There are many off-the-wall awards show categories, like the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Face of Heroism (which Jennifer Lawrence won this week for The Hunger Games), or the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss (which Twilight stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have won for four years running). But my absolute favorite awards show category is far and away the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a TV Series, Miniseries, or TV Film.
Nowhere else can one enjoy the silly spectacle of actors in half-hour network sitcoms (Sean Hayes, Neil Patrick Harris, Megan Mullally) pitted against actors in multi-hour pay cable miniseries (Jeffrey Wright, Tom Wilkinson, Mary-Louise Parker). It’s crazy and awesome in equal measure, like a dadaist satire of the entire institution of televised awards shows that also happens to be completely real.
When the category was first created in 1970, it was slightly less crazy. Just comedy and drama series were lumped together, but that still meant that Marcus Welby, M.D.’s James Brolin and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In’s Henry Gibson were up for the same award in 1970. (Brolin won.) In 1980, however, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association added Miniseries and TV movies to the category, and the kookiest collection of acting talent was born.
With so many possible nominees to choose from and a relatively small pool of voting members each year (roughly 90), the HFPA has occasionally found themselves with the pickle of six, seven, even nine nominees landing in the category. In 2002, Donald Sutherland, Alec Baldwin, Jim Broadbent, Bryan Cranston, Sean Hayes, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Imperioli, John Spencer, and Bradley Whitford all were up for the same award. Because why not?
With such a disparate spread of talents and performances, how does the HFPA sort out who should actually win? If you’re thinking comedy would get the short shrift, you’d be right: Since 2000, only three comedy supporting actors, and two comedy supporting actresses, have won Golden Globes — and that includes Glee’s Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch, who both won in 2010.
Instead, for the Supporting Actor category, it really helps to have starred in a miniseries (four winners in the past 12 years), be an acting legend (six winners), and/or have appeared on HBO (eight winners). For the Supporting Actress category, by contrast, legendary status won’t really help you: Only three respected Hollwood veterans (Vanessa Redgrave in 2000, Anjelica Huston in 2004, and Jessica Lange last year) have won Globes for their work in this category. Instead, being an up-and-coming actress in a standard TV drama (four winners) or TV movie (five winners) is your best bet to a Golden Globe.
So what does that mean for this year’s crop? For Best Supporting Actor, we’ve got Max Greenfield (New Girl), Ed Harris (Game Change), Danny Huston (Magic City), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family); and for Best Supporting Actress, we’ve got Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Sarah Paulson (Game Change), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family).
Right off the bat, comedy stars Greenfield, Stonestreet, and Vergara can likely begin drinking early, since their chances of winning are slim to none. Harris would appear to have the best shot among his fellow actors, since he’s acting legend in an HBO movie (i.e. Game Change), but I’m thinking my colleague Ken Tucker is right to give the odds to Patinkin, another acting legend whose show, Homeland, proved far buzzier than any drama on HBO this year other than Game of Thrones. (And last year’s winner in the category, GoT’s Peter Dinklage, wasn’t even nominated this year. For shame!)
As for the actresses, unlike Ken, I think the edge goes to either Panettiere or Paulson, young up-and-comers in an acclaimed drama and TV movie, respectively.