sacha Baron Cohen's nod for Who Is America? represents a smart piece of campaigning by Showtime. It's the kind of show that the Golden Globes have no way to properly process because it doesn't fit into any of their traditional, clean-cut categories, but even as somebody who really disliked Who Is America?, I prefer seeing Cohen in the comedy lead actor category than trying to pretend that William H. Macy's perennial nomination makes any sense at all.

*** So, revival/reboot-wise Candice Bergen for Murphy Brown is a "Yes," but Curb Your Enthusiasm and Roseanne/The Conners are a "No"? No judgment, per se. Just musing.

And that's enough contemplation of the nominations from an organization of voters who think that The Kominsky Method is a better comedy series than Atlanta.