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By Dennis Romero
Golden Globes: Going, Going, Gone
This Sunday, the 65th annual Golden Globes show will consist of a no-frills newscast with nary an evening gown or tuxedo, hair stylist or makeup artist within miles of where the winners will be announced. That’s because of not just the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike but also because NBC Universal topper Jeff Zucker deep-sixed Hollywood’s most bogus awards ceremony. I say, good riddance. Of course, Hollywood is all panicky now about what will happen to the Academy Awards. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) set up a Web site urging the public to plead with the Writers Guild to allow the awards shows to go on as planned. This is what happens when the WGA hits a nerve among the entertainment establishment and when an out-of-town PR firm hired by the AMPTP gets something terribly wrong. Because the truth, as we all know, is that most of Hollywood dreads every awards show, hates all the hassle involved, and would love nothing better than to stay home.
Only people who don’t know anything about show biz could think this town would go into withdrawal if the Golden Globes show and its plethora of parties were canceled. True, that phony-baloney spectacle in the past has proved a valuable marketing tool for the studios and networks pushing their movies and TV series (even if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which chooses the winners of this dubious award, is ethically challenged). But last time I looked, scripted TV will be completely off the air soon for the foreseeable future, replaced by reality shows like a resurrected American Gladiators, which is doing ridiculously well in the ratings for NBC. Clearly, the public just wants to feast on TV programming, even if it’s junk food.
I’ll gladly take talent and producers and even writers at their word that all this awards competition is meaningless. So what’s the problem? Sure, the owners of the fashion labels, and the limo companies, and the hotel ballrooms, and all the other ancillary businesses that depend on the awards shows for business are bummed, and understandably so. But the reality is that every studio and network (often one and the same, thanks to media consolidation) is still gonna be stuck with its already-rented space for its Golden Globe parties, including the catering and florist bills, etc., whether or not the awards show is held. And, anyway, the AMPTP can’t be concerned about the impact of the strike on the local economy, or else it wouldn’t have been a no-show at the Los Angeles City Council hearing on that very subject.
The big loser is NBC, whose parent company, GE/NBC Universal, is one of the eight Big Media companies that make up the AMPTP. Zucker refused to allow the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to put on an untelevised awards dinner. “NBC has the contractual right to broadcast the Golden Globes, and that’s where a lot of the complication now is coming from. The network is telling the [Hollywood Foreign Press] that if they hold any kind of Golden Globes show, then NBC contractually has the right to televise it,” an insider told me. “NBC is essentially telling Hollywood, ‘If we’re going down, then everybody is going down with us.’ ”
Then Zucker tried to pull a fast one and program a four-hour block of Golden Globes programming under the guise it was “news” so the WGA wouldn’t picket. He wound up looking churlish and foolish and an even bigger jerk than he normally does.
The same fate may be awaiting Disney boss Bob Iger, since his ABC broadcasts the Oscars. Surely, it’s no surprise to the moguls that the WGA wants to hurt the Big Media where they live financially. But trust the AMPTP to overreact. The organization trotted out the geriatric David L. Wolper to put his name on a Variety letter comparing the WGA’s “boycott” of the Golden Globes and Oscars to America’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. (This is uncomfortably reminiscent of the time Miramax secretly penned an endorsement of its Gangs of New York director Martin Scorsese and attributed it to geezer filmmaker Robert Wise.) What crapola. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The writers didn’t even picket Brentwood.
For the AMPTP to expect a groundswell of anger aimed at the WGA for dumping the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards is naive, not to mention downright laughable. The ratings for these shows keep going down almost every year, so the public doesn’t much care. Especially when the only spontaneity during the evening is the lame possibility that a winner may be trapped in the bathroom or fall down the stairs of the Kodak Theatre.
And let’s drop the pretense, shall we? Right now, canceling the Golden Globes has a lot of Hollywood moguls thanking the WGA under their breath. Perhaps if the AMPTP went back to the bargaining table and began real negotiations instead of just delivering ultimatums and then refusing to bargain, the WGA might relent and allow the Oscars to proceed as planned. Then maybe the Back Nine of this TV season wouldn’t be lost. Or pilot season. Or 2008-2009 prime time. Or the movies slated for 2010. Or below-the-line workers’ homes. Or countless Hollywood-dependent businesses. But the moguls don’t give a damn.