The Golden Globes. The award ceremony that covers television and movies. And this year, we got a lot. For television, anyway. This would be the biggest year for television in an ordinary decade. But this decade, with its great shows birthing more shows birthing more great shows, so many that there’s no way you would be able to watch them all (“So watch the cream of the crop!” says the award ceremony, to which I would say, well, yes), has been extraordinary, and it has been a good year, but not a great one, in context.
What can a great year be? It was good, with the return of Twin Peaks, the return of David Simon (of The Wire fame), and the return of all the series we love, but not a particularly good year slated against other years. Then again, it was alright, and this year’s list of nominees is no exception: it is alright.
Game of Thrones was great, apparently, but I don’t watch it. From what I’ve heard this year, this will be a solid pick for a nominee but not quite good enough to pull it off. Stranger Things is a good show that everyone says is a great show. The Spielberg effect (and Spielberg would have done it better).
Then we get The Crown, which I didn’t watch, This Is Us, which seems to have some good performances and storylines, about as prestige as network television gets if it isn’t going full Twin Peaks (or Hannibal), and I’ll allow it, but if it wins over The Handmaid’s Tale (and come on, they could have chosen Twin Peaks, which I know was designated as a limited series but does continue from a real one, and they could have chosen The Leftovers [the true winner of this year]), I’ll eat my shoe. And it will be a Margaret Atwood shoe, all belt buckle and blood.
Where’s the love for Mr. Robot? This series, though barely begun by Halloween, this year’s cutoff, deserves to be there over anything from the bottom two-thirds of the nominees for its artistry. Ditto for Better Call Saul, a bland pick, but still. That scene with Saul’s brother walking out to the clapping cavern of past coworkers, who clap not in admiration but another reason altogether, is unsettling, haunting, the best thing I saw on TV, and I’m counting The Leftovers and Twin Peaks. Of course, the two heavy hitters that should have been there were The Leftovers and Twin Peaks. These in no way should have been left out, and I’m wondering how the latter (it’s easy to see how the former) didn’t make it on. The Deuce also should have made it on, and Mindhunter, but there are only so many slots.
Maybe this was just a good year.
The comedy has some good picks. Black-ish is always good. Better than Fresh Off the Boat, for ABC? No. Not quite. And not better than The Middle, either, which deserves to be here almost as much as anything else. But alright, we get it, we’re never going to see that (especially since this is the last year, and it had to premiere during the calendar year of the award ceremony).
ABC is currently the comedy king, not just within network TV but perhaps, save TBS, all of TV. It’s a shame they don’t get more than one pick. I mean, watch Wednesdays on ABC and you will be impressed. Master of None is always artistic, however, and it deserves to be here. SMILF looks good. What will win? The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and its ultra-tired mix of comedy and Amazon’s fetish for period pieces, will not. Maybe Master of None.
What deserves to be here? Search Party, I implore you, Search Party. If not that, anything off TBS. They are great, and The Detour, along with (I hear) People of Earth, is fantastic. Baskets deserves some love, as does Love, from Netflix, which nobody watches (or talks about) and fewer like, but has the greatest chemistry between two leads I’ve ever seen. How about Better Things? That is where all the inspiration for Louie went. Aside from BoJack Horseman, another great pick for this category, I would say that’s probably the best all-around choice.
Big Little Lies doesn’t deserve the hype it’s gotten quite enough (it’s great, but it’s not great), but it will not be beaten. Perhaps it should be by Feud: Bette and Joan, which I haven’t watched but hear is another FX masterpiece, which is a good thing. Fargo won’t win, which is a shame, because it had its best year. While Top of the Lake: China Girl was apparently a misfire, USA’s The Sinner was supposed to be very good, but it is not nearly as popular as Big Little Lies, and thus it’s not popular enough to take that show down. But we can dream (“Can’t I?”), and we can dream that Feud wins, even if it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, well, Big Little Lies is a good show, so it doesn’t matter.
Limited series is a tough one, as there are only so many every year. How about The Young Pope? The first of a continuing through line for director Paolo Sorrentino (the next one is apparently called The New Pope), this is a bonkers, total misfire that is somehow also a total masterpiece. It is one of those television curios that are so uneven and so stilted but also so, thoroughly, deeply, good that you don’t care. It is a great show, and I would have loved to see it here.
Also, if we’re talking limited series, HOW ABOUT F***ING TWIN PEAKS? Okay, I’m done. Except for the next one. (TWIN PEAKS COULD HAVE WON EVERYTHING—COMEDY, HORROR, DRAMA, SERIES, LIMITED SERIES, EVERYTHING.)
Okay, away from the shows themselves, the performances are where we really dig in. And who can say these are not good? I give Nicole Kidman Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television, though personally, I liked Reese Witherspoon’s more, plucky as it was.
Kyle MacLaughlin wins lead actor, for this (over Ewan McGregor, who did the same thing in Fargo, and some nice choices with the others), and he deserves it. The Dougie/Doppelganger dichotomy is perfect, and Dougie plays some notes you don’t get in other series; or other anything, for that matter. Plus, he merges perfectly with the gruff, less impressively acted but monolithic doppelganger and the, yes, the return of Agent Cooper, in his small way.
I’ve spent sweet time with the others, so let’s go through speed-round with the Best Performance in A Television Series – Drama awards: Maggie Gyllenhaal wins The Deuce and deserves it—just kidding, Elisabeth Moss wins for The Handmaid’s Tale (and she deserves it). Freddie Highmore in no way should be considered for Best Actor in a Drama (not to mention The Good Doctor is not a drama but a piece of shit—I mean, it’s okay, it’s friendly, but come on), but neither should Jason Bateman, for this year. Let’s give it to Sterling K. Brown.
Actress in comedy, the nominations are good, enough—I’ll give it to Pamela Adlon, for Better Things, even though they didn’t give her the series nomination for that one, but Issa Rae seems fantastic in Insecure, a perennially (or at least two-years) unwatched show, so she may win for that. Who will win for actor in a comedy? I don’t know, but I would give it to Erick McCormack for Will & Grace, because nobody in this list stands out enough as an actor on their own show (and good shows, though they are) to really be picked. Finally, Ann Dowd wins, and deserves it (though Michelle Pfieffer, man), for supporting actress, and Alexander Skarsgård wins, easily, for supporting actor. He is fantastic, and that last shot before Elvis night, where he is standing in the living room like a monster before the lights come on, wearing all black, is haunting in a split-second way that nothing else in the series could match.
Who deserves to win? Just a few. I think the male comedy performance is a hard one to pick, and therefore, I won’t do it, though Neil Flynn deserves something for his steady work as Mike Heck and Randall Park deserves something else for his excellent, meaningful work as Louis Huang (ditto for Constance Wu as Jessica).
Otherwise, speed-round: Give it to Justin Theroux (best actor), Christopher Eccleston (supporting role), Carrie Coon (best actress), and Amy Brenneman (supporting role) for all of their desperate, beautiful work on The Leftovers, in all categories. Give it to Pierce Gagnon as Sonny Jim (the young actor is an animal, totally radiant as Agent Cooper’s Dougie’s sad son—angelic work). Give it to someone for Mr. Robot, something—that show is just so good, but not quite good enough for anything. A victim of television’s great success. Give it to Joey Bada$$, Elliott’s main man who’s off in the desert. He doesn’t deserve supporting character, because he is in it so little (that’s a weird category for television, because supporting has to be recurring—perhaps there should be a Cameo Role designation?), but he is fantastic like nothing else.