New Cable Shows Dominate 2011 Golden Globes

It’s beside the point by now to say that the nominations in the television categories for the Golden Globes are weirder than ever. They’re always weirder than ever, which is one reason we love the Globes – and the biggest reason why they’re really only taken seriously when it comes to movies (and only partially even there). The tendencies and biases of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are so well known that even the most seemingly strange decisions are actually predictable when you really examine them.

The best known tendency of the Globes is its preference for newer shows, and the Best Drama category is proof positive. Of the five nominated series, two are still airing their debut season (American Horror Story and Homeland), another finished its first season last week (Boss), another debuted not long after the last Globes (Game of Thrones), and the oldtimer has actually had an entire second season (Boardwalk Empire, last year’s winner and probably a real longshot this time around).

This isn’t a terrible list – I assumed The Killing would get nominated, so there’s that – once one accounts for the absence of Breaking Bad. But the Globes have never nominated that series, and now that it’s finished with four seasons, it likely never will. Past nominees like Dexter, House, and The Good Wife are all still around, but don’t have the newness factor going for them anymore, and can probably count on never being recognized again. A footnote to this category: it’s the first time that every drama series nomination has come from a cable channel.

The nominations for Best Comedy look similar. A couple of new cable shows made the cut, Episodes and Enlightened. Showtime’s female-led comedies are all too long in the tooth now to get Globes attention, so the Showtime-esque Enlightened will have to do. New Girl was also nominated, along with two other network graybeards: Modern Family and two-time winner Glee, which apparently no one other than the HFPA still likes. Perennial nominee 30 Rock was finally bounced.

For Best Actress in a Drama, it’s back to the new faces – rather, older faces in new roles. Julianna Margulies of The Good Wife is nominated for the third straight year, but everyone else comes from a new show. Madeline Stowe is the lead actress in Revenge only when it comes to billing, but it’s new and she’s a crossover from the world of movies, so her nomination is no surprise. The nods for Claire Danes (Homeland) and Mireille Enos (The Killing) are likewise par for the course. The one stunner here is an echo of last year’s insane nomination for Piper Perabo – she’s out, but Callie Thorne of Necessary Roughness takes her spot as, apparently, the obligatory nominee from USA.

Best Actor in a Drama features two heavyweights from new series: Kelsey Grammer of Boss, and Jeremy Irons of The Borgias. Irons has won an Oscar, so that might give him a crucial leg up given the status-obsessed nature of the Globes. Damian Lewis of Homeland is less of a heavyweight, but it’s good to see him getting some attention. The holdover nominees are Bryan Cranston, who serves as the only proof the HFPA knows Breaking Bad exists; and last year’s winner, Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire.

If the Globes wanted to make us laugh, what better category than Best Actor in a Comedy? It’s just a bizarre category, led by the very strange fact that Johnny Galecki was nominated for The Big Bang Theory while his co-star, two-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons, was not. After a year where he was ineligible because his show didn’t air in the calendar year of 2010, David Duchovny is back, nominated for the fourth time for the ridiculous Californication. Thomas Jane is now a three-time nominee for Hung – not a bad show or a bad performance, but it’s hard to understand why the HFPA loves him so much. It might be the sexual content of the show, since Matt LeBlanc and his (fictional?) massive penis were cited for Episodes. Alec Baldwin fills out the category, landing his sixth nomination for 30 Rock.

Best Actress in a Comedy has a similar look, all the way down to the perma-nominee from 30 Rock (the fifth time around for Tina Fey, who has won twice). Defending champion Laura Linney was nominated again for The Big C, but while she was still excellent, she is likely to be upstaged this time around by either Laura Dern (Enlightened) or Zooey Deschanel (New Girl). The surprise here is that the Globes finally got around to recognizing Amy Poehler for Parks and Recreation, as it’s unusual for someone to get their first nomination once a show has been around for four seasons like Parks.

As usual, the supporting acting categories are difficult to get a handle on because all genres get combined. It’s hard to know what to make of a Best Supporting Actor race that combines a current Emmy winner (Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones), a past Emmy winner (Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family), an Oscar winner (Tim Robbins, Cinema Verite), and a pair of film guys who signed on all-star lineups (Paul Giamatti of Too Big to Fail and Guy Pearce of Mildred Pierce).

Evan Rachel Wood's villainous turn in Mildred Pierce is the only supporting actress performance not from a series. She is joined by repeat nominees Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) and Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire). This category is likely to be a showdown between two past Oscar winners whose series are about as different as you can get: Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey, and Jessica Lange of American Horror Story.

This was not a great year for movies and miniseries, but there should be competition here from the likes of Downton Abbey, The Hour, and Mildred Pierce. It’s interesting to see Dominic West get nominated for The Hour, given that he’s best known for the most unfairly ignored show from an awards standpoint in television history, The Wire. It is also strange that Luther is considered a “miniseries” rather than just a series. How do you get nominated two straight years for a miniseries, as Idris Elba has now been? As for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries, Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce) can presumably dust off a new corner of her awards shelf.

The Globes air January 15 (one month from today) on NBC, with Ricky Gervais returning as host.