The Golden Globes, Hollywood’s most chaotic awards, have returned

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Here’s something you probably didn’t know: The Golden Globes are this week.

Wait, the Golden Globes are back?

They sure are. The Golden Globes will air on NBC and stream on Peacock, beginning at 8 pm ET on Tuesday, January 10, live from the Beverly Hilton. There’s a pre-show at 6:30 pm ET if you want to hear stars and hosts make awkward conversation on the red carpet.

It’s been a weird few years for the Golden Globes. In 2021, the show was bicoastal; it aired simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles, was hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and felt like it made a solid case for its own irrelevance. In 2022, there were awards, but they weren’t televised.

Why? Was there a controversy or something?

More than one!

It’s a long, complicated story, but to put it briefly, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) — the organization of around 90 US-based journalists who cover the business for non-US outlets — found itself under a cloud of scandals following a 2021 LA Times investigation. Here are some of the issues the Times raised:

  • The HFPA’s dirty little (very open) secret was that members were richly wined and dined and showered with lavish gifts by studios hoping their shows and movies would garner nominations. In the story, some of the details came to vivid life. For instance, the Paramount Network, which produces Emily in Paris for Netflix, brought 30 HFPA members to Paris for two nights at a $1,400-per-night hotel. And indeed, the show landed two Golden Globe nominations.
  • The organization was revealed to have created a system of kickbacks and internal payments for members. Members serving on various committees, with duties involving watching foreign films or working with archives, were paid, in some cases several thousand dollars a month.
  • According to the story, there was a lot of unprofessional behavior going on in the group: “Those who have interacted with the organization describe members falling asleep during screeners, hurling insults at one another during news conferences, and frequently engaging in personal feuds.”
  • The group had no Black members at all.

All of this threatens the integrity of the awards, though in truth the Globes have long been considered kind of a wink-wink award in the industry, at least for a group made up, ostensibly, of journalists. Their bizarre nominations and unpredictable awards show, fueled by an open bar, do introduce an element of zany fun into the otherwise fairly predictable awards season. And if it’s all sort of back-room dealing, eh, who cares?

Well, some people care because they care about awards, which can be a genuine boost to winners’ careers. Lack of diversity in a voting body leads to lopsided winners, for instance. Kickbacks and salaries tilt members’ votes.

But there’s also some much darker bad behavior that HFPA members have been accused of — most prominently, former eight-term president Philip Berk.

In 2014, Berk released a memoir entitled With Signs and Wonders: My Journey from Darkest Africa to the Bright Lights of Hollywood. (Berk is from South Africa.) At the time, HFPA members felt he unfairly blindsided them with the book and took too much credit himself for the success of the Globes. After a lot of pressure, he was forced to take a six-month leave of absence from the group.

Then in 2018, actor Brendan Fraser accused Berk of sexually assaulting him in 2003. Berk denied the story and reportedly offered a private, half-hearted apology. Meanwhile, the HFPA launched an internal investigation and decided the incident was meant as a joke; the organization declined to share the investigator’s report with Fraser, but asked him to sign on to a joint statement. Fraser refused.

Fraser is nominated for a Globe this year, for his performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. But long before the nominations were announced, he made it clear that he won’t be attending the ceremony.

Berk remained a voter in good standing with the organization until April 20, 2021. The organization, under a cloud of controversy after the LA Times investigation found a severe lack of racial diversity in the group, expelled Berk following an email he sent to members in which he called Black Lives Matter a “racist hate movement.” NBC, the network that pays millions of dollars to the group for the rights to air the show, issued a statement declaring that Berk should be expelled. “Swift action on this front is an essential element for NBC to move forward with the HFPA and the Golden Globes,” the statement read. Berk was expelled that day.

So the controversies associated with the Golden Globes and the HFPA have been many and varied, and if you don’t follow entertainment industry news closely, they’ve been pretty confusing, too.

Has the group made changes?

Yes. About a week after the 2021 ceremony, on March 6, the HFPA released a mea culpa statement in which they made a number of promises. They’d broaden the membership and increase its diversity, make their voting methods more transparent, and examine potential ethical violations — all within the next 60 days. Meanwhile, more than 100 publicity agencies circulated a letter denying the HFPA access to clients if they failed to make their reforms.

On May 3, 2021, nearly 60 days after the promise, the HFPA announced its intentions to increase its membership, specifically recruiting from underrepresented groups. It seems this wasn’t showing enough movement for many. On May 7, Netflix announced it would boycott the Golden Globes; several A-list celebrities, as well as Amazon Studios, soon followed, and Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globes. By May 10, NBC had announced that they wouldn’t air the ceremony in 2022, saying that “a change of this magnitude takes time and work” and that the HFPA “needs time to do it right.” NBC suggested that if the reforms were sufficiently implemented, the Globes would return to TV in 2023.

Now it’s 2023, and they’re back. Hollywood may still be skittish about the HFPA and the Golden Globes, but according to news reports, they’re ready to party. With the help of consultants, the HFPA has threaded a tricky needle: While they modestly increased membership by adding 21 US-based members, they also invited 103 additional non-member voters to select the awards.

The HFPA has said that the new voters are far more racially diverse than in the past: 22.3 percent of them are Latinx, 13.6 percent are Black, 11.7 percent are Asian, 10.7 percent are Middle Eastern, and 41.7 percent are white, with 58.3 percent self-identifying as “ethnically diverse.” The voting body now totals 200, with 52 percent female voters and 51.5 percent who are “racially and ethnically diverse.” Its geographic range was also broadened; most are still from Europe (43.5 percent), but the number of voters from other regions has increased: Latin America (18.5 percent), Asia (17 percent), the Middle East (9 percent), and Africa (7 percent).

The organization instituted a no-gifts policy in July 2021 and launched a hotline allowing people to report incidents, complaints, and allegations. Some members still receive a salary from the organization, which HFPA president Helen Hoehne described to Deadline as a “stipend,” for performing certain duties, such as serving on committees.

Insiders seem to have a diverse set of opinions about the validity of the Globes. After all, such a large cloud of suspicion can’t just go away overnight. Will winning a Globe mean the same as it has in the past, now that the average person may have a negative opinion? Does it even matter? In the smoke-and-mirrors world of Hollywood awards, it may not. Time will tell.

What’s the big deal about the Golden Globes anyway?

That’s the thing: There’s nothing inherently interesting about the Golden Globes, as opposed to the myriad other awards given out in the runup to the Oscars. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association isn’t more eminent than any other critics body. Why has the average casual viewer heard of the Golden Globes but not, say, the Independent Spirit Awards or the Critics Choice Awards? Or the awards given out by various regional critics? Why are we more interested in the Golden Globes than the Screen Actors Guild or Directors Guild?

As befits our times, the answer is simple: The Golden Globes are famous for being famous, and we watch them because they’re on TV. If you’ve heard of them and they’re touted as being important, then they take on importance.

They’re also positioned perfectly to give at least the illusion of “predicting” the results of the Oscars, though reality is a little different. There’s an idea that Academy voters — the 10,000-person industry group that gives out the Oscars — are watching the Golden Globes as they decide who to put on their nominations ballot. Nominations for the Oscars open on January 12, two days after this year’s ceremony. So you can see why the pressure is on.

In the end, though, if you want to predict the Oscar results, the Golden Globes are an imperfect measure. For the most part, it’s the spectacle that keeps people coming back. (Both Renee Zellweger and Christine Lahti were in the bathroom when they won their awards and had to come rushing back, and it was very funny.)

What can we expect for this year’s show?

Probably some weird vibes, jokes about the last few years, and — if Brendan Fraser wins in his category — some really awkward moments.

The comedian Jerrod Carmichael is hosting the show, and the usual bevy of stars are showing up to present the individual awards. Reportedly, the star attendees, nominees and otherwise, are showing up in full force. And they’ll all be there in person; unlike previous years, there will not be any virtual attendees.

Ryan Murphy will receive the Carol Burnett Award for outstanding contributions to television, and Eddie Murphy will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award, which honors the same thing but for film. There will still be an open bar (as far as we know), but I suspect everyone will be on their best behavior, since this feels a little like a trial year to see if the Globes will endure. (In other words, it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything like The Slap.)

Okay, but why is it on a Tuesday?

Why not? There are probably a few reasons — advertisers might be one of them — but the major likely one is that NBC has the rights to Sunday Night Football this season. That’s show business!

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