In fairness, Thursday morning’s Golden Globe nominations are a harbinger of what’s already happening on television, as the revolution in when, where, what, and how we watch continues. But compared to Wednesday’s resolutely old-fashioned Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, not to mention the staid TV Academy’s annual Emmys, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seems almost radical.
The top-line news is the HFPA’s support for series on the far end of the proverbial dial. In (yet another) death knell for the major networks, FOX’s smash hit, “Empire,” was the only broadcast series to notch a nomination in either Best Drama or Best Comedy; NBC, which will televise January’s ceremony, was shut out of the latter for the first time since 1981.
Indeed, it was the Big Three’s oddball cousins, FOX and the CW, that ended up making the biggest splash—the former with nominations for “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson and Jamie Lee Curtis, in Ryan Murphy’s kooky horror comedy “Scream Queens,” and the latter with two Comedy Actress nominations, for Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” an hourlong sitcom musical) and defending champion Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin,” a comic telenovela).
Instead, the Golden Globes went all in on streaming: Netflix led the field with eight nominations, while competitor Amazon scored five—not only for the acclaimed “Transparent,” but also for little-discussed “Mozart in the Jungle” and its star, Gael Garcia Bernal. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the Best Comedy nod for Hulu original series “Casual,” which made my 2015 top ten list and received positive reviews but was on no one’s awards radar.
Even among the more established players, though, change is in the air. Two of Netflix’s nominations were for international hit “Narcos” (Best Drama and Best Actor Wagner Moura), as the power of the global audience—and not just moribund Nielsen ratings—increasingly determines programming decisions in the realm of “prestige” TV. “House of Cards,” which more closely resembles a traditional political potboiler (it’s based on a British miniseries from the early 1990s, after all), was passed over for Best Drama and Best Actor Kevin Spacey, while progressive comedies “Orange Is the New Black” and “Master of None” combined for three nominations. (“House of Cards” star Robin Wright did land a Best Actress nod.)
Though awards fixtures HBO, FX, and PBS did well, as expected, it’s telling that none dominated the series categories. Rather, the old guard benefited from the resurgence of the miniseries form, which neither the broadcast networks nor the streaming services have caught up with. All five of FX’s nominations came from limited series “Fargo” and “American Horror Story: Hotel,” while three of PBS’s four nods were for “Wolf Hall“; HBO earned nearly as many nominations from niche miniseries and TV movies (“Show Me a Hero,” “Nightingale,” and “Bessie“) as it did from more mainstream offerings (“Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” and “Veep”).
It was the relative upstarts in awards-worthy original programming that emerged as contenders in the series categories this year. In addition to two nominations for limited series “Flesh and Bone,” Starz earned two for the feminist historical epic “Outlander”; USA, formerly a place for popular, critic-proof programming and reruns of old broadcast series, broke out with nominations for Best Drama and Best Actor Rami Malek for the acclaimed “Mr. Robot.”
Diverse, idiosyncratic, forward-thinking, all over the map: with today’s nominations, it’s the Golden Globes that have finally caught up with where TV is going, instead of clinging to where it’s been. Your move, Emmys.