Hindsight tells us that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association often employs its annual Golden Globe Awards to serve two conflicting agendas: glad-handing the starry establishment and anointing fresh talent.
For every nomination that coaxes a Jennifer Lopez or a Leonardo DiCaprio to the Beverly Hilton Hotel red carpet, there are often career-making trips to the podium for artists with a fraction of the industry capital (see Gina Rodriguez, Rachel Bloom or even 2020 best comedy actor Ramy Youssef). But with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic eighty-sixing the possibility of any in-person telecast, canceling the customary schmoozing with it, awards season’s least predicable voting body could lean particularly hard on new blood for its 2021 TV selections.
At the very least, the 78th Golden Globes should look markedly different from the recent Emmys. The TV Academy’s reigning limited series (Watchmen, snubbed by the Globes earlier in 2020) and drama (Succession, also a Globes winner) are both out of the running. And while comedy victor Schitt’s Creek remains in contention — and could easily repeat some of the farewell nods Fleabag earned at the previous Globes — a sweep of the scope the Canadian import saw in September (Emmy wins for best series and all four performers) is something the HFPA will likely avoid.
Further diminishing Schitt’s Creek‘s odds of complete domination is the wealth of untested series vying in the comedy space. The months since Emmy eligibility have brought the premieres of several potential forces in TV kudos. Apple TV+ breakout Ted Lasso, a U.K.-set comedy that caters to the HFPA’s tastes with an international cast surrounding lead Jason Sudeikis, is considered a favorite for at least a few nominations — as is HBO Max’s Kaley Cuoco vehicle The Flight Attendant, which the young streamer is not positioning as a drama, or even Netflix’s Emily in Paris and star Lily Collins. The sophomore season of Hulu’s Pen15, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s awkward ode to middle school, seems to have garnered even greater critical and commercial consensus in its second run.
There’s also still potential for several projects that were outright snubbed by the Emmys to break through. Nineteen-year-old Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the star of Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever, could easily earn a nomination despite being overlooked thus far. The same should be said for Elle Fanning and almost everybody associated with The Great. Tony McNamara’s loose retelling of the reign of Catherine the Great, a virtual nonentity at the Emmys, could overperform with the HFPA. Zoë Kravitz, a prominent fixture on many year-end lists for her work on High Fidelity, could find her way into the best actress race — despite the Emmy snub and Hulu’s woeful decision to cancel the series after just one season.
The drama category will see some shaking up based on the sheer absence of Succession. Fellow HBO series Perry Mason and Lovecraft Country, the latter toplined by Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors, are among the post-Emmy projects most likely to benefit from the lack of the powerhouse incumbent. And while there’s nothing “new” about a fourth-season drama, let alone one that was already named best TV drama in its first season, the recent drop of The Crown could still make waves. After all, is there anything more quintessentially HFPA than passing over an Oscar winner like Olivia Colman, who won in 2020 for playing Queen Elizabeth II, for someone like newcomer Emma Corrin? The 25-year-old’s portrayal of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, seems almost engineered for a nomination at the very least.
By the nature of its category, the limited series sees races that are bound to change — but whatever steam was gaining for Watchmen‘s Emmy bridesmaids (Normal People, Mrs. America and Little Fires Everywhere) seems likely to be suppressed by the cultural juggernaut that is The Queen’s Gambit. Netflix’s eleventh-hour entry on the 2020 release schedule, an underpromoted thriller about chess starring Anya Taylor-Joy, is all but certain to be a major player in the upcoming awards calendar. Its biggest competition, at least where the Globes are concerned, is probably Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology (Amazon) or The Undoing — HBO’s A-list murder mystery starring Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman.
Trying to guess if the Globes will favor an unknown over an actor as firmly established as Kidman is a foolish pursuit. But unpredictability is what gives the TV races their charm, making them something of an antidote to the film-kudos contests — high-stakes battles often viewed as pavers on the gilded path to the Oscars. The stakes here are lower, because the Golden Globes’ TV choices so often don’t mark a probable course to some exalted end. And while that sense of caprice can be confusing, it is almost always refreshing.
This story first appeared in a January standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.