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12 Essential TV Episodes You Have to Watch Before the Golden Globes

Here's how to be an expert at your Globes party

Liz Raftery

With the holiday rush almost behind us, all anyone wants to do is kick back on the couch, put their feet up, and zone out in front of the television. And trust us when we say there's actually no better time to do just that than right around the new year, ahead of Hollywood awards season.

Kicking things off are the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards, in which the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honors the past year's biggest achievements in television and film. That particular ceremony will take place the very first weekend of 2018, on Sunday, Jan. 7, and the nominees were announced earlier this month.

We certainly don't blame you if you've never seen -- or even heard of -- many of the nominees. Half the movies hadn't even been released across the country when the nominations were announced back on Dec. 11, and it's practically impossible to keep track of the 400+ TV shows that populate broadcast networks, cable and premium channels, and streaming services these days. So that's where we come in.

2018 Golden Globe Nominations: A Complete List

If you've got 10 hours to spare between now and 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 7, we've got you covered (at least as far as the Globes television nominations are concerned). Here are the 12 essential TV episodes you need to watch in order to be an expert at your Golden Globes viewing party:

Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle, Courtesy of HBO

Big Little Lies
Nominations: 6
Episode to Watch: "Once Bitten"
If you only have time to watch one Golden Globe nominee, make it Big Little Lies, which is sure to clean up, well, big at the ceremony. And if you only have time to watch one episode from the HBO series, let it be "Once Bitten," the episode whose therapy scenes prove why Nicole Kidman deserves not only the Emmy she won in September, but also the Limited Series Actress Golden Globe she's up for (sorry, co-star Reese Witherspoon) and basically all the other acting awards out there. It's likely that Big Little Lies' Globe victories won't stop with Kidman. Putting your money on wins for the show in Limited Series, Supporting Actress (for Laura Dern), and potentially Supporting Actor (Alexander Skarsgard) as well, are all safe bets.
How to Watch: HBO Go, Amazon Video, iTunes

The Handmaid's Tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

The Handmaid's Tale
Nominations: 3
Episode to Watch: "Offred"
Hulu's dystopian adaptation is hands down the favorite to win Drama Series at the Globes this year, following its Emmy victory in September. Star Elisabeth Moss is also heavily favored to repeat her Emmy win and take home the Globe for Drama Actress. If you haven't already watched the series (and why haven't you?!), the pilot episode (named after Moss' character) is a good place to start to see what all the fuss is about. You'll be captivated by the Mad Men alum's portrayal of both Offred and June (her name before she was forced into sexual servitude). We say "both" because it truly is like she's turning in a pair of performances as two different women. The episode also introduces us to Ann Dowd's Emmy-winning and Globe-nominated role of Aunt Lydia, one of the handmaidens' minders. A warning, though: As horrible as Gilead is, once you see it for the first time, you won't want to leave.
How to Watch: Hulu

Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
Suzanne Tenner/FX

Feud: Bette and Joan
Episode to Watch: "And the Winner Is... (The Oscars of 1963)"
Unfortunately the quadruple-nominated FX anthology series will probably go home empty-handed, but as the second most-nominated show this year, it's liable to be a conversation topic. Co-leads Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange are up against each other in the Limited Series Actress category for their portrayals of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, respectively, and the show also nabbed a Supporting Actor nod for Alfred Molina. Were it not for Big Little Lies, Feud would probably be taking home the Limited Series award.
How to Watch: FX On Demand, iTunes, Amazon Video

Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things

Stranger Things
Episode to Watch: "The Mind Flayer"
Nominated for the second time in the Drama Series category, Stranger Things probably won't win, but chances are everyone at your Golden Globes party will be talking about Netflix's supernatural hit, which also earned star David Harbour an Emmy nod. Check out "The Mind Flayer," the penultimate episode of Season 2 when things come to a head in the gang's fight with a horrific Shadow Monster.
How to Watch: Netflix

Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz; This Is Us
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

This Is Us
Episode to Watch: "The Most Disappointed Man"
Though NBC's thrice-nominated weeper went home empty-handed from last year's Golden Globes, look for Sterling K. Brown to repeat his Emmy win in the Drama Actor category this year. And it's possible the HFPA could even go with the popular vote and name This Is Us Best Drama Series. If you're not a regular viewer of the top-rated broadcast drama, check out the Season 2 episode "The Most Disappointed Man" for a showcase of Brown and his fellow nominee/onscreen sister Chrissy Metz's acting chops. It'll break your heart every time.
How to Watch: Hulu

Matt Smith and Claire Foy, The Crown
Robert Viglasky/Netflix

The Crown
Episode to Watch: "Lisbon"
Will last year's reigning champ, Netflix's The Crown, earn repeat victories in Drama Series and Drama Actress for its Queen Elizabeth, Claire Foy? Probably not since the Globes doesn't like too many repeat winners, but if you want to see why the Hollywood Foreign Press awarded Foy top honors last year, watch the Season 2 episode "Lisbon." The sophomore season of the British period show delves into the inner workings of Elizabeth's marriage to Philip (Matt Smith), and Foy is simply stunning as a young woman who's trying to balance her personal life with the political and professional spotlight she's been unexpectedly thrust into.
How to Watch: Netflix

​Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Episode to Watch: Pilot
The Globes love to be ahead of the curve and award little-watched newbies, particularly ones produced by Amazon (see: Mozart in the Jungle), so look for the charming comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to fill that void this year. It wouldn't be surprising if the new series from Gilmore Girlscreator Amy Sherman-Palladino about a 1950s housewife who tries to forge a career as a stand-up comedienne sweeps both of its nominated categories, for comedy series and actress for its truly outstanding lead, Rachel Brosnahan. Look no further than the pilot episode to see all of Brosnahan's talents on full display in a performance that's both captivatingly manic and truly marvelous.
How to Watch: Amazon Prime

Frankie Shaw, SMILF

Episode to Watch: Pilot
Another dark horse candidate that could make a big splash in the comedy category is Showtime's SMILF, the nominee you've probably never heard of. Check out its debut episode to see lead actress nominee Frankie Shaw as a young single mom in South Boston as she struggles to reconcile motherhood with her waning youth.
How to Watch: Showtime Anytime, Amazon Video

Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Kelsey McNeal, ABC

Episode to Watch:
With last year's comedy series winner, Atlanta, out of contention, we are guaranteed a new champ. While Mrs. Maisel and SMILF are the hot new kids on the block, we know the HFPA likes black-ish; it gave Lead Comedy Actress to star Tracee Ellis Ross last year, but she was left out of this year's nominations. Maybe the HFPA will try to make up for the snub by throwing a bone to the show itself or Ross' co-star, Lead Comedy Actor nominee Anthony Anderson.
How to Watch: Hulu

Debra Messing as Grace Adler, Eric McCormack as Will Truman, Will & Grace
NBC, Chris Haston/NBC

Will & Grace
Nominations: 2
Episode to Watch: "Who's Your Daddy"
The Golden Globes could also go the nostalgia route this year in the comedy category and honor the rebooted (and thus far 0-for-27 at the Globes) NBC series Will & Grace. Eric McCormack was the only one of the four series regulars to earn an acting nomination, and his work in "Who's Your Daddy" as his character Will realizes he's too old and out of touch to date millennials proves that he is indeed the standout. A win in either of those categories would prevent the show from the dubious distinction of being 0 for 29.
How to Watch: Hulu

Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor
Eike Schroter, ABC

The Good Doctor
Episode to Watch: "Sacrifice"
Without last year's winner Billy Bob Thornton in contention, the drama actor field is also anyone's to lose at this year's ceremony. Don't be surprised if the Hollywood Foreign Press jumps on the Good Doctor bandwagon and gives star Freddie Highmore a win for his portrayal of an autistic surgeon. The most-watched network drama missed out on a series nomination for its freshman season, but might earn some recognition for its leading man.
How to Watch: Hulu

​Bill Pullman and Jessica Biel, The Sinner
USA Network, Peter Kramer/USA Network

The Sinner
Episode to Watch: "Part 1"
"Golden Globe nominee Jessica Biel." Let those words swim around in your mouth like Biel's character in USA's limited mystery series, emerging out of the water in the show's first episode after trying to hold her breath underneath. Like anything else in the limited series category that's not named Big Little Lies, The Sinner doesn't stand a chance in the Limited Series category, but the Hollywood Foreign Press might give Biel the lead actress prize just to spread the wealth, which it loves to do, and ensure that she and hubby Justin Timberlake show up to the ceremony in order to make the red carpet extra star-studded. The real sin in that regard, though, would be her winning over Big Little Lies favorite Nicole Kidman.
How to Watch: USA On Demand, iTunes, Amazon Video

The 75th Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Seth Meyers, air Sunday, Jan. 7 at 8/7c on NBC.