*Obviously there’s a giant asterisk for that headline. This is why the TV nods make sense given their source, rather than acknowledging they are valid in any way– the method to the HFPA’s madness, if you will.
No one really knows– or ever will know –who the HFPA members are, which is kind of fun. They’re the entertainment world’s equivalent of a middling college’s third-tier secret society: They throw a cool party, but god if they’re not the biggest bunch of clueless assholes you’ve ever met. And though you certainly don’t take them seriously, you do get very confused when confronted with their weird party-planning decisions and nevertheless feel the need to declaim very loudly that they are wrong and stupid.
So yes, initially the Golden Globe nominations confused the shit out of me, and I declaimed very loudly via the internet that this was all incredibly nonsensical. (I was also annoyed to see that once again Gary Oldman has been passed over, as though he’s painted his lintel with the blood of critics to stop the Angel of Awards Shows from coming for him, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.) After some thought, though, it all actually began to make sense.
The first step to Understanding the HFPA comes from examining the enormous gulf between its TV choices and those of every other awards body, mostly the Emmys. Friday Night Lights, Justified, and Breaking Bad have all won at previous awards shows. On the comedy side, even Parks and Rec got some Emmy love in the form of nominations for Amy Poehler and the show itself. Clearly, these guys could not possibly care less about following in the Academy’s footsteps. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Emmys (and SAG, oof) make a lot of mistakes as well, so to have one group act as a repository for wildcards would be a nice little set-up, something to shake those predictable awards-season blues.
Wait, no, wrong wildcards, HFPA. Wrong wildcards! Oh, for the love of…
Right? May the howls of outrage never cease!
But then look at what most of those Top Ten shows are about:
FNL, Justified, and Parks are all about sort of down-on-their-luck small towns, where people are occasionally cartoonish, but generally behave as people do in real life. For Breaking Bad and Community, substitute “family” and “community college” for “town,” and it works just as well. There’s an emotional and physical reality to these shows that’s grounded in their settings: They’re about how your home isn’t just where your heart is– it is your heart. And that heart is pretty unambiguously American. Not in a patriotic, “America! Fuck yeah!” way– just in a cultural sense. Walter White is about as American as you can get– obsessed with climbing the economic ladder, regardless of the cost. Old-school lawmen like Raylan Givens are a uniquely Stateside phenomenon, and when you add in the peculiar subculture found in Appalachia, well, good luck selling that to an audience that only knows a few vague stereotypes about that area. And it’s not too hard to see why the minutiae of a high-school football coach’s life doesn’t grab the HFPA’s attention. You can argue that good TV is good TV, regardless of where it’s set– and I’d agree with you in most cases. Most intelligent people would. But see above re: clueless assholes.
The acting noms follow the same pattern, basically. Flashy roles are referred to as such for a reason: They attract a lot of attention. There’s little else the HFPA likes more than something shiny. Thus: Kyle Chandler being left out in the cold; Jessica Lange and Eric Stonestreet cocooned in HFPA’s warm, boozy embrace.
The HFPA also seem to have a severely advanced, possibly terminal case of Murphytis. That’s the only real explanation for both American Horror Story and Glee appearing on this list. I drop in on AHS occasionally, to make sure I’m not guilty of crime number two on this list, and there is no reason for this show to be rewarded for anything. It is doing nothing that another show is not doing or has already tried, mostly to better effect. The thing about Ryan Murphy’s shows, though, is that they’re so unabashedly batshit that, to people who either don’t get enough of that sort of thing or feel it should be the status quo, it all seems like a rollicking good time, despite being mostly artless and not making one iota of sense. Lucky for him, there’s no need for shit to make sense in HFPAland.
Don’t misunderstand me: These nominations are still stupid and wrong, for the most part. It just makes one feel a little better, being able to ascribe some sort of reasoning to the idiocy. Which is perhaps why I gave up on Glee last season.