Big Wins For 'Transparent' Make It Clear: TV's Undergoing A Revolution

Jan 12, 2015
Originally published on January 12, 2015 8:25 am

Surrounded by his cast mates and the show's executive producer, Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor faced a crowd of journalists backstage at the Golden Globe awards Sunday, and made the case for why his win as best actor in a comedy meant more than a typical Hollywood honor.

"This is about changing people's lives," said Tambor, who won his award playing a 70-year-old coming out as transgender. Earlier, while accepting his award on national TV, he dedicated his award and performance to the transgender community.

But, revolutionary as it was to see a TV series about a transgender woman win two Golden Globes, Transparent also made history of a different sort on Sunday.

The evening also marked the first wins for original programming by Amazon, a company better known for selling books than making TV shows just a few years ago.

In the quality original TV game, Amazon has often seemed a step behind its rival Netflix, often unfocused and less sure of its brand. But the wins — Transparent was also named best comedy or musical series, beating HBO's Girls and Netflix's Orange is the New Black — served notice that Amazon is a player, too.

Seen as an important award in the film world, the Globes made some strong statements about TV. There were no honors for the Big Four broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Instead, Netflix saw House of Cards leading man Kevin Spacey finally take home a trophy as best actor in a drama, snapping a seven-time losing streak.

"I'm very glad I'm not the Susan Lucci of the Golden Globes," Spacey said backstage, minutes after telling a nationwide TV audience: "I cannot (expletive) believe I've won."

The broadcaster who won biggest was the fifth network, The CW, which saw Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez named best actress in a comedy. It's been a great few weeks for Rodriguez and the show; she recently won a People's Choice Award, and the network announced Sunday that it was picking up Jane the Virgin for a second season.

But Rodriguez, who told me in July that she passed up a possible role on the Lifetime show Devious Maids to wait for a part that would be less stereotypical, blossomed as a TV star Sunday. She answered questions from the press backstage in English and Spanish, while stressing how her role has inspired other Latinas.

"There's no better way to tell others they can win too but by letting them live in your dreams," she said. "When you ... follow your dreams, you give others the allowance to do it themselves."

The Globes TV awards also seemed to reward what was new. Showtime's The Affair, which debuted in October, scored wins as best TV drama and best dramatic actress for star Ruth Wilson. FX's Fargo, which debuted in the spring of 2014, won awards for best miniseries and best actor in a miniseries for Billy Bob Thornton.

Best of all, the Globes unfolded as a pretty good TV show itself, thanks mostly to the ace hosting work of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They had an inspired cameo from Margaret Cho, playing a North Korean general/film critic in a callback to her work playing Kim Jong Il on Fey's series 30 Rock. And they even managed a Bill Cosby joke which was both bold and hysterical, turning on both women's awful impressions of him.

Even George Clooney, who was the butt of jokes from Fey and Poehler at this year's and last year's Globes, said the two should host the show again, though they have vowed not to do it again.

Much as some like to hate on the Globes and the group that chooses them, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this time they seemed to have gotten the TV end of things very right.

In the process, they revealed just how quickly the quality TV game has changed for some of the most powerful players in the industry.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's catch up on last night's Golden Globes. They kicked off the big awards season in Hollywood last night. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted for the third consecutive year.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS)

TINA FEY: Tonight, we celebrate all the great television shows that we know and love, as well as all the movies that North Korea was OK with.

GREENE: Well, one movie that we seemed to love - "Boyhood." It was the big winner, taking best drama and best director. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" took top honors in the best musical or comedy category. And last night, the Globes highlighted what NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans is calling the next step in a TV revolution. Let's find out what he means. Eric is on the line with us. Eric, good morning.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: So a lot of the buzz right now seems to be focusing on Amazon's streaming service, which won its first two globes for an original television series called "Transparent." Tell us why this is important.

DEGGANS: Basically, these awards - and "Transparent" won as best TV comedy and also got a win as best comedy actor for its star, Jeffrey Tambor - make Amazon a major player in the quality TV industry. It allows Amazon to claim it's on the same level as an HBO or an AMC in the same way that Netflix's nominations and wins turned it into a major player a few years ago. Amazon's slate of original series haven't always been as consistently good as Netflix's, and there was a sense that they were having trouble finding their way in the original series area, so this award is validation that they're on the right track. And it was a great recognition for Tambor, who's this beloved character actor, who found his greatest success playing a type of character that's often stereotyped by television - a man transitioning to become a female. Let's hear a clip from his acceptance speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JEFFREY TAMBOR: I would like to dedicate my performance, and this award, to the transgender community.

(APPLAUSE)

TAMBOR: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for your patience. And thank you for letting us be a part of the change.

GREENE: All right, so that's actor Jeffrey Tambor, accepting an award last night, one of the awards won by Amazon's streaming service. Let's talk about something that didn't happen last night, Eric, and that is the four broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX - they didn't win anything.

DEGGANS: So that's very true. PBS won an award, but the real success among broadcasters came for the fifth network, the CW, which also won its first Golden Globe on Sunday. Gina Rodriguez, star of the CW comedy "Jane The Virgin," won as best actress in a comedy or musical. And it's been an amazing time for Rodriguez, who just won a People's Choice Award, and also recently learned that her show was picked up for the next TV season. Viewers last night saw a TV star born at the Globes, as Rodriguez gave this really heartfelt speech about inspiring other Latino girls to dream big. Let's check that out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GINA RODRIGUEZ: This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.

DEGGANS: Her win also showed off the diversity among the Globe's winners that included "Transparent" and the theme song for the civil rights movie "Selma."

GREENE: You know, just a lot of touching moments last night. And I guess we should say the Golden Globes - I mean, the event itself is a form of entertainment. A lot of people are looking to really, you know, get some entertainment value out of going to see this thing.

DEGGANS: Exactly, it has to be an entertaining TV show. And the hosts - Amy Poehler and Tina Fey - were just great. They were funny. They got the show off to a great start. They kept it humming. Even George Clooney, who's been the butt of jokes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler over the last two Globes broadcasts, said backstage he thinks they should host the show again, even though the two women have said this was their last time.

GREENE: Oh, come on, we've learned from politics that doesn't mean anything if they're saying that now. We'll probably see them up on stage next year. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans - thanks, Eric

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.