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Globes have got to go; there's an alternative

by GLENN WHIPP LOS ANGELES TIMES (TNS) | March 12, 2021 at 1:54 a.m.

Maybe it won't be the revelation that Hollywood Foreign Press Association members paid themselves nearly $2 million last fiscal year or that the self-dealing continues to mushroom ($311,020 in January alone, according to the monthly treasurer's report) or that, according to people within the group, many members aren't "serious journalists" and, in fact, a prime criterion for joining the HFPA is to not be a "real journalist" and as such not a threat to current membership.

Or that a former HFPA president thought the best way to address the group's lack of diversity (it has no Black voters) would be to make Oprah Winfrey an honorary member.

It probably won't be any single one of these ethical and indefensible discoveries, but the cumulative weight of all of them -- plus, the inevitable revelations to come (considering this bumbling bunch, there undoubtedly will be more) -- that could lead NBC to do the right thing, put us all out of our misery and pull the plug on the Golden Globes. Because at some point, it's going to be embarrassing to be associated with this brand. Not that it hasn't always been ridiculous. It's just going to be more difficult -- even for the best of actors -- to pretend it means anything. (Or at least anything more than "maybe one day I'll win an Oscar or an Emmy.")

But if the network excised this tumor from the awards season, what then? It's not like the absence of the Golden Globes would leave a void in our lives. But its prime spot on the calendar -- traditionally, just after New Year's and just before Oscar nominations are announced -- serves as an opportunity for studios to market their nominated movies, which, for the most part, are movies made for grown-ups in a theatrical landscape now dominated by theme park rides.

And that's not nothing. Ask any producer who's had a film nominated for best picture in the last decade and they'll tell you that without the Oscars and the events leading up to that ceremony, their movie probably wouldn't get made. These films aren't "Oscar bait." The Oscars and the attention generated by the awards season that precedes them are the bait that lures audiences into watching them.

There's no reason NBC couldn't simply sub in another show, one with a credible voting body (sorry, Critics Choice Association), or even create a new brand by, say, merging the four major Hollywood guild awards -- Screen Actors, Directors, Producers and Writers -- into some kind of Justice League ceremony (voter integrity is its superpower). This Golden Guilds concept probably could never work -- too many cooks, too many agendas. Then again, one guild exec recently told me that those teams cooperate on projects, so why not an awards show?

But creating an awards show from scratch at a time when interest in these types of affairs is waning might be a stretch. There is an existing, televised awards show that does have almost all of the elements of the Globes -- honors for film and television, banquet setting, vegan dinner -- without the baggage of, say, a group with a former president accused of groping Brendan Fraser following an HFPA luncheon.

That ceremony is the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Maybe you've heard of it. Maybe you haven't. The SAG Awards takes place at the tail end of the awards season, often lending the event an air of redundancy. There are only so many ways an actor can say "thank you" after all, though some, such as Brad Pitt last year, at least try to make each expression of acceptance special. ("I got to add this to my Tinder profile," Pitt joked, looking at his SAG Awards trophy last year.)

Granted, the SAG Awards' brand isn't at its best right now. When the pandemic forced ceremonies to postpone and re-shuffle dates, the Grammys thought nothing of landing on the SAGs original date, leading SAG-AFTRA to voice its "extreme disappointment" and then slink off to Easter Sunday for a scheduled one-hour telecast.

But there's an easy fix for every one of the SAG Awards' concerns. An early January date would raise its profile and enliven the show. Adding an ensemble category for limited series and television movie (how in the world have they not already done this?) and supporting acting awards to the TV categories would flesh out the ceremony and acknowledge the potency and depth of the work. Freshen up the format, bring in a top-notch producer and a decent host. Put some money behind the show. Find new ways to celebrate great art.

And it's not like the SAG Awards hasn't already given us some great moments recently. When "Parasite" became the first non-English-language movie to win the film ensemble award last year, the roar of approval was transcendent, much as it was when "Black Panther" won the year before. Viewers want to see the stars take the stage, and on that count, the SAG Awards delivers.

It helps too that the SAG Awards are voted on by peers, the 129,500 active members of SAG-AFTRA, and not a tiny, 87-member group of vulgarians whose choices can't be viewed as sincere in light of their history of ethical lapses. Creative types tend to be perpetually in need of validation and approval, and, as such, will show up to collect just about any trophy with their name on it. The late, not-so-great Hollywood Film Awards, whose winners were chosen primarily based on whether the recipient would show up for the ceremony, stand as a monument to that neediness.

But awards are only meaningful if the group bestowing them has integrity. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association fails that standard, and, given its history, it's hard to believe it will change or police its members in any meaningful way, despite a recent pledge (revealed Saturday, in the dark of night, on the HFPA's Twitter account) to do so. Jettisoning the Golden Globes wouldn't be difficult. NBC just needs the resolve to stop enabling this charade and move forward with a worthier alternative.

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