Managing Expectations: Outlander's Shot at Golden Globes Glory

Written by: Ashley Crawley

Photo courtesy: Variety
Fact: Outlander fans are the most dedicated, outspoken, loyal supporters of any television show to date. Okay, there’s no way to definitively gauge that but I’d swear under oath that it’s true. Just look at how fans have busied themselves during the six months of Droughtlander by click, click, clicking MILLIONS of votes to lock in Outlander crowns from online awards such as E!’s 2015 Best. Ever. TV. Awards, Entertainment Weekly’s EWwy Awards and the TV Championships.

The latest show of unwavering fandom involves Outlander fans influencing the rankings on GoldDerby’s Golden Globe Awards predictions. The show, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are featured on the list of top 5 contenders across nearly every critic and user category, even if the odds are sky high (20 to 1 in one column).

These predictions are getting a lot of play and attention on social media, and at the right time – the Golden Globe Awards nominations will be announced this Thursday, Dec. 10, at 8:00 am EST. So the question is – can the fandom influence the outcome to lock in Golden Globe nominations for our beloved Outlander?

No, we can’t. Well not technically, at least.
Gif courtesy: Giphy
But before you throw stale bannocks at me, let me explain.

I imagine there’s a lot of the TV-loving world that isn’t aware of the process for how these major awards shake out – from start to finish. I, for one, had no idea until after I'd gotten rid of my nasty Outlander Emmy expectation hangover that Emmy voters weren’t even required to watch the submission episodes before casting their vote. Essentially, it’s a popularity contest… but not in a way where Outlander would come out ahead, given its amazing fan base.

This realization only fueled my fired-up theory that while it’s validating to have a show recognized by major awards shows, as soon as your favorite show isn’t recognized… those awards mean squat. They’re also not the be-all and end-all for defining successful quality programming that will stay on air for many seasons.

But for the benefit of this week’s announcement and our on-bated-breath hope that Outlander gets some recognition, let me break down the Golden Globe Awards nominations process. Even though these awards represent the nice hybrid of the Oscars and the Emmys for honoring both film and television, I’m only going to focus on TV because, well, this is all about Outlander. And we are all, all about Outlander.
Photo courtesy: Starz

The governing and voting body of the Golden Globe Awards is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and its name is pretty self-explanatory – an organization of photographers and journalists that report on all things entertainment for media outlets across the globe. There is less than 100 members representing 55 countries, and those are the folks that chart the winning course of the Golden Globe Awards.

But just how do those 90-some-odd journalists decide the award recognition fate of our favorite show?

In summary, all shows that want to be considered must have submitted an entry form by October 30, 2015. From there, the HFPA mails to all eligible members a nomination ballot with a “Reminder List” of qualifying television programs, and members are asked to vote for up to five nominees in each award category – in order of preference. The deadline for those lists to be mailed by Ernst & Young, the accounting firm that oversees the entire voting process, was November 25. The five nominees in each category that you’ll hear announced Thursday will be the five that received the greatest number of votes.
Photo courtesy: Golden Globes

There was a lot of verbiage in there, so let me underscore a few key points:

  • Notice I said an entry form, and just an entry form. Unlike the Emmys, shows do not have to mull over hours of aired footage to determine the strongest episode to submit for consideration, whether it be for the show itself or the actor’s individual performances. Nope, just a form with a name. In theory, a voter unfamiliar with Outlander won't have the benefit of an incredible episode imploring them to take a second look at an unknown (to them, at least) show.
  • A “reminder list” and, I kid you not, they put it in quotes. Now I imagine that most people when pressed could immediately ramble off their favorite five on most topics, television shows included. But which of us when we were in school didn’t prefer the multiple choice questions to the open-ended? Probably not many. Having a list of shows at hand likely eases the burden if you’re a voter stuck with only three definitive choices and in need of a little help to round out five. “Let’s see.” *scanning, scanning, scanning* “Oh, Downton Abbey! Why not. I haven’t seen it but people rave about it.” Granted, these are professional journalists so this is likely a ridiculous hypothetical. But you know what else they are? Human.
  • Five shows. FIVE. To put that into context, there are somewhere in the ballpark of 400 scripted shows that air on broadcast, basic and premium cable and digital. That’s a list that encompasses both comedy and drama, but still. Now I’m no math whiz (proud journalism major), but it doesn’t take one to grasp that only a few shows will bubble to the top under that mountain of odds.

Additionally, there is a list of certifications that must be sworn to in order for a HFPA member’s selections to be included. My most favorite is definitely the subjective beast that is #4 on the list: “His or her votes were independently arrived at and were not influenced by any other member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nor any award nominee, studio, network or production entity.”

I mean, on its head, I get it. But seriously? This isn’t a jury debating the outcome of a capital murder case, sequestered away from the outside world for months. We’re talking mainstream entertainment, people, and its promotion is EVERYWHERE – billboards, magazine ads, social media, online promos, on the side of a damn bus, you name it. But sure, “it didn’t influence me at all. Not even a little,” said no HPFA voter ever.
Photo courtesy: Twitter (thanks, Robyn Harney!)
To be clear, I'm agnostic on how the HFPA approaches the Golden Globe Awards nomination and voting process. Sure, there are likely flaws in the system but what in life doesn't have those? I'm definitely not purporting that I have an alternate idea that solves any and all head-scratching hangups we might all have for why some shows get nominated and others don't when clearly something's amiss.  The intent is more to highlight how subjective and fraught with disappointment these awards can be for MANY shows, including Outlander. I'm sure we've all carried the torch at some time or another for other favorite shows that never got recognized (Gilmore Girls anyone? Parenthood?).

Photo courtesy: Pinterest
Since we’re only at the stage of nomination announcements, I won’t belabor the point on how we get from Thursday to the winners announced during the live Golden Globes Awards telecast on January 10, 2016. Let’s hope that’s an explanation bridge that needs crossed once if Outlander is nominated. Instead, let’s manage expectations.

Here’s the thing, fandom friends… Outlander is a freshman show. For book fans especially, who have loved and adored and followed the saga of Jamie and Claire for decades, it’s hard to remember that to the TV world, they’re only a year old. More like, sixteen hours old. Granted, season one was so incredibly done that it gave Outlander a phenomenal start out of the gate. One that was stronger than any show I’ve seen in a long time.

Now before everyone starts blasting the comments section with “what about … “ and listing off newbie shows that have won in the past, the point I’m making is that it’s more often the exception (Showtime’s The Affair is a recent example) rather than the norm when a new show is awarded the top honor. The Emmys and, just this week, the Writers Guild Awards nominations, passed with crickets when it came to Outlander and gave us this tough reminder.

Siiiiiiiiiiigh. Ah hell, it’s the holidays. A time where the giving, joyful spirit should overcome all. Ever the optimist, let’s focus on a few reasons why the odds may be ever in our favor for Outlander nominations.
Gif courtesy: Giphy
  • Outlander airs on Starz, a premium cable network. Premium cable and digital shows have been the trending darling of awards shows for the past few years. It’s something I like to call “The Sopranos Effect,” with that show having paved the way in the late ‘90s for HBO, then Showtime and, eventually, Netflix to gain the attention of critics and voters. In the past five years, only ONE broadcast or basic cable show has even been nominated for best drama series – CBS’ The Good Wife. Well, and PBS’ Downton Abbey, but as a Downton Abbey lover, that one sits in a category all by itself. I mean, it’s on PBS.
  • Outlander and its incredible leads have gained the attention of notable critics and outlets. Take for example this fantastic LA Times article, which puts Outlander, Sam and Cait firmly in the list of predictions. It also fuels our hope by pointing out that “the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has pivoted slightly in the last couple of years, with its choices for its annual Golden Globe Awards increasingly mirroring the critical mainstream rather than simply rewarding the biggest stars on the planet.”
  • A Starz original drama has been recognized with a Golden Globe nomination before – in 2011 for Boss. This is encouraging because it tells us that the HFPA does at least have some awareness that Starz spearheads original programming and offers more than just repeated showings of Paul Blart Mall Cop and He’s Just Not That Into You.
  • Game of Thrones won not just the Emmy for best drama this year, but also more Emmys for a single series than any other show. A show about noble families duking it out in a mythical land beat out frontrunners like House of Cards, Downton Abbey and Mad Men – all shows with premises [mostly] found in reality. With that, it opened the door of possibility for other brilliantly executed fantasy, sci-fi or alternative dramatic shows. You know what’s even better? I don’t [yet] watch Game of Thrones, but understand from most that this past season – the award winner – wasn’t even its best. This just goes to show that, while we were blown away by the breakthrough and brave storytelling that occurred in season one, Outlander might not reap the fruits of this effort as it relates to awards until later. Much later. So, don’t fret!
  • The Outlander fandom can help! No, you can’t vote. But by continuing to promote and rain down love for all things #Outlander, you better the chances of generating greater visibility among those who can. All the positive word-of-mouth, social media impressions and continual chatter keep the fan and media momentum alive for a show we’d all love to eventually see recognized for more than just online awards.
My prediction? If Outlander does receive any nominations on Thursday, it’ll be for Caitriona Balfe. My greatest wish is that I'll get a lot of comments later that morning about how wrong I was when a slew of nominations roll in.  That would leave me elated. Listen, I love Sam Heughan as much as you do (well maybe not as much as ALL of you) and I am astounded by Tobias Menzies’ performance. But, all in all, Caitriona is the standout here and the one most likely to get a nod.

And if she doesn’t? Good news! The sun will still come up. The show is still as incredible as it was Thursday morning at 7:59 am EST before the nominations were announced. And we will still be rewarded with another season of sublime writing, dazzling cinematography and unstoppable performances. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Do you think Outlander will be nominated for any Golden Globes? Does award show recognition make a difference to you as a viewer?


  1. Yes!!! Thank you for saying Caitriona Balfe would be most likely to get a nomination. I loveee Sam Heughan and he's amazing, but Caitriona IS the show. She deserves much more credit than she is given.

    1. I wish all three would get the nod as Cait,Sam&Tobias were brilliant in season 1,but being a relatively new TV series,I just can't see getting a nod,it won't make a difference to me as I love the show & look forward to season 2!For me all cast that makes this show not only Cait!

    2. Thanks, Jessica! All 3 are awesome, but if forced to pick the backbone- I'm going Caitriona (ducks to avoid getting pelted in head).

    3. And she doesn't need collarbones.........

  2. Thanks for the background information on the process. It clarifies things and your observation that keeping the show in the public eye justifies the many voting hours we've lavished on it despite the fact that it doesn't alter the process. Still hoping the show, Caitriona or Sam get some recognition and all the books make it to screen!

    1. It absolutely helps! There's nothing set in stone that says it can't. It likely also helps when it comes time to Starz having to make a determination about a renewal for S3 too, especially since it's not a cheap show to produce. Silent fans don't help that cause. So keep it up! And thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Thanks for the background information on the process. It clarifies things and your observation that keeping the show in the public eye justifies the many voting hours we've lavished on it despite the fact that it doesn't alter the process. Still hoping the show, Caitriona or Sam get some recognition and all the books make it to screen!

  4. Nicely done article and so spot on. Whether or not the show/people win any awards doesn't at all diminish the quality of the production or performances.

    1. Amen! That's exactly it. I can count on a couple hands the number of shows I've adored that have been critically acclaimed but their awards shelves remained empty. It didn't lessen the quality of the show at all.

  5. 400 scripted dramas and comedy shows aired in 2015!
    Do you remember the god-awful limited television we had ten years ago? You had the choice of: many bad, lots of ok, but few good shows.
    Now: we have bad, ok, good, better, great, amazing, superb, and outstanding shows.
    There are so many shows- too many- that the networks have “written a tv cheque that our eyeballs can’t cash”. The good shows are getting in the way of the great shows (like Outlander).
    Not exactly a bad problem to have: except if you’re Sam Heughan or Catriona Balfe during awards season.

    ("How We Went From Television's Golden Age to 'Peak TV' Blues." RollingStone. September 15, 2015.)

    1. "Not exactly a bad problem to have: except if you’re Sam Heughan or Catriona Balfe during awards season." You hit the nail on the head!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. My greatest wish came true! Nominations for Caitriona, Tobias and the show! Bummer on Sam's snub, but it's a TOUGH category he's in!

  8. For me, Sam's performance made the biggest impact. From the first moment he was seen he lit up the screen. He is the reason that I tuned in week after week, read the books, bought the DVDs, am planning a trip to Scotland. He is the center cog around which everyone else gravitates. Jamie's relationship with Dougal and Colum. Jamie's relationship with Clair. Jamie's relationship with Black Jack. Jamie's relationship with Murtagh. The others react to Jamie. I think Caitriona will get nominated (well now I know she did, but even before I thought she would because there are just not that many parts for strong female leads. But the truth is without Sam she might just appear to be a bossy, head strong woman with loose morals. It is Sam that breathes life into the relationship and makes us root for them as a couple. I want to be thrilled that the show was nominated and would be if it weren't that Cait and Tobias were also nominated. It is a travesty that they were when Sam was the catalyst for their performances and he wasn't. Does it matter to me? Yes on his account, but for me, I love both the actor and the character even more.

  9. ShariG, you are correct. Outlander is the story of Claire and Jamie, but Sam's Jamie has lost the position of major character to that of Tobias' Frank/Black Jack. Season One was the story of Frank, Claire and Black Jack. Tobias had more screen time and more "extra" scenes written for him as Frank and as Black Jack, than Sam had. And, as far as I can tell from comments by Ron Moore and from the trailer shown at Comicon 2015 and the recently released trailer, Tobias will be given more scenes and screen time in the second season. The character of Jamie as written by Diana Gabaldon has been diminished significantly in the first season and perhaps will be in the second season. Only the people who have read the books recognize this, but it is very troubling. We have waited so long to see this series onscreen, and now it is bastardized. We see a major character relegated to almost minor status. It isn't surprising that Sam did not get recognized as a male lead because Ron Moore hasn't had his character written in the context of the book. He has rather elevated two minor characters for Tobias Menzies. I have nothing against TM as a person or as an actor, but I do hold Ron Moore responsible for relegating Sam's role of Jamie to a minor position. In interviews, RM has said that Tobias gave BJR humanity and he cites the episode The Garrison Commander to exemplify that. Well, that was one of the episodes written for Tobias. It isn't in the book, nor is the character of BJR anything other than an evil man intent on destruction. To say that a man who tortures and rapes repeatedly is not totally evil is the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard. I don't recall any evidence in that episode or in the last two episodes that showed one speck of empathy/humanity in BJR. Sam's performance throughout the first and second parts of Season One was exemplary; his work in the last two episodes was monumental. He was subtle, but powerful; he was contained, but explosive; he was physical, but receptive. Not only his body but his facial expressions were exceptional in conveying every thought and every pain as he endured those tortures. My heart hurts for Sam that his fine work was overlooked because the executive producer preferred to enhance another actor's roles and support that actor's position for award consideration. When Ron Moore was asked in interviews about Sam's "snub," he said that "it was disappointing" - not that he was shocked or that he couldn't understand how Sam was overlooked. He said simply that Sam would have a larger role in Season Two. Wow! How sincere. There are many of us who recognize what RM is doing and it is shameful. He may be a power player in Hollywood but I have no respect for him as an executive producer or writer.

    1. Lot of truth in your comment Della,I sincerely wish RDM would stick to the books more,I just think he is trying to make it more interesting for more viewers (male),but without the book's Jamie character has been diminished so far,Sam has given a exemplary performance what he has been given,& for me Claire's character without Jamie would be just a very blunt knowall woman,here is hoping Sam is given the correct material in season2!

    2. Thanks to both of you for sharing your thoughts. I don't share your sentiment about Ron D. Moore, but agree that Sam gave stellar performances with the material he was written. I stand by my thought that the leading male category is just too damn hard to crack against all the contenders on shows today.

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