Critic's Notebook: 'Game of Thrones,' 'When They See Us' Lead Golden Globe TV Head-Scratchers

The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic breaks down the Golden Globe nomination highs and lows, from the bizarre ignoring of 'When They See Us' to the pleasing success of 'Succession' and 'Fleabag.'
Helen Sloan/HBO
Kit Harington on 'Game of Thrones'

When it comes to attempting to make sense of the Golden Globes and the discretion of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it's always better to accentuate the pleasant oddities and try to ignore the infuriating ones.

I mean, Succession and Fleabag are finding themselves atop many a critical Top 10 list, so it's gratifying that both shows are among the leading nominees for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards, as announced Monday morning.

That's something!

But then you have Hulu's Catch-22 celebrating a burst of nominations — in your face, Emmys! — and Netflix's When They See Us getting shut out entirely.

That's something, but not a good something.

Darnit. That's not ignoring the infuriating stuff. Let's try again.

You have Ramy Youssef getting a lead actor in a comedy nomination for his Hulu series Ramy, which I've been trying to tell people to watch since early in the year. This exposure surely helps.

So that's something!

But then out of eight TV acting categories, you have only three nominated actors of color — Youssef, Rami Malek and Billy Porter — in a year where it was actually hard to make the nominations this bland and monochromatic. Maybe screeners for When They See Us just didn't make it to the HFPA, so that might explain the lack of nominations for Jharrel Jerome, Niecy Nash and Michael K. Williams, among others, but it requires no big reach to nominate Regina King or Mahershala Ali or Sandra Oh or even Zendaya. Again, this is not demanding that the HFPA dig deep to notice a David Makes Man or a Vida or a Sherman's Showcase or a Los Espookys, though surely there would have been honor in making a splash for one of those shows. That would have taken effort and there was probably even more effort required to ignore When They See Us.

So that's something, but not a good something.

Sigh.

You have the HFPA stubbornly refusing to pander to the sentiment of saying farewell to Game of Thrones, somehow decreeing that Kit Harington was the show's only worthy point of recognition. It's unusual to see this group of voters unswayed by something this blatantly popular, leading to the possibility that they didn't so much think Game of Thrones was unworthy as the HFPA forgot Game of Thrones existed, distracted as ever by the shiny and new.

So that's something, something simultaneously difficult to predict and yet predictable.

But then, rather than having that shiny and new distraction be HBO's buzzy and astonishing Watchmen, the HFPA opted to give Apple TV+ the platform-validating credentials it craved, with a trio of nominations for The Morning Show, led by kudos for both of its A-list leads.

So that's something, but not a good something.

Actually, I'm out of pleasant oddities. That was much faster than usual.

Mostly, the Golden Globe nominations on the TV side just left me scratching my head, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Several of the TV entities that had the biggest cause for jubilation also had the greatest cause for grievances.

Netflix must surely be perplexed. The streaming giant ranked as both the most lauded TV and movie service on Golden Globe morning, a remarkable achievement. But that only makes the absence of When They See Us more bizarre, with Ava DuVernay's righteous treatment of injustice apparently getting lost in whatever comparable shadow Unbelievable cast. Similarly, Netflix would probably be disappointed at having Russian Doll and Dead to Me recognized for their leading actresses and not for comedy series, except that those two slots were probably taken by Netflix's The Politician and The Kominsky Method. So it's a wash?

It's also largely a wash for HBO. No love for Veep? Plenty of love for Barry. No love for Watchmen? Plenty of love for Succession and Big Little Lies. No love for True Detective? Or His Dark Materials? Well, Chernobyl is all over the place. Really, how can you have a bad morning when you get nominations for both Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. And yes, you can be forgiven for totally missing that Mirren had a TV miniseries this year.

Heck, it's probably a morning of total triumph for Apple TV+. They're on the board, in the game, running with the big boys! But how could Steve Carell not have been a big enough name to pull a nomination purely through star gravity and scruffy facial hair? And how could being reliably the best part of The Morning Show not have earned Billy Crudup a nomination? And how was being the lead in the best (or "better") of Apple TV+'s shows not enough to get a nomination for Dickinson star Hailee Steinfeld?

Of course, there are the pockets of the TV world that can't even find cause for mixed emotions.

Broadcast TV has finally become completely invisible as far as the HFPA is concerned, which is not a good way to show love for the broadcast network hosting the show — NBC's The Good Place should have been an easy place to push a nod or two — and that's before you get to longtime favorites like ABC's Black-ish, the departing lead actresses of The CW (Gina Rodriguez and Rachel Bloom are, after all, former winners) or any representatives from the most acclaimed slate of new broadcast dramas in years. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

And when did the categories dedicated to "limited series or motion pictures made for television" eliminate that second classification entirely? TV movie continuations of Deadwood and Breaking Bad may have had a hard time cracking the main category, but Ian McShane or Aaron Paul might have found traction were it not for Russell Crowe in a fat suit, Sacha Baron Cohen in a serious suit and Christopher Abbott in a George Clooney-adjacent suit. Really, we should all be amazed that the HFPA didn't find a way to nominate Clooney for his fleeting Catch-22 cameo. You know they wanted to.

With that as a reminder, I've probably written enough about a group that deemed Catch-22 a better limited series than When They See Us.