A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit.
Emmy campaigns are heating up as voting enters its final stretch, but first the latest chapter in the all-enveloping Golden Globes scandal.
Earlier this week there was a trade report rumoring sightings of officials from the Critics Choice Association and those associated with the production of its Critics Choice Awards broadcast scouting the Beverly Hilton’s main ballroom and planning logistics for their show, which has been announced for Sunday January 9. That happens to be the date the Golden Globes were expected to do their show for NBC from their longtime home – you guessed it – the Beverly Hilton.
Of course the well-publicized and continuing scandal surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nixed those plans with NBC (and Dick Clark Productions which produces the show). Those entities canceled the 2022 Globes broadcast and are holding off on any future commitments until they and the industry are satisfied that the HFPA — controversial almost since its inception — has legitimately cleaned up its act.
The Critics Choice Association swooped in and confirmed their show date to be broadcast again as part of their long term deal with The CW. It’s the date the Globes likely would have claimed (though it is similar to past dates on which the Critics Choice Awards have been held). Indeed insiders tell me CCA officials had had decided to move from their recent venue — Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport — to the more glamorous Hilton. As part of the move, the main ballroom was put on hold and the hotel and CCA agreed on terms, that is until the HFPA got wind of it.
“They started ghosting us,” one CCA source said. That person also mentioned a decades old contract between the Hilton and the HFPA that was negotiated by the embattled organization’s two past leaders — Lorenzo Soria and Jorge Camara, both now deceased — that guarantees the HFPA will always have the Hilton for the Globes around that early January Sunday date. And it is not just a one day rental. The Globes takes over the facility for weeks to prep and then tear down afterwards.
CCA sources told me they have learned from the hotel that the HFPA may be trying to prevent their show from taking place at the Hilton at that time, even to the point CCA says they were told that HFPA would possibly pay the usual costs involved just to keep them away.
That cost is considerable, but the loss to the Hilton would go beyond just the price of putting on their show. Major studios with Globe-nominated movies and TV shows always turn the hotel into one big party, each renting out expensive spaces for tented parties of their own. On any given Globes Sunday you are likely to find yourself invited to viewing and after-parties by the likes of Warner Bros/In Style, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Amazon, Disney, Sony and others.
The CCA confirms it had already been in contact with most of the studios who rent space and it appears, according to the organization, they planned to do for Critics Choice exactly what they have traditionally done for the Globes. Without this additional party income it would seem the Hilton would take another hit to their bottom line if the HFPA prevailed in preventing the Critics Choice from taking place there on January 9th. Would the HFPA actually go so far as to try to use the space to put on their own show, minus NBC and Dick Clark Productions just to keep the space? That would appear highly unlikely.
With their current standing with the studios and publicists who control access to talent, who would even come? Would they cover the whole cost of the Hilton’s loss should CCA be forced to walk away from the potential, but not yet signed, deal? Would they sue based on a contract forged by past HFPA heads who are no longer around to defend the intent of it?
The HFPA answered my queries on those subjects with the short following statement through their publicity firm: “The HFPA values its long-standing relationship with the Hilton. However, the organization is focused on its reform efforts and working on the transformational changes it has already announced and has made no other plans for the show at this time.”
I am told the Critics Choice Association has recently toured the new Fairmont Century Plaza hotel which opens September 27 and that, unless the situation with the Hilton can be resolved in the next few days, that hotel could possibly become the new home of the Critics Choice Awards. What is for sure: the org has no intention of changing their January 9th date, Hilton or no Hilton.
Apparently the Fairmont, which will operate as a hotel and residences, has plenty of party space for studios to take over, and of course that very large ballroom we all remember from the old Century Plaza Hotel. Stay tuned on this one.
As a side note, the Critics Choice Association is going international, which could be another threat to the status of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. “There were about two international members before all this broke with HFPA,” said one CCA insider. “Now we have about 30 and the list is growing.”
Those new members include Kjersti Flaa, the Norwegian journalist denied admittance to the HFPA and whose lawsuit uncovered many of the questionable methods that the organization had previously operated under. The Critics Choice group, which is currently the largest critics group in America with about 450 members, plans an even bigger international footprint going forward. I am told the org would even welcome qualified members from anywhere, and that includes, yes, the HFPA.
Full disclosure: I am a member of the Critics Choice Association and have recently served on the documentary screening committee and as President of the Film branch. However, I have zero involvement in any corporate aspects, show dealings and logistics, television or hotel contracts, or any business issues whatsoever of the CCA. I contacted CCA sources to get the actual story for this column after hearing and seeing printed rumors of the planned move to the Hilton.
EMMY CAMPAIGNING FULL SPEED AHEAD
F9 is finally opening today, but Emmy campaigning has already been going pretty fast & furious this season. (Another “full disclosure” here: I am also a longtime member of the Television Academy and former Governor repping the writers’ branch.) I cannot recall a season that has contained this level of promotional swag and food and drink dropped at my door on a seemingly daily basis. It will all come to a grinding halt as of the upcoming Monday 10 p.m. PT voting deadline, but even my UPS guy has commented on it. “Man you get a lot of packages,” he said. Ain’t that the truth. Now whether they come because I am a member of the press as well, I can’t tell, but the fact is they keep coming. Among them was a very official-looking fruit basket.
I wasn’t home on Thursday when my wife answered the door and a young woman carrying a literal crate of fruit told her, “I have this package for Pete from the Office of the Mayor.” My wife was perplexed but tried to turn the woman away saying, “You must be mistaken. Why would the mayor send anything to my husband? We don’t even like the Mayor. Too many potholes not fixed.” The messenger persisted, “No, it is from the office of the mayor for Pete Hammond. Is this the right address?” My wife responded, “OK, but I still don’t know why the mayor would be sending him all this fruit.”
Once she opened the official-looking envelope she saw it was from The Mayor, the NBC show on which Ted Danson plays the Mayor. Well, if she didn’t know the series before, she certainly does now!
A couple of weeks ago two long vintage pink Cadillacs emblazoned with the words “Genius Aretha” on their sides drove right up to the front of my driveway. I’m not kidding when I say there were seven guys (including two others in a third car) who got out and gathered right in front (my office overlooks the driveway so I saw it all happening). Only one of them made his way to the front door delivering a box of cookies and goodies from NatGeo to promote their contender, Genius: Aretha. Wow that is a lot of effort and money just for a box of goodies.
Apparently it was a citywide Emmy promotion for the show. They even sent over a photo of star Cynthia Erivo, so good in the role, posing in front of one of the cars. I can’t imagine what the neighbors were thinking, but I gave away the box to someone who isn’t cavity prone.
I also gave away the RuPaul’s Drag Race box I got this week to a person I know is an uber fan of the show. I was tempted to keep one of the items inside, the glitter beach ball, but left it intact.
All of this is just a drop in the bucket full of promotional items sent to press during Emmy time, from the “authentic” Yellowstone cowboy hat to the voodoo magic kit representing a “favorite” Pen15 episode. Food and booze are the most popular items that often show up.
I recently got five quarts of ice cream for “National Streaming Day” from, I think, Hulu. Thanks Hulu, if it was you.
But far and away the winner for best premium item of the season goes to HBO Max for their Friends The Apartment Lego set in honor of their currently streaming Friends Reunion special which is on my ballot in Variety Pre-Recorded I believe. It has a sticker on the side that says “NOT FOR SALE.” Sale? Not on your life. This Lego set is going straight into the garage right next to all my Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy board games.
Apparently you can pick up one of these sets for anywhere between $100 and $300 on eBay, according to a number of auctions I spotted there. One seller is listing only the empty box for $37.50 — and free shipping. For Friends fanatics this would have to be a must get, but if I were them I would save up for the whole thing and wait for the auction price to come down rather than settle for just the box.
SO MANY SHOWS, SO LITTLE TIME
With the vast amount of content being churned out each television year growing by leaps in bounds, the sheer number of email invitations to TV Academy members has become simply overwhelming. Based on my experience, I would say most members probably have gotten up to five invites daily, mostly for virtual screenings and Q&As since the Academy deemed these events could only be live in an outdoor setting like drive-ins for the second year running. Actually I have gotten quite a few invites to drive-in events too. To be honest I haven’t even heard of many of the shows, or in some cases even networks who are hoping to break through the clutter and grab the attention of voters.
The first invite I got this season came in February for a Cartoon Network show called Primal. The most recent “event” invite was for Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical with no less than 11 participants for the Q&A. The Academy, as they do on all these invites for which they make money by controlling emailing to their 20,000+ membership, always takes great pains to separate themselves from the actual event with a warning that it is “Not Presented Or Hosted By The Television Academy.”
Additionally the Academy’s digital platform hosts an endless, and I mean endless parade of FYC Screeners where they also make money. (The Motion Picture Academy has fallen in step with their own digital screening platform, vowing that this past year would be the final year for physical DVD screeners, just as the TV Acad did a couple of years ago.)
With ballots due on Monday – also exclusively digital and super easy to fill out – phase one of Emmy campaign season is coming to a close. We will see how it all pays off when nominations are announced on July 13. The question still to be answered is will the Emmys be back to their old live self when it airs from the Microsoft Theatre on September 21, or will we see another attempt at a hybrid live/virtual ceremony like last September’s, where Hazmat-suited production assistants attempted to present winners with Emmys right in their home?
For my money that Emmy show hosted brilliantly by Jimmy Kimmel but drawing the lowest ratings in Emmy history, and one of the first to attempt a big awards ceremony on a virtual basis, is still the best. It was a fun, spirited, and innovative affair far superior to what has come since.
Ironically the Emmy broadcast itself is ineligible to compete for Emmys. Instead, the choices in the live Variety category included the pretty-good Grammys, the abysmal Oscars, the BET awards, Critics Choice and yes, even the beleaguered Golden Globes, which in the recent past has found itself with consistent Emmy nominations. I am betting not this year.
Finally, I recently had the honor of chatting with the ever-versatile producer/director/writer/actor Mark Duplass for this year’s SeriesFest. That conversation will stream on Monday as part of this year’s panel programming for the TV-oriented festival.
Duplass has produced a number of Emmy contenders this season including the exceptional The Lady And The Dale for HBO, the late Lynn Shelton tribute show Her Effortless Brilliance, and the Hulu documentary series Sasquatch.
Of course he was also nominated in the Supporting Actor in a Drama Series last year for his role as Chip in The Morning Show which recently wrapped shooting its second season, a schedule he says was spread over 15 months. Check it all out at SeriesFest as part of their Innovation Talks on Monday. SeriesFest runs June 24-July 11.