The Golden Globes Are More Than the Oscars’ Drunk, Corrupt Cousin

With stargazing, nonsensical nominees, and decades of scandal, the Globes are considered a joke. But this may be the most relevant and fun awards ceremony.

01.08.16 5:02 AM ET

With its free-flowing champagne, nonsensical nominations, and winners that might have voters waking up Monday morning with hangovers of regret, it might make sense that the prevailing attitude about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual star-studded awards ceremony is: Go home, Golden Globes, you’re drunk.

This is, after all, the awards organization that gave three nominations to the ghastly Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp film The Tourist—presumably for the opportunity to drool over the statuesque sex gods—and the same year ruled the borderline unwatchable gay man’s fever dream Burlesque a contender for Best Picture.

It’s the organization that is still haunted by the 1982 bribery controversy in which actress Pia Zadora won the award for New Star of the Year after her husband reportedly bought voters off.

That nominated Glenn Close for Best Actress for 101 Dalmations, gave Renee Zellweger a trophy for her performance in Nurse Betty, and considered Jennifer Love Hewitt award-worthy for her work in Lifetime’s The Client List.

That hosted the original envelope-reading fail, long before Steve Harvey heard of the Phillippians or Columbia: Elizabeth Taylor’s batty bleating, nearly announcing the Best Motion Picture Drama winner before having read any of the nominees.

That gave Madonna two Golden Globes, including one for acting.

The Golden Globes is your friend Karen drinking from strangers’ glasses after too many mimosas at drunk brunch. Which is to say that Golden Globes might be the best of all the award shows.

Though kooky, puzzling, nonsensical, infuriating, and, at least in that 1982 case, corrupt, the Golden Globes is routinely the most entertaining award show of the year and, in terms of rewarding film and television, the one with the best pulse on current, edgy fare. (Although that pulse can be worrisomely erratic.)

It’s easy to laugh, for example, when the Golden Globes nominate the short-lived Kelsey Grammer drama Boss in a year when it snubs Breaking Bad, or to stare quizzically at this year’s Best TV Comedy list: Mozart in the Jungle? And the Globes’ film nominations can veer on lunacy, drawing the ire of even casual cinephiles.

But the truth is that the Globes have an excellent track record as kingmaker in the TV categories, singling out series on the crest of becoming buzzworthy that organizations like the Emmy Awards routinely ignore. And in the world of film, the Globes can often be the cooler, more populist answer to an Academy Awards body that notoriously scoffs at genre fare and has historically favored little-seen indies over well-made money-making movies we’ve all seen and loved.

Let’s look at the TV side, for starters.

Roseanne, arguably one of the greatest family sitcoms in TV history, won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy in 1994. The Emmys never nominated it in that category. Not once!

The X-Files, Grey’s Anatomy, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the U.K. The Office, Nip/Tuck, and Girls all won the top prize at the Globes but never repeated at the Emmys, which were busy giving roughly a million trophies to The West Wing, Frasier, and Modern Family.

Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Amy Poehler, and Hugh Laurie all have Golden Globes for iconic performances on The Office, Alias, Parks and Recreation, and House, respectively, that never earned them Emmys.

Keri Russell and Katey Sagal have Globes for Felicity and Sons of Anarchy—but not even Emmy nominations for those performances.

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Maybe Helen Hunt deserved her four consecutive Emmy Awards for Mad About You, and maybe there’s a case for Candice Bergen needing five Emmys in seven years for Murphy Brown. But while the Emmys were rubber-stamping their wins year in and year out, the likes of Kirstie Alley (Cheers), Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), Cybill Shepard (Cybill), Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg), and Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) were taking turns at the Globes podium.

Golden Globe nominations alone can be enough to signal that an under-the-radar show is worth sampling, but a win can take that show to a whole new level.

You saw that last year, when a win for Transparent legitimized for mainstream America what had previously been a critical darling. And when the resplendent Gina Rodriguez tearfully accepted her trophy for Jane the Virgin and offered a speech overflowing with joy and emotion, it mirrored those very aspects of Jane and won over viewers who were maybe hesitant to give it a try.

A win this year for an underrated series like Casual, or a cable series like Outlander or Mr. Robot—two shows paving the way for the future of the prestige drama—could have the same effect.

Plus, the Golden Globes nominated Sarah Michelle Gellar for Buffy the Vampire Slayer when the Emmys never did, so that’s the only thing that should need to be said about its taste level.  

The organization has served a similar function as Hollywood kingmaker on the film side, too. It even used to have a New Star of the Year Award (the one Pia Zadora controversially took home) to cement it.

That trophy is now defunct, but the organization still has the same power. For all the eye-rolling over the tendency of the HFPA to engage in the crudely named practice of starfucking—being seduced into nominating movies and actors just because they’re super duper famous—there’s a less popular argument to be made in defense of this practice, particularly when it’s used to catapult rising talent to the A-list.

It made a star out of Hugh Jackman, who made his first big Hollywood splash after his surprise nomination in the slight, though charming romantic comedy Kate and Leopold. A nomination for Jennifer Lopez for Selena is another good example of this.

Emily Blunt was a Golden Globe winner long before ascending the Hollywood ranks, and Scarlett Johansson was a four-time nominated Globes darling before becoming a major Hollywood player herself. A nomination for Emma Stone for Easy A skyrocketed her career.

Occasionally, too, the Globes serve as a corrective for performances and films the more traditional and predictable Academy Awards isn’t adventurous enough to reward.

Jim Carrey, for example, earned a much-deserved Golden Globe for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind before being snubbed by Oscar. In recent years Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Michael Fassbender (Shame), and Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) all earned Globe nominations for Oscar-worthy performances ignored by Oscar.

Sally Hawkins won a Globe for Happy-Go-Lucky before being cruelly overlooked for even a nomination at the Oscars. Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), July Delpy (Before Midnight), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said) were all Globe nominees in 2013 for thrilling performances that didn’t make the Oscar cut.

Globe nominees Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swinton gave arguably the best performances in 2012 and 2011, for Deep Blue Sea and We Need to Talk About Kevin, respectively, but came up empty as Academy Award contenders.

The Best Comedy or Musical category, specifically, has been a haven for movies and their actors who are often ignored by the Academy, due to its historical bias against comedy: Back to the Future, Inside Llewyn Davis, Borat, The Royal Tenenbaums, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, When Harry Met Sally, Legally Blonde, Home Alone, Bridesmaids, The Hangover, and Ghostbusters.

Spy and Trainwreck, two of the best reviewed and most entertaining films of 2015, are nominated for Best Picture at the Globes. Does a Golden Globe nod validate either of these films more than their box office totals or glowing reviews? (Did nods for Sister Act, My Best Friend’s Wedding, or Airplane!, for that matter?)

No. But it’s nice when movies that audiences actually saw and liked could be considered award-worthy.  

Plus, there’s a fair argument that the movies listed above have had as much of an impact on cinema—whether changing the face of comedy in the movies or pushing forward taste levels—as any of the ho-hum Best Picture Academy Award nominees that have been ridiculed as hindsight sharpens to 20/20: Chocolat, Finding Neverland, and Crash.

For now, though, let’s stop ourselves before we put too much care and thought into the honoring of rich and famous celebrities who are already receiving honors every time someone sneezes. At the very least, the Golden Globes deserves to be defended as three-plus hours of televised entertainment.

Especially since casting the likes of Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler as hosts, the Golden Globes has been the most fun of awards telecasts in the long slog of Oscar season. The irreverence and biting wit of the stars is partially to thank, but so is the Globes’ reputation as the ceremony to not take all that seriously.

They can take the piss out of the stars because the stars are getting piss-drunk themselves, unlike at the stuffier Oscars that merits more decorum and politeness. The speeches are more entertaining because the winners are either tipsy or, even better, overcome with emotion in star-is-born moments, like last year with Gina Rodriguez.

So, go home, Golden Globes, you’re drunk? More like, shots for everyone, Globes! Here’s to another round.