If an award show gives out trophies but no one can watch them on TV, did it ever make a scene?
This modern Zen koan has haunted the Golden Globes since 2021, when a Los Angeles Times exposé threw the award show into disarray. The Globes had long earned their reputation as Hollywood’s most chaotic night, but usually for the good, or at least benign, kind of chaos. The honors were given out by a small, ambiguously defined group of foreign journalists, not the thousands of working film professionals who weigh in on the Oscars. The resulting awards were lower stakes, easily influenced, and obviously skewed toward celebrities. And at the show itself, most attendees were reliably, visibly drunk. Viewers could complain about corruption or the misleading optics of a prominent broadcast on a major network, which implied more credibility than the Globes really deserved. But they could also sit back and relax. The Globes were like the Oscars’ messy kid sister: unserious, yet endearing.
The Times report changed that. The most tweetable takeaway was that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that distributes the Globes, had no Black voting members—an absence especially glaring in light of the perceived snub of works like Da 5 Bloods, I May Destroy You, and Judas and the Black Messiah earlier that year. But the investigation also uncovered even deeper dysfunction. The HFPA was paying millions of dollars a year to its own members, many of whom did not actually seem to make a living covering the entertainment industry for outlets based abroad. According to one lawsuit, the group even rejected qualified applicants to safeguard its existing arrangement, which concentrated payouts to just a few dozen beneficiaries.
These allegations went beyond a mere soft spot for star power and swag bags. They called into question the very premise of the HFPA, and provoked the ire of the same A-listers it tried to attract. After former president Philip Berk—who actor Brendan Fraser said sexually assaulted him back in 2003—threw fuel on the fire by emailing members an article that referred to the Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement,” the HFPA earned sharp rebukes from Scarlett Johansson, Tom Cruise, and more. By May, under pressure from a publicists’ boycott and groups like Time’s Up, NBC announced it would not air the 2022 ceremony. The network had paid half a billion dollars to secure the show for nearly a decade just a few years before.
And so we got the absurd spectacle of an award show unfolding almost entirely on Twitter. Instead of Amy Poehler, Ricky Gervais, or Sandra Oh delivering well-honed zingers to a Beverly Hills ballroom, there were posts informing us that 2021 was “a golden year for television motion pictures.” (A typical awards broadcast gets several million viewers; the aforementioned tweet got 1,103 likes.) To the Globes’ credit, the updates retained the loose, possibly inebriated feel of the typical show, announcing an acting win for West Side Story with a lyric from an unrelated Beatles song and deleting a post implying the same movie was a laugh-out-loud comedy. There was still a sharp decline in glamor and relevance for a proceeding once seen as second only to the Oscars. I’m a professional TV critic, and I learned that Barry Jenkins’s The Underground Railroad won Best Limited Series, Anthology Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television only by researching this piece.
Such obscurity underscores the problem with simply disappearing the Globes for good. For all their flaws, award shows can be a publicity boon for the very original, adult-oriented projects still struggling at the post-pandemic box office. (Or, in the case of The Underground Railroad, tragically underpromoted by their own platform.) It’s a symbiotic relationship, but right now, neither side is doing well. Tentpole events like the Oscars have seen declining viewership for years; even the Slap couldn’t save last year’s ceremony from becoming the least-watched in Academy Awards history that didn’t take place in a train station. Meanwhile, smaller honors like the Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit Awards are, as of this writing, without any televised element at all. With partners like Warner Bros. Discovery—parent company of TNT and TBS, once hosts of the SAGs—cutting costs, the award show itself is increasingly an endangered species.
This gives Hollywood at least some incentive to nurse the Globes back to whatever passes for health in 2023. For their part, the Globes are now under new ownership, with a revamped structure to match. The Globes were once a joint enterprise between the HFPA and Dick Clark Productions, which put on the live show. As of last summer, the ceremony is under the umbrella of Eldridge Industries, the private equity firm operated by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly. The billionaire then converted the Globes into a for-profit company, formalizing the salaries of its members and removing the legal murk of a tax-exempt nonprofit paying off its own constituents.
The reforms don’t stop there. Since the scandal, the HFPA has added 21 new members, including six Black inductees, plus 103 nonmember (and thus unpaid) voters, an odd two-tier system that still expands and diversifies the voting pool. There are also new guidelines around gifting and travel, a chief diversity officer, and a ban on the exclusive press conferences between members and talent that were the chief sticking point for publicists who made up the most adamant anti-Globes holdouts.
All this was enough to get the Globes back in NBC’s good graces—up to a point. Tuesday’s show will be just that: on a Tuesday, far from the Sunday-night prime-time slot the Globes once occupied. They’re also guaranteed the NBC slot for only a single year, after airing on the network from 1993 to 2021. (That $500 million deal, needless to say, is now moot.) And attempts to land Chris Rock as the host, as reported by Ringer podcaster Matt Belloni, were in vain.
The actual host, comedian Jerrod Carmichael, is still an inspired choice. Whether intentional or not, it presents a pointed contrast with the Oscars, which Jimmy Kimmel will host for the third time. (No offense to Kimmel, a seasoned and capable showman, but major award shows have been cycling among the same broadcast talk show hosts for years.) Carmichael is currently on a career high after his HBO special Rothaniel, which won an Emmy earlier this year; more cynically, a Black and gay MC helps offset the Globes’ awful reputation around diversity. Scornful jokes about the Globes have been a staple of monologues past. Expect Carmichael’s to be especially biting—and for the HFPA to take the hit gladly.
In a saturated ecosystem, there’s never been more money and gamesmanship around major awards, even as they feel increasingly marginal. However Tuesday’s ceremony goes, the Golden Globes have still made themselves the mascot of a dated institution in mid-identity crisis. At least they haven’t lost their magic touch. This year’s slate of nominees may be slightly less laughable, but it still features a nod for Taylor Swift’s contribution to Where the Crawdads Sing, and puts Hilary Swank in Alaska Daily side-by-side with Imelda Staunton in The Crown—precisely the celebrity favoritism we know and love to hate. The Globes may never get fully back to normal, but they can sure act like it.