Cable channels such as HBO, Showtime, FX and AMC had for some time been making a significant impact at the Golden Globes and the Emmys. But in 2013, the groundbreaking Netflix production House of Cards opened the floodgates with a bunch of Emmy nominations. From there, the fledgling SVOD (streaming video on demand) services announced their bid for a place in the awards season spotlight.
This year, in a graphic illustration of the tide having turned, the American free-to-air networks were largely absent from the Globes’ TV nominations: it was all cable channels and streaming services. The productions with the most nominations were Succession, Chernobyl, The Crown, Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Unbelievable, Killing Eve, Fosse/Verdon, Big Little Lies, The Loudest Voice and The Morning Show (aka Morning Wars), the first nominee for newcomer Apple TV+.
Then there was Ramy Youssef, a surprise winner in the comedy category, taking home the best actor prize. He made his show, Ramy, for Hulu and it screens here on Stan, which is owned by this masthead. Youssef was up against actors from The Kominsky Method, Barry, The Politician and Living With Yourself, none of them network shows. Since the decline of the ageing Modern Family, the Big Four (NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox) have had little to offer, even in an area where they once reigned supreme.
The response in the room to Youssef’s win was pretty funny, recalling the stunned and baffled expressions back in 2004, when the original English version of The Office claimed the best comedy award and Ricky Gervais won the best actor statuette ahead of popular favourites from Will & Grace and Friends.
But Youssef’s win, which he humbly acknowledged was likely to mystify many of the assembled guests who’d never heard of him, is emblematic of TV today. The current TV landscape is varied and can be audacious: program-makers are taking risks, the expanding industry is providing opportunities for newcomers, and they’re being rewarded with accolades and audience enthusiasm.
Last year’s unlikely sleeper hit, Chernobyl, is a prime example. An understated procedural, sub-titled in significant part, it’s a forensic examination of what caused the catastrophic explosion at the nuclear plant in Ukraine in 1986. Much of it is seen from the perspective of a disbelieving high-ranking Soviet official and a couple of dogged nuclear scientists. Not your average TV heroes. Even the series’ length – five episodes – was unconventional.
It’s also not the kind of drama production that one would immediately see as a prime candidate for rapturous global attention. And yet that’s what it got and here it is winning prizes for best television limited series and best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a limited series (Stellan Skarsgard, who plays the official). It also received nominations for Jared Harris and Emily Watson, who play the scientists.
Ramy, Chernobyl and the broad range of other TV productions that received Golden Globes (and nominations) provide a clear indication of just how serious the situation has become for the traditional TV networks: they’ve lost both viewers and prestige.