The Golden Globes are a joke. And not in a good way.
Oh, the NBC telecast of the awards can be highly entertaining. When Ricky Gervais hosted, it was a hoot. Same with the Tina Fey-Amy Pohler pairings.
And it’s possible that this year’s genuinely odd-couple hosts — Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg — could provide some laughs, although NBC’s promos for Sunday’s telecast (6 p.m., Channel 5) are pretty painfully lame.
The joke that’s not funny is the membership of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which selects the nominees and the winners. You can gain membership by writing a few stories for some suspect publication in, say, Slovenia. Which is both completely true and completely unamusing.
And its 90 or so members have been susceptible to bribery over the years. There have been high-profile examples — from Pia Zadora’s mega-rich husband essentially buying her a Golden Globe in 1992 to the critically savaged movie “Burlesque” getting a nomination in 2011 after members of the HFPA were flown to Las Vegas for a free Cher concert.
But it happens all the time in more subtle ways. You want to win a Golden Globe? Spend time with members of the HFPA.
It’s hardly a secret. Accepting a lifetime achievement award from the HFPA three years ago, Denzel Washington recalled how producer Freddie Fields won him his first Golden Globe.
“He invited me to the first Hollywood Foreign Press luncheon,” Washington said. “He said, ‘They are going to watch the movie. We are going to feed them. They are going to come over. You’re going to take pictures with everybody. You are going to hold the magazines, take the pictures, and you’re going win the award.’ I won that year.”
Those gathered at the Beverly Hilton roared with laughter. It was funny, because it was true.
The Golden Globes are seen as important for one reason only — they’re on TV. And not only do stars like to be seen winning awards, but a lot of people sitting at home make the incorrect assumption that because something is televised, it is important.
If the Globes weren’t on TV, they’d disappear from the public consciousness.
The uncomfortable truth is that the Golden Globes are the Donald Trump of awards shows. NBC created a mythology around both of them.
In 2008, Trump was a failing real estate developer with a string of bankruptcies that made him toxic to fellow developers and a long list of banks. As Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post, “It was Trump’s undeniable skill as a television performer on ‘The Apprentice’ that saved him from total ruin.”
NBC and producer Mark Burnett created a false narrative that Trump was a hugely successful businessman. He rode that into the White House.
For decades, NBC has created a false narrative that the Golden Globes are legitimate. Well, except for 1968-74, after the Federal Communications Commission issued a report about the HFPA’s ethics that was so damning the network was shamed into dropping the Globes.
In this case, it doesn’t really matter. This is all about marketing, and Hollywood publicity machines will use wins on Sunday to try to drum up movie box office, goose TV ratings and negotiate bigger salaries for stars.
The reality is that even the more legitimate awards, like the Oscars and Emmys, aren’t all about talent and quality, either.
If you tune in to the Golden Globes, hopefully the hosts will be funny and somebody will make a hilarious, drunken acceptance speech. But keep in mind that the awards themselves are meaningless.