After weeks of bad press, the dominoes began falling with increasing momentum in recent days and it started to look like perhaps the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would finally face their reckoning. When Netflix, Amazon, and Warner Bros. announced they were withdrawing their support from the Hollywood Foreign Press, stars started adding their voices to the chorus. Statements came from the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo, among others. On Monday, Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globe statuettes and NBC announced they will not broadcast the ceremony in 2022 because the HFPA’s promised reforms are too little and need time to take effect.
The fall of the HFPA has been a long time coming. It is probably not the end of the road for the 78-year-old organization, but when the Golden Globes do return, things will have to look much different. New membership, new leadership, and a new commitment to real diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What happens in the meantime? Now that NBC has a big primetime slot to fill next winter, it’s anybody’s guess whether they’ll opt for a regular programming night or make a play for another group to step up and take a chance in the spotlight. The speculation and wishes are rampant as some have begun lobbying for one of the guilds to move into prime position. The Screen Actors Guild has a long-standing relationship with TNT, and the producers, directors, writers, animators and more have long enjoyed celebrating their peers at glamorous, free-spirited banquets, removed from public view.
Others have suggested the Indie Spirits or the Critics Choice Awards might make a play for the vacancy. Both Film Independent and the CCA have television contracts already in place, with Indie Spirits belonging to IFC and CCA having a broadcast agreement with the CW. For NBC to offer up a multi-million dollar deal to encourage either group to abandon their current home for one year seems unlikely. Unless, of course, NBC opts to sever ties with HFPA beyond 2022. But what could very well happen now is for the CW to take a more active role in the production and distribution of the Critics Choice Awards, giving it the push to become the prominent awards season launch it has always wanted to be.
What we do know is that whether NBC fills their time slot with another boozy awards show, or some other network pounces on the Globes’ absence, there will be no shortage of red carpet events, celebrity presenters, and awards season chatter. The show must go on in some way and form, and it will.
Some pundits have started fretting over an awards season without the Globes to act as a precursor. The group has very likely helped catapult contenders into Oscar nominations, but that doesn’t mean they are or were the only ones with the power to do so. Yes, Andra Day’s beautiful Golden Globes acceptance speech came just days before the Academy began their nominations, and maybe that was the final nudge she needed. Or maybe the trajectory was already going her way and the timing proved lucky for an already embattled HFPA. As Variety’s Clayton Davis asked yesterday, “Does Black Panther have the same record-breaking showing at the Oscars if the Globes cannot weigh in with a best picture (drama) nomination in 2019? Does 12 Years a Slave get to make history if it didn’t get recognized by the HFPA first in 2013?” These are questions we can’t answer. But there will be others waiting in the wings, looking for the chance to take credit for the next history-making moment.
And that is the important point to remember. The HFPA doesn’t operate in a vacuum and they aren’t the only ones in need of major, sweeping reforms. In fact, this is a great opportunity for them to take the lead in an industry that is starving for change at every level. AMPAS and BAFTAs’ recent diversity initiatives were a step in the right direction, and it will be a few years before we know how effective they will really be. But the custodians of the Golden Globes need to and can use this timeout as a gift. A chance to show not only that they are capable of change, but what that can look like across the entire entertainment landscape. This goes far beyond awards shows and talent to include the studios, publicists, and outlets that help shape the way entertainment is consumed and preserved.
As we leave this awards season and prepare for the next, everyone will be watching the Hollywood Foreign Press. We really need to be watching Hollywood. The time for change was years ago, but as the saying goes, the second best time is now.