|Photo courtesy: Variety
Fact: Outlander fans are the most dedicated, outspoken, loyal supporters of any television show to date. Okay, there’s no way to definitively gauge that but I’d swear under oath that it’s true. Just look at how fans have busied themselves during the six months of Droughtlander by click, click, clicking MILLIONS of votes to lock in Outlander crowns from online awards such as E!’s 2015 Best. Ever. TV. Awards, Entertainment Weekly’s EWwy Awards and the RadioTimes.com TV Championships.
The latest show of unwavering fandom involves Outlander fans influencing the rankings on GoldDerby’s Golden Globe Awards predictions. The show, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are featured on the list of top 5 contenders across nearly every critic and user category, even if the odds are sky high (20 to 1 in one column).
These predictions are getting a lot of play and attention on social media, and at the right time – the Golden Globe Awards nominations will be announced this Thursday, Dec. 10, at 8:00 am EST. So the question is – can the fandom influence the outcome to lock in Golden Globe nominations for our beloved Outlander?
No, we can’t. Well not technically, at least.
|Gif courtesy: Giphy
But before you throw stale bannocks at me, let me explain.
I imagine there’s a lot of the TV-loving world that isn’t aware of the process for how these major awards shake out – from start to finish. I, for one, had no idea until after I’d gotten rid of my nasty Outlander Emmy expectation hangover that Emmy voters weren’t even required to watch the submission episodes before casting their vote. Essentially, it’s a popularity contest… but not in a way where Outlander would come out ahead, given its amazing fan base.
This realization only fueled my fired-up theory that while it’s validating to have a show recognized by major awards shows, as soon as your favorite show isn’t recognized… those awards mean squat. They’re also not the be-all and end-all for defining successful quality programming that will stay on air for many seasons.
But for the benefit of this week’s announcement and our on-bated-breath hope that Outlander gets some recognition, let me break down the Golden Globe Awards nominations process. Even though these awards represent the nice hybrid of the Oscars and the Emmys for honoring both film and television, I’m only going to focus on TV because, well, this is all about Outlander. And we are all, all about Outlander.
|Photo courtesy: Starz
The governing and voting body of the Golden Globe Awards is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and its name is pretty self-explanatory – an organization of photographers and journalists that report on all things entertainment for media outlets across the globe. There is less than 100 members representing 55 countries, and those are the folks that chart the winning course of the Golden Globe Awards.
But just how do those 90-some-odd journalists decide the award recognition fate of our favorite show?
In summary, all shows that want to be considered must have submitted an entry form by October 30, 2015. From there, the HFPA mails to all eligible members a nomination ballot with a “Reminder List” of qualifying television programs, and members are asked to vote for up to five nominees in each award category – in order of preference. The deadline for those lists to be mailed by Ernst & Young, the accounting firm that oversees the entire voting process, was November 25. The five nominees in each category that you’ll hear announced Thursday will be the five that received the greatest number of votes.
|Photo courtesy: Golden Globes
There was a lot of verbiage in there, so let me underscore a few key points:
- Notice I said an entry form, and just an entry form. Unlike the Emmys, shows do not have to mull over hours of aired footage to determine the strongest episode to submit for consideration, whether it be for the show itself or the actor’s individual performances. Nope, just a form with a name. In theory, a voter unfamiliar with Outlander won’t have the benefit of an incredible episode imploring them to take a second look at an unknown (to them, at least) show.
- A “reminder list” and, I kid you not, they put it in quotes. Now I imagine that most people when pressed could immediately ramble off their favorite five on most topics, television shows included. But which of us when we were in school didn’t prefer the multiple choice questions to the open-ended? Probably not many. Having a list of shows at hand likely eases the burden if you’re a voter stuck with only three definitive choices and in need of a little help to round out five. “Let’s see.” *scanning, scanning, scanning* “Oh, Downton Abbey! Why not. I haven’t seen it but people rave about it.” Granted, these are professional journalists so this is likely a ridiculous hypothetical. But you know what else they are? Human.
- Five shows. FIVE. To put that into context, there are somewhere in the ballpark of 400 scripted shows that air on broadcast, basic and premium cable and digital. That’s a list that encompasses both comedy and drama, but still. Now I’m no math whiz (proud journalism major), but it doesn’t take one to grasp that only a few shows will bubble to the top under that mountain of odds.
Additionally, there is a list of certifications that must be sworn to in order for a HFPA member’s selections to be included. My most favorite is definitely the subjective beast that is #4 on the list: “His or her votes were independently arrived at and were not influenced by any other member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nor any award nominee, studio, network or production entity.”
I mean, on its head, I get it. But seriously? This isn’t a jury debating the outcome of a capital murder case, sequestered away from the outside world for months. We’re talking mainstream entertainment, people, and its promotion is EVERYWHERE – billboards, magazine ads, social media, online promos, on the side of a damn bus, you name it. But sure, “it didn’t influence me at all. Not even a little,” said no HPFA voter ever.
|Photo courtesy: Twitter (thanks, Robyn Harney!)
To be clear, I’m agnostic on how the HFPA approaches the Golden Globe Awards nomination and voting process. Sure, there are likely flaws in the system but what in life doesn’t have those? I’m definitely not purporting that I have an alternate idea that solves any and all head-scratching hangups we might all have for why some shows get nominated and others don’t when clearly something’s amiss. The intent is more to highlight how subjective and fraught with disappointment these awards can be for MANY shows, including Outlander. I’m sure we’ve all carried the torch at some time or another for other favorite shows that never got recognized (Gilmore Girls anyone? Parenthood?).
|Photo courtesy: Pinterest
Here’s the thing, fandom friends… Outlander is a freshman show. For book fans especially, who have loved and adored and followed the saga of Jamie and Claire for decades, it’s hard to remember that to the TV world, they’re only a year old. More like, sixteen hours old. Granted, season one was so incredibly done that it gave Outlander a phenomenal start out of the gate. One that was stronger than any show I’ve seen in a long time.
Now before everyone starts blasting the comments section with “what about … “ and listing off newbie shows that have won in the past, the point I’m making is that it’s more often the exception (Showtime’s The Affair is a recent example) rather than the norm when a new show is awarded the top honor. The Emmys and, just this week, the Writers Guild Awards nominations, passed with crickets when it came to Outlander and gave us this tough reminder.
Siiiiiiiiiiigh. Ah hell, it’s the holidays. A time where the giving, joyful spirit should overcome all. Ever the optimist, let’s focus on a few reasons why the odds may be ever in our favor for Outlander nominations.
|Gif courtesy: Giphy
- Outlander airs on Starz, a premium cable network. Premium cable and digital shows have been the trending darling of awards shows for the past few years. It’s something I like to call “The Sopranos Effect,” with that show having paved the way in the late ‘90s for HBO, then Showtime and, eventually, Netflix to gain the attention of critics and voters. In the past five years, only ONE broadcast or basic cable show has even been nominated for best drama series – CBS’ The Good Wife. Well, and PBS’ Downton Abbey, but as a Downton Abbey lover, that one sits in a category all by itself. I mean, it’s on PBS.
- Outlander and its incredible leads have gained the attention of notable critics and outlets. Take for example this fantastic LA Times article, which puts Outlander, Sam and Cait firmly in the list of predictions. It also fuels our hope by pointing out that “the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has pivoted slightly in the last couple of years, with its choices for its annual Golden Globe Awards increasingly mirroring the critical mainstream rather than simply rewarding the biggest stars on the planet.”
- A Starz original drama has been recognized with a Golden Globe nomination before – in 2011 for Boss. This is encouraging because it tells us that the HFPA does at least have some awareness that Starz spearheads original programming and offers more than just repeated showings of Paul Blart Mall Cop and He’s Just Not That Into You.
- Game of Thrones won not just the Emmy for best drama this year, but also more Emmys for a single series than any other show. A show about noble families duking it out in a mythical land beat out frontrunners like House of Cards, Downton Abbey and Mad Men – all shows with premises [mostly] found in reality. With that, it opened the door of possibility for other brilliantly executed fantasy, sci-fi or alternative dramatic shows. You know what’s even better? I don’t [yet] watch Game of Thrones, but understand from most that this past season – the award winner – wasn’t even its best. This just goes to show that, while we were blown away by the breakthrough and brave storytelling that occurred in season one, Outlander might not reap the fruits of this effort as it relates to awards until later. Much later. So, don’t fret!
- The Outlander fandom can help! No, you can’t vote. But by continuing to promote and rain down love for all things #Outlander, you better the chances of generating greater visibility among those who can. All the positive word-of-mouth, social media impressions and continual chatter keep the fan and media momentum alive for a show we’d all love to eventually see recognized for more than just online awards.
My prediction? If Outlander does receive any nominations on Thursday, it’ll be for Caitriona Balfe. My greatest wish is that I’ll get a lot of comments later that morning about how wrong I was when a slew of nominations roll in. That would leave me elated. Listen, I love Sam Heughan as much as you do (well maybe not as much as ALL of you) and I am astounded by Tobias Menzies’ performance. But, all in all, Caitriona is the standout here and the one most likely to get a nod.
And if she doesn’t? Good news! The sun will still come up. The show is still as incredible as it was Thursday morning at 7:59 am EST before the nominations were announced. And we will still be rewarded with another season of sublime writing, dazzling cinematography and unstoppable performances. Now that’s something to celebrate.