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December 14, 2017

Map to the Stars

Now known for its prescient picks and not just its great parties, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will be back at the Beverly Hilton for its 75th Golden Globe awards — and more happy surprises.

Craig Tomashoff
  • Unscripted moments, like Gina Rodriguez’s touching acceptance speech of two years ago, keep viewers returning to the Golden Globes.

    Larry Busacca/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

When Gina Rodriguez took the Golden Globe in 2015 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series, she topped some serious competitors: Lena Dunham, Edie Falco, Taylor Schilling and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is now sitting on a six-year emmy-winning streak for Veep.

Accepting her golden statuette from Bryan Cranston and Kerry Washington, the star of the CW’s Jane the Virgin enthralled the audience — in the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom and millions more watching around the world — with her brief but soulful remarks.

After expressing thanks to God, executives at CBS and the CW, her parents and sisters, her fellow cast and crew, she said: “This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes. My father used to tell me to say every morning, ‘Today’s going to be a great day. I can and I will!’ Well, today’s a great day. I can and I did! ”

Rodriguez’s victory — on her first nomination, in the first season of her show — was indeed surprising. But the Golden Globes is known for that, as Rodriguez herself acknowledges: “Every year it’s the Globes voters who discover new talent. They always put at least one person on the map.”

Indeed, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which administers the Golden Globes, has become known for much more than throwing a great party. The organization is relatively small — some 90 journalists who write about television and film for outlets around the world — but its influence on TV increases every year, thanks in large part to its tendency to champion critically acclaimed but lesser-watched shows and performances.

Lately, it seems that there’s a happy surprise every year: Netflix’s The Crown and USA’s Mr. Robot took the award for best television series, drama, in 2016 and 2015, respectively; recent winners for best musical or comedy series include Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle and Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

“The HFPA was ahead of the curve as the first organization to truly recognize and reward the work that the CW has been doing recently,” says the network’s president, Mark Pedowitz, who — a year after Rodriguez’s win — celebrated again when Rachel Bloom, star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, was named best actress in a comedy.

“The perception of the CW has genuinely shifted, and we’re now a part of the annual award consideration conversation.”

The HFPA downplays its role in promoting new programming. “We are not specifically looking for new shows to champion,” says the group’s president, Meher Tatna, a native of Mumbai, India, who currently contributes to the Singapore daily The New Paper. “We recognize good work, and there is plenty of it in this Golden Age of television.”

Still, there’s no denying the increasing importance of the Globes in the industry awards calendar.

“Every boss I’ve ever had at a network and every client I’ve ever worked with let me know they were in pursuit of a Golden Globe nomination,” says veteran network publicist Richard Licata, who now runs his own marketing firm, Licata & Co. “It bothers me when some pundits talk about the Globes as if it were just a food-and-drink affair. The HFPA members are really serious about television.”

Licata notes that networks and studios now regularly hire “consultants by the dozen” to shepherd shows through the Globes nominations and voting process. And he’s seen how helpful a Globe can be, going back to his days promoting a new USA series, Monk, starring Tony Shalhoub.

“We were a fledgling network,” he recalls. “I showed them the series in November, Tony was nominated in December, he won in January and he went on to win three Emmys. The Globes recognizing you can springboard you into the Emmy derby.”

Barry Adelman — who has been Emmy-nominated 10 times as an executive producer and writer of the Golden Globes — will be exec-producing the upcoming ceremony, the 75th, when it airs live on NBC from the Beverly Hilton on January 7.

As executive vice-president, television, at Dick Clark Productions, which has produced the Globes since 1983, he has heard often from actors and showrunners about the importance of the award to their careers. And that, he believes, stems from the HFPA’s interest in the avant-garde.

“They break a lot of ground, so when they recognize you, it really means something. They are always looking for cutting-edge performances and productions.”

The way Licata sees it, that likely stems from the fact that HFPA voters write for international publications. They have, he theorizes, “a much broader palette — they’re more likely to have culturally been exposed to a lot of different film and TV products. That’s why we witness them pulling something out of obscurity and bringing it to the world’s attention.”

That open-mindedness then filters into the consciousness of the casual TV viewer, who tunes in to the Globes “to see a kind of review of the whole year in entertainment,” Adelman explains. “The show brings them up to speed on popular culture.” And the ensuing TV party to celebrate the gems that the HFPA has uncovered? Says Licata: “That’s the cherry on top of a very serious award.”

Often, though, that cherry seems to garnish a nice, strong cocktail. “What makes the Globes such a memorable event?” muses Will & Grace star Sean Hayes. “It’s always having to look up who won the next day after the hangover wears off.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2017

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