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Is the HFPA Ready To Shake Up the Comedy Races?

In a year without any clear frontrunners what comedic performances will be singled out at the Golden Globes comedy races?

While the drama categories have clear front runners in place since Emmy season, this year’s comedy lead acting categories at the Golden Globes are much more in the air. There isn’t a breakout new comedy completely dominating the conversation. Last year’s male winner Donald Glover is ineligible while Atlanta is on hiatus, and the actress winner seems unlikely to repeat.

Golden Globes voters are clearly being forced into a shakeup of the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series race. Last year’s winner Donald Glover isn’t eligible this year and many of last year’s nominees seem unlikely to return. The scandal filled departure of former winner Jeffrey Tambor from Transparent nearly ensures he won’t be nominated again. Voters might not feel inclined to continually nominate Nick Nolte for a show that no one even knows exists. As charming as Gael Garcia Bernal is voters have to eventually grow tired of Mozart in the Jungle. As popular as Black-ish is will HFPA voters continue to nominate Anthony Anderson for a performance that has never won a major award? As unlikely as it is that many of last year’s actors repeat the one thing they have going for them is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of competition.

The lead actress category is in a similar situation, but HFPA voters have so many options to choose from that some of last year’s six nominees might return. Former winners like Rachel Bloom and Gina Rodriguez are quintessential Golden Globe winners, but voters are known to eventually move on from shows that fail to gain traction anywhere else. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been nominated for every season of Veep so far but voters clearly nominate her because she is an Emmy favorite, not because they like the show. Tracee Ellis Ross won the award last year, but if they decide to move on from Black-ish she might unfairly become the most recent victim of the Golden Globe’s tendency to move on to the hottest new thing.

New Shows

More than any other awards group the Golden Globes are the best at welcoming breakout performers into Hollywood. While Emmy voters are perfectly content continuously awarding Alec Baldwin and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the HFPA prides themselves in being the first to celebrate Donald Glover and are shamelessly charmed by Gael Garcia Bernal.

This year’s lead actor race doesn’t really have a breakout performance. The new comedies from the broadcast networks (Young Sheldon, The Mayor) aren’t the shows that voters typically gravitate towards especially without unanimous critical support. Stars on premium and streaming shows like Kevin Bacon and Jay Pharaoh seem like afterthoughts. Because there aren’t any obvious new shows, voters might be won over by Chris O’Dowd for Get Shorty. The Irish actor stars in a show about Hollywood and crime that airs on a network looking for its big break.

(Photo: Epix)

The actress category already has a frontrunner with a breakout star on a show that has been streaming for less than a week. Rachel Brosnahan checks all the right boxes as a young actress with a huge breakout role in a 50s-set comedy about standup comedy. On top of Brosnahan giving one of the most refreshing performances of the year, a show about a woman trying to break into the entertainment industry has the opportunity to resonate strongly with audiences right now.

After years as a supporting actress on Mad Men and Community, Allison Brie has finally been given a leading vehicle in G.L.O.W. as a desperately struggling actress in 1980’s Hollywood who turns to wrestling for a chance to actually perform. The Netflix comedy was a summer hit and might strongly resonate with the guilds especially at SAG, but it doesn’t quite seem like a show that will excite Golden Globes voters although recently they have gone to great lengths to prove they are willing to go out of their comfort zone.

In addition to Brosnahan, there are plenty of other breakout performances waiting to have their “A Star is Born” moment. Frankie Shaw and her now show SMILF is continuously compared to Girls. Showtime has already renewed the show for a second season. DeWanda Rise is receiving positive reviews for Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It remake. While voters might want to support a new Spike Lee project, there is also a slight backlash from younger critics towards the show. Earlier this year critics adored Dear White People’s Logan Browning, and if it had sustained its momentum, she could have easily been a stronger contender.

Hoping For a Comeback

After years of being off the air two former awards darlings are back in the comedy race: Will & Grace and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The original modern auteur comedy was never a major Golden Globe contender except for a series win for the third season. Larry David has been nominated three times in the past, but voters haven’t even bothered to nominate him since the fifth season.

Even though Will & Grace has never won a Golden Globe, it is one of the most nominated shows of all time. HFPA voters have always been charmed by Debra Messing who was nominated six times for Will & Grace as well as two different genre nominations for her show The Starter Wife. Eric McCormack was nominated less frequently throughout the original run of the show, but the star will probably benefit from a weak category and a strong push from NBC.

 Trying to Break Through 
(Photo: NBC)

After failing to resonate with any awards group last fall The Good Place might have a second chance to break through with awards groups after finding a bigger audience going into a sort of digital syndication on Netflix. Now the show is all over social media. The comedy’s best chances at nominations are likely with its two leads, Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Bell is a well-liked actress who finally has awards potential and because of that voters might rally behind her. Danson is a Golden Globes favorite who could easily sneak into the lead actor race with his best role in years. However, his chances would be even stronger if NBC campaigned the veteran actor in the supporting race.

Pamela Adlon isn’t the type of actress that Golden Globes voters single out especially for a show in its second season, but after a surprising Emmy nomination and an even bigger second season she is at least a possibility.

Aziz Ansari received his first Golden Globe nomination two years ago for the first season of Master of None. After the show grew even more confident in the second season, he’s gone from a possibility to a frontrunner. Auteur-driven performances don’t necessarily have a strong track record at the Golden Globes, but throughout the second season Aziz Ansari’s Dev experienced his own intercontinental Eat Pray Love adventure that might appeal strongly with the HFPA.

(Photo: Netflix)
Lead Actor in a Comedy or Musical
  1. Aziz Ansari, Master of None
  2. Gael Garcia Bernal, Mozart in the Jungle
  3. Ted Danson, The Good Place
  4. Chris O’Dowd, Get Shorty
  5. Eric McCormack, Will & Grace

Spoilers: Anthony Anderson (black-Ish), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Lead Actress in a Comedy or Musical
  1. Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  2. Kristen Bell, The Good Place
  3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
  4. Debra Messing, Will & Grace
  5. Issa Rae, Insecure

Spoilers: Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Frankie Shaw (SMILF).