Golden Globes 2011: Analyzing the TV nominations

Senior Television Writer
12.14.10 78 Comments

All you need to know about the TV nominations for the Golden Globes – both for this year and in general – can be found in two names on the list of nominees for best actress in a drama series:

In one corner, we have Piper Perabo. And in another, we have Katey Sagal.

The nomination of “Covert Affairs” star Perabo sums up how ridiculous it is that anyone try to take the Golden Globes seriously as an arbiter of what’s best on television. (I’ll leave it to my colleague Greg Ellwood to, in a little while, dissect all that’s wrong with the movie side of things.) It’s not that she’s bad – if anything, I probably stuck with “Covert Affairs” longer than I otherwise might have because of her likability in the role – but that it’s a fairly lightweight performance on a lightweight show. And she got the nomination because the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have always had a thing for attractive young-ish actresses. See also previous Globes wins for Anna Paquin, Jennifer Garner and Keri Russell; not all necessarily egregious, but all predicated on the HFPA wanting to vote for the hot young talent. Sometimes that can mean actual physical attractiveness, and sometimes that can mean something new with a lot of buzz and/or quality, and on occasion (Garner), it can mean both.

The nomination of “Sons of Anarchy” co-star Sagal, on the other hand, is a reminder that the wackiness of the HFPA can also lead to pleasant surprises in addition to head-scratching ones. Yes, Sagal should have been nominated – not just by the Globes, but by the Emmys, the SAG Awards and every other notable TV award out there – a year ago, when her character had a much stronger overall arc than in this messy third season of “Sons.” But the arc with Hal Holbrook as her dad was pretty classic, well-executed, beautifully-performed awards show bait (even if it had nothing to do with the rest of the season), and I still assume Emmy voters will find the motorcycle club milieu of “Sons” to be beneath them.

So while the Globes should never be taken as a barometer of the best work on television, they’re much less predictable than the Emmys or the SAG Awards, and every now and then, almost by accident, the HFPA can bestow a nomination or three to a show or performer who’s been unjustly ignored elsewhere.

Beyond those two drama actress choices, the Globes TV nods were a mix of the inevitable and the strange, like always. Here’s the whole list of nominees (movies & TV), and here’s my take on each of the categories.

DRAMA SERIES: “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO), “Dexter” (SHO), “The Good Wife” (CBS), “Mad Men” (AMC), “The Walking Dead” (AMC)

Not surprised to see “Boardwalk” here, not just because it was great, but because it’s the kind of expensive, movie-pedigreed (Scorsese!) production the HFPA tends to be attracted to. (For similar reasons, expect a ton of nominations for Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte and company from “Luck” a year from now.) The movie pedigree (Darabont!) obviously also helped “The Walking Dead,” as did both its recentness and its commercial success. Again, the HFPA loves to be in on all that’s hot and current when they can – even if that means promoting the zombie show ahead of its far, far super channel-mate “Breaking Bad.”

(And no, I’m not outraged “Terriers” got ignored, because it’s not an awards show type of show, and it’s sure as hell not a Golden Globes type of show. Too sloppy, too underdoggy, too canceled.)

COMEDY SERIES: “30 Rock” (NBC), “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS), “The Big C” (SHO), “Glee” (FOX), “Modern Family” (ABC), “Nurse Jackie” (SHO)

No big shocks there. I didn’t like “Nurse Jackie” season 2 and gave up on “The Big C” out of frustration midway through the season, but the HFPA loves Edie Falco and Laura Linney comes from the cinema, and these types of cable dramedies generally play well to this crowd. (Though by far my favorite of the Showtime dramedies, “United States of Tara,” wasn’t nominated here.) Many of my favorite comedies – “Parks and Recreation,” “Community,” “Louie,” “Party Down” – were ignored, but all exist below the radar of this group. (The two NBC shows are low-rated – and “Parks and Rec” has been gone forever – “Party Down” microscopically-rated, “Louie” raunchy and sad and middle-aged, etc.)

DRAMA ACTRESS: Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”), Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”), Piper Perabo (“Covert Affairs”), Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy”), Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”)

I talked about Sagal and Perabo above, and their nominations knocked out some other awards show regulars like Glenn Close, Mariska Hargitay and Paquin. Also, Moss had more of a lead role on “Mad Men” this year and was nominated accordingly, whereas January Jones – who was nominated for lead last year and had her screentime cut way back this season – didn’t get a nod at all.

DRAMA ACTOR: Steve Buscemi (“Boardwalk Empire”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Hugh Laurie (“House”)

An incredibly tough field – which finally added the brilliant Cranston after ignoring him for two years – leaves no room for former winner Gabriel Byrne of “In Treatment,” nor Bill Paxton (who was nominated for the three previous seasons of “Big Love”), nor Matthew Fox for the final season of “Lost.” (“Lost” was shut out entirely, which suggests the HFPA either forgot about a season that ended so long ago, and/or weren’t pleased that their theory about the sideways universe was incorrect.) And since Hoffman is all but a lock for a nomination a year from now, one of these people shouldn’t get too comfortable in the category.

COMEDY ACTRESS: Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”), Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”), Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), Laura Linney (“The Big C”), Lea Michele (“Glee”)

Linney bumps last year’s nominee Courteney Cox from “Cougar Town,” but otherwise the HFPA shows a willingness to be just as repetitive as the TV Academy is with the Emmys.

COMEDY ACTOR: Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”), Steve Carell (“The Office”), Thomas Jane (“Hung”), Matthew Morrison (“Glee”), Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)

On the downside, Morrison is still there from last year. (So is Jane, but I gave up on “Hung” season two so quickly that I can’t really comment on how he was; in general, he wasn’t my problem with that show.) On the upside, the HFPA finally becomes aware of Parsons, and in the process bumps David Duchovny from “Californication.” Double yay! (UPDATE: As a reader pointed out, no “Californication” aired in 2010. So much for HFPA progress.)

THE MOVIES/MINI-SERIES CATEGORIES: Not going to run down the full nominees list for what’s an increasingly marginalized genre, in which so few quality examples of each are produced every year that it’s more amusing than horrifying to see that Jennifer Love Hewitt got a nomination for playing a hooker in Lifetime’s “The Client List.” And in an example of the HFPA using the foreign biases for good rather than evil, Idris Elba from “Luther” got nominated for a chance to lose to “You Don’t Know Jack” star Al Pacino.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hope Davis (“The Special Relationship”), Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Kelly Macdonald (“Boardwalk Empire”), Julia Stiles (“Dexter”), Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Scott Caan (“Hawaii Five-0”), Chris Colfer (“Glee”), Chris Noth (“The Good Wife”), Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family), David Strathairn (“Temple Grandin”)

Because the Globes don’t really care about TV, they mash up the supporting actor awards from drama, comedy and movies/minis into a pair of combined categories that are all but impossible to judge, or even to complain about snubs. Yes, Aaron Paul from “Breaking Bad” was one of many fantastic supporting actors from different genres who didn’t get nominated, but how do you squeeze all the good ones into five spots? How do you judge Stonestreet’s silly “Modern Family” work against Strathairn as Claire Danes’ kind and serious mentor?

Caan’s nomination is kind of strange but not surprising. He’s by far the best thing about “Hawaii Five-0,” and if the part’s not particularly deep, he’s also the son of a beloved Hollywood star who was himself a four-time Globe nominee (including a 1966 nod for Most Promising Newcomer (Male), which James Caan lost to some guy named Redford, apparently).

So what do y’all think? Which nomination was strangest/most entertaining for you? The Globes aren’t worth getting outraged about. The HFPA is a weird group that somehow has a ton of influence on the movie side because of where their awards are situated on the calendar, but their TV nominations are really a sideshow, and should be treated as such.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at

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