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Opinion | TV’s Golden Globe winners: a ranking

It's time we rewarded Alison Brie for GLOW (Netflix), where she took her Russian pro-wrestling character to new heights, both dramatic and actual

Alison Brie from ‘GLOW’, set in the world of women’s professional wrestling.
Alison Brie from ‘GLOW’, set in the world of women’s professional wrestling.

Do the Golden Globe awards matter?

Yes, because they differ from most internationally televised award shows in one aspect: everybody’s drunk. Booze gives this insubstantial ceremony an anything-goes affability, somewhat compensating for the fact that nobody, not even the winners, take these awards seriously. They’re given out by a dodgy body called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a longstanding joke. All hail (hic!) the golden goblets.

This week, let’s pretend these awards are about quality. We’ll touch upon each TV category, see how fine/unjust the winner was, and rank the nominees. In keeping with the spirit of the actual thing, you can turn this column into a drinking game: do a shot every time the Globes gets it wrong.

So... the Hollywood Foreign Press. What do they know? Do they know things? Let’s find out.

Best Actor in a TV series (Comedy/Musical)

Michael Douglas won for The Kominsky Method (Netflix). It’s fine, grizzled character work, but the stunner this year was Donald Glover in Atlanta (Hotstar), unforgettably donning whiteface to play the creepy Teddy Perkins. Douglas was actually the least adventurous nominee, alongside an impressive Bill Hader in Barry (Hotstar), a heartbreaking Jim Carrey in Kidding (Hotstar), and—had the voters been brave enough to expand their idea of “acting"—Sacha Baron Cohen in the revolutionary Who Is America? (Hotstar).

Best Actor in a TV series (Drama)

This went to Matthew Rhys for The Americans (Hotstar). Oh wait, it didn’t, despite Rhys’ multiple-accented masterclass. Richard Madden won instead for a blandly heroic role in Bodyguard (Netflix). Aargh. Other nominees: Stephan James was wonderful in Homecoming (Amazon), Billy Porter surprised us in Pose (Hotstar), while Jason Bateman, well, Batemanned his way through Ozark (Netflix).

Best TV series (Drama)

The Americans. Finally, some sanity. This was a hard-fought category—with the incisively written Killing Eve and the claustrophobically directed Homecoming—but after six years of subterfuge, the spy spouses of The Americans wrapped up their series in satisfying and devastating style.

Best Supporting Actor

Ben Whishaw won for A Very English Scandal, where he was a mousy lover who inadvertently branches into blackmail. He aces it, but I rooted for Kieran Culkin in Succession (Hotstar), playing a wastrel who unfortunately knows his place and has a violently forked tongue. Complex, assured, delicious.

Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Film

Bravo. Patricia Arquette won for Escape At Dannemora (Hotstar), playing a hot mess of a character who proves irresponsibly romantic as she falls for two prisoners and aids their escape. Amy Adams was a popular favourite for Sharp Objects (Hotstar), but my vote would swing to Laura Dern for The Tale (Hotstar), a haunting performance about sexual abuse.

Best Actress in a TV series (Drama)

Sandra Oh, who also hosted the awards, won for Killing Eve ahead of Keri Russell of The Americans, but even I can’t begrudge Oh this applause. She’s sensational as the titular Eve, a woman sucked into a mystery who finds herself revelling in the stickiness of the spiderweb.

Best Supporting Actress in a Series/Miniseries/TV Film

As a mother forever distancing herself from her daughters, Patricia Clarkson was the most fatally prickly part of Sharp Objects and rightfully won. Penelope Cruz stood out as Donatella Versace in The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Hotstar), but Clarkson’s was the stronger role.

Best Actor in a Miniseries/TV Film

Darren Criss for The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. No, no, no. Criss was suitably sociopathic as a Versace worshipper, but this category had much stronger fighters. Antonio Banderas was a surprisingly good Picasso in Genius, though the prize belonged to the frighteningly poised and slithery politician played by Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal.

Best Actress in a TV series (Comedy/Musical)

Look, I love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) and Rachel Brosnahan, like a character on the show says, does indeed appear to have swallowed a light bulb. Yet, an uneven second season about the stand-up comedienne doesn’t challenge her much. Instead, it’s time we rewarded Alison Brie for GLOW (Netflix), where she took her Russian pro-wrestling character to new heights, both dramatic and actual.

Best TV series (Comedy)

This went to The Kominsky Method, and while that is a warmly written and surprisingly spry show about two liver-spotted geezers, the revolution is taking place among the other nominees. Kidding is a visually ingenuous surprise, Barry gets marvellously dark, and nobody pushes the envelope as hard as the genre-hopping The Good Place (Netflix).

Best Miniseries/TV Movie

This went to The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, and this makes no sense. I loved the last American Crime Story, The People v O.J. Simpson, but Versace is baroque in a painfully obvious, overt way. Escape At Dannemora and A Very English Scandal were the best of the nominees.

What do these categories mean? How can we continue to accept the division of storytelling into “Drama" versus “Comedy/Musical"? More importantly today, what is “a TV movie" in a world where Alfonso Cuaron makes Roma for Netflix, winning Best Director and Best Foreign Feature (both film categories)? The Globes this year began with a skit about how TV nominee Jim Carrey isn’t allowed to sit in the front amidst the movie nominees, but they had better wisen up. TV is not in second place anymore.

Stream of Stories is a column on what to watch online. Raja Sen is a film critic and the author of The Best Baker In The World (2017), a children’s adaptation of The Godfather.

He tweets at @rajasen

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