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Golden Globes Return After Racial Discrimination Scandal

Golden Globes
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Golden Globes return in 2023 after a year off due to scandals.

Publicists in 2021 called on the awards show to change its "pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety, and alleged financial corruption."

(CNN) — After a history punctuated by dysfunction and scandal, the Golden Globes struck a TV deal with NBC in the 1990s that solidified their place as a major TV and awards event. Now, after another controversy drove the ceremony off the air in 2022, the Globes return to NBC for an 80th anniversary dogged by questions as to how diluted and damaged the brand might be.

The latest troubles began almost two years ago, in February 2021, when the Los Angeles Times published a detailed story documenting the lack of Black members within the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which presents the awards, and potential ethical transgressions related to its then-roster of 87 international journalists.

The HFPA was thrown into crisis mode, with Hollywood figures distancing themselves from the ceremony. In response, a group of publicists called upon the HFPA to implement "profound and lasting change" for its "pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety, and alleged financial corruption."

In their letter, the publicists added that they could not advise their clients to take part in the Globes without the organization addressing those concerns.

NBC dropped the broadcast that May. Tom Cruise announced that he would return his three Globe trophies. By August, the HFPA laid out plans for a series of reforms that included expanding its roster of voting members and pledging to bring more people of color into the body.

Since then, skepticism has lingered about the HFPA's progress, and whether studios, publicists and high-profile stars would return after a non-televised ceremony was rather quietly held last year.

In September, NBC announced that it would again broadcast the Globes, and various performers have already agreed to appear at the event, which will be hosted by comic Jerrod Carmichael and honor Eddie Murphy with a career-achievement award.

That followed the acquisition of the Globes by Eldridge Industries, which is running the awards as a for-profit venture (it had previously been a nonprofit group) and paying members an annual salary.

"We are incredibly excited about this new era for our association," the group said at the time. "The HFPA remains committed to continuing its process of change and transformation to address issues of diversity, governance, and conduct."

Still, this year's Globes might not possess the same glitz factor, having taken pride in billing themselves as a "party" with a looser, more freewheeling attitude than the seriousness and stodginess associated with the Oscars.

For starters, this year's Globes move from a Sunday showcase to a less desirable Tuesday slot. While many presenters have been set, it remains unclear if the turnout will be as star-studded as in the past.

With award-show ratings dropping across the board, NBC's commitment could also be short-lived. When the broadcast was announced, the network noted that the HFPA would be free to "explore new opportunities for domestic and global distribution" after this one-year agreement.

Although the HFPA recognizes both film and television, most of the heat surrounds movies, and whether Globe wins will create momentum in advance of Academy Award nominations, which will be unveiled January 24 in what's perceived to be a fairly wide-open race.

The Globes split their top film award between drama and musical/comedy, with the blockbusters Avatar and Top Gun: Maverick joined by Elvis, The Fabelmans, and Tár in the former category. Babylon, The Banshees of Inisherin,Everything Everywhere All at Once, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and Triangle of Sadness will compete in the latter.

At least one major contender won't be on hand. Brendan Fraser, nominated for The Whale, has stated he will not attend, having alleged in his 2018 memoir that former HFPA member Philip Berk groped him at an event in 2003.

Berk said he had pinched Fraser as a joke and called the actor's version of the incident a "total fabrication." He remained with the group until 2021, when he was expelled during the diversity controversy for distributing an email that referred to Black Lives Matter as a "racist hate movement."

The stability and revenue provided by the original NBC TV deal followed a period in which the Globes moved among different networks and endured various scandals. Perhaps most famously, that included giving an award to Pia Zadora in 1982 for the lightly regarded film Butterfly, after her billionaire husband flew voters to Las Vegas to attend screenings and parties.

In 2011, the HFPA's former publicist, Michael Russell, accused members of unethical behavior in a $2-million lawsuit. At the time, a spokesperson dismissed the accusations as "no more than the case of a disgruntled former consulting firm, whose contract was not renewed." The suit was later settled, and terms were not disclosed.

As for red-carpet glamor, even the weather might not smile on the Globes, which will be presented in Beverly Hills. The forecast is for rain.

The Golden Globes will air January 10 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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Brian Lowry