After a year ravaged by a global pandemic, record unemployment rates, renewed cries for social justice, the continued climate crisis and a tumultuous political election, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the television series audiences and awards voters alike turned to were those that allowed them to get away from this world and dive into new ones. This resulted in all of the drama and comedy series nominees at the 78th Annual Golden Globes this year being such escapist, even if not entirely light-hearted, fare.
“I think we’re all, in different ways during this pandemic, searching for identity when what we used to have to find ourselves was taken away from us in our everyday lives — whether it’s a job, or seeing friends and fam-ily on a daily basis. It’s been a really trying time,” says “Emily in Paris” star and Golden Globe nominee Lily Collins.
Collins’ Netflix comedy provides a sense of wish fulfillment for anyone especially missing travel, as her titular character moves to France in the pilot episode and begins a journey of finding her true self while she is within a foreign environment.
Other modern-day set series that offer the opportunity to immerse one’s self in a different physical place include HBO Max’s globe-trotting “The Flight Attendant,” which centered on a citizen playing homicide detective; Netflix’s “Ozark,” which is set in the specific world of cartels in the Ozarks; Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek,” about the quirky Rose family and their even kookier friends and neighbors in their small town; and Apple TV Plus’ “Ted Lasso,” in which the eponymous character (Jason Sudeikis) moves across the pond to coach soccer.
Both “Schitt’s Creek” and “Ted Lasso” also took extra care to infuse their storytelling with examples of kind, caring and heartfelt characters. While the showrunners may not have gone into their respective series with the agenda of being an antidote to the way real-life events were further dividing the nation, they became one anyway.
“As a group, [the] cast, crew, writers, actors — but especially Jason [Sudeikis], Brett [Goldstein], Brendan [Hunt], Joe [Kelly] — were happy to be making a show that was about kindness, empathy, optimism and forgiveness. It was refreshing for all of us to be working on something like that, which was almost therapeutic for those of us involved,” says “Ted Lasso” showrunner Bill Lawrence.
Some of the nominated series transported audiences to into worlds of iconic characters, such as Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian,” set inside the “Star Wars” universe in a galaxy far, far away, and the origin story of nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
And even ones that dabbled in social issues and potentially polarizing politics made the tough topics go down easier with humor, genre-blending, period elements or some combination of all three. These shows are Hulu’s “The Great,” which is set in the 18th century as the titular Catherine (Elle Fanning) beings to plot against Peter III of Russia (Nicholas Hoult); HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” which mixes sci-fi and horror stylistic elements while root-ing its tale in true historical moments; and Netflix’s “The Crown,” whose fourth season took place in the 1980s — distant enough to be nostalgic, rather than triggering for most.
Crafting serious stories through the lens of entertainment not only allowed its audience a break from today’s harsh realities, but often its actors, as well.
“Peter is someone who’s had absolute power. He’s getting scarred by his parents in many ways in terms of his behavior, and he’s never had to really check himself. He’s a character who’s so delirious and mad, but also someone who, underneath it all, has a little bit of a heart and a conscious apart from being completely insane,” says Hoult, the Golden Globe-nominated star of “The Great.” “The story was an opportunity to go a little bit mad, to be honest with you.”
Mónica Marie Zorrilla contributed to this report.