[13 January 2008]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Well, that was special. Nothing makes for rip-roaring Sunday-night television like a press conference, headlined by a pack of D- and E-list “stars” from TV entertainment magazines.
“The 65th Annual Golden Globe Awards Announcement,” as it was being called, finished off a wild week in Hollywood with tedium - a jury-rigged, uninterrupted 30 minutes of people reading lists.
On the plus side, it was over by 9:30 p.m. EST so viewers could get on with their evening.
It’s hard to think there was a huge audience, since what are award shows without the clothes and the weeping, stuttering, or, hopefully, slightly looped stars?
Instead on Sunday night, viewers got the likes of Brooke Anderson from “Showbiz Tonight,” Giuliana Rancic of “E! News Daily” and Lara Spencer of “The Insider.” They stood on a stage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and read the nominees, announced the winners, then got a smattering of applause from reporters and publicists in the ballroom.
Each announcer plowed through a handful of categories - no acceptances, no pauses - just lists, interrupted now and then by a clip. It had the pizzazz of watching a retirement dinner.
That had to be a particular letdown for fans of the Golden Globes, which had grown into a popular show because it’s the only award fest that 1) mixes film and TV stars, and 2) serves alcohol. That combo made for some wild viewing, though, in truth, stars have been more careful in recent years and the show has been domesticated a touch.
The awards themselves, particularly in Hollywood, are taken only semi-seriously. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a barely reputable group of fewer than 100 people who have a rep for happily accepting swag, possibly in return for award consideration, and the creative community understands that a Globes win is as much a random event as a real acknowledgment of excellence.
As a publicity vehicle, however, the Globes may be second only to the Academy Awards, because the studios and networks make a huge deal about the nominees, the winners and, in most years, the show.
But not this year, and the back story on that is more entertaining than a lot of film plots.
It starts, of course, with the 10-week old writers’ strike. TV and film writers are fighting with the studio/network alliance over future pay from the world of new media, and things have gotten more bitter by the day.
The writers said they had no beef with the Globes party or the foreign press, but they announced they’d picket the Globes if there was a big show, because they wanted to kill the ratings payday for NBC, which held broadcast rights. Almost all the major nominees said they wouldn’t cross the picket line - and they were backed by the actors guild, which has its own contract talks coming soon.
The foreign press association asked NBC to give up the show so they could still have the party, but NBC, instead, decided it would stage what it called a one-hour “press conference,” to be covered live only by NBC News.
With that, writers promised pickets, stars said they wouldn’t show, and the foreign press gang got ticked at NBC.
Next, NBC’s own news division got ticked, too, saying it didn’t want to be part of an entertainment show pretending to be news. So NBC took the lightweight option and named Nancy O’Dell and Billy Bush as hosts. They’re from “Access Hollywood,” which is owned by NBC Universal.
At that point, in the middle of last week, with the writers still planning to picket and stars saying they were staying away, the after parties all got canceled by the studios and advertisers, since, what would be the point?
What came next didn’t have much to do with the strike. Instead, it was a fight like most fights in Hollywood. It was about money and control.
On Friday, after haggling with NBC about a fee for exclusive rights to the Globes show/press conference, the foreign press association and Dick Clark Productions, which was producing the event, decided NBC was stiffing them both. So, they trimmed the thing to 30 minutes, and threw open the Globes - such as they were - to any network that wanted to cover it live.
Both the press association and DCP issued bitter statements. “NBC wanted to have an exclusive broadcast special disguised as a news conference,” the Dick Clark press release said. NBC talked about future court action.
And under the theory that any enemy of my enemy is my friend, the writers guild said it would not picket the non-exclusive event, and take that, NBC.
So, infotainment cable nets like E! Entertainment and the TV Guide Channel, and, yup, CNN, leaped to accept. O’Dell and Bush got dumped for that lineup of heavyweights from “Extra,” “Entertainment Tonight” and, heaven help us, “The Insider.” The Golden Globes, already borderline, officially became schlock.
For what it’s worth, the Globes probably set a record for award-show brevity, which has to be worth something. And, in the end, what we got was an interesting, if overblown, build-up, then a whimper of a finale. Like so many other Hollywood plots.