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By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

As if determined to avoid the “do any of you even watch TV?” reaction that inevitably accompanies the Round Up of Usual Suspects known as the Emmy nominations, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association produced a jaw-dropping list of Golden Globe nominees on Thursday.

And while it continues the long-standing tradition of Golden Globe wackiness, the list also rather bravely reflects the virtually unmeasurable nature of modern television.

It is simply impossible to quantify television in any meaningful way beyond personal preference or particular intent.

I say this with some authority, having just dutifully put together several end-of-year lists: There is just no way to acknowledge all the quality shows and performances in groups of 10, much less five or six, even if you divide them up, as the Globes do, into comedy and drama.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association clearly wanted to steer attention away from certain award franchises, notably Mad Men, for which only Jon Hamm was nominated, and broadcast comedies of any name, often in favor of shows that may not show up on any other list of any sort, and kudos to them.

The broadcast networks, with their 23-episode work horses, some of them consistently terrific, were mostly ignored in favor of “trophy television” — those newer, sleeker, 12-episode series served up by streaming services whenever and wherever you desire, which is kind of depressing. But with the exception of Flesh and Bone for miniseries (really, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Flesh and Bone?) there isn’t a nominee without merit, and the surprising nature of the lists is, in itself, refreshing.

Game of Thrones is the sole survivor from last year’s best drama list, and this year’s includes Narcos (Netflix) and Outlander (Starz), along with the less surprising Empire and Mr. Robot. I think it is safe to say no one was talking about Narcos as an awards contender, and though Outlander debuted with strong buzz and continues to have a captive audience, it seemed to fall off the top-picks radar, for no better reason than there are far too many top picks.

Both Narcos and Outlander appeal to non-American audiences, and provide an important reminder that the Television Renaissance is not just an American experience. Eighty-five percent of Narcos, which follows the exploits of Pablo Escobar, is in Spanish, and, according to some polls, it is the second-most-watched show in the U.S. and the U.K. (after Game of Thrones).

Outlander is about a British woman magically transported to 18th century Scotland, and though it debuted strong last year, it failed to win any awards — something the Globes may rectify, with nominations in the actor and actress category as well.

The comedy side was a bit less surprising: Transparent (Amazon), Orange Is the New Black (Netflix) and virtually-mandated-by-law nominees Veep and Silicon Valley (both HBO).

But instead of filling the remaining slots with broadcast favorites (black-ish, Fresh off the Boat, Brooklyn Nine-nine), the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, God bless it, went with Casual (Hulu) and Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon). Both of which are very good shows, which now might actually be watched by people and possibly, though probably not, considered for Emmys.

The acting categories are a safer mix of obvious choices — Emmy winners Viola Davis and Hamm, breakout stars Tariji P. Henson (Empire) and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) — and celebrations of the underrecognized — Eva Green (Penny Dreadful), Maura Tierney (The Affair) and Rachel Bloom, singing star of the valiant but struggling Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Many great shows, established (no Good Wife) and outlier (no UnREAL) were not acknowledged because, quite frankly, that is now the way it is with these awards. Television has become too vast, disparate and discrete to categorize in any way. During awards season, then, there is much to be said for simply spreading the love around.

©2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

 

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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