Pop Culture

TV favorites rewarded, if miscategorized

Right before Mary-Louise Parker won a Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy, presenter Chris Rock made fun of the fact that, in her category, she was nominated alongside all four of ABC’s housewives. “Desperate Housewives is one of the biggest shows on the planet, and ‘Weeds’ is only watched by Snoop Doggy Dogg,” he said.

With just under 1.5 million viewers for its first episode, “Weeds” was barely noticeable among the flourishing green grass that is “Desperate Housewives,” which had nearly 22 million viewers for its first episode alone. Still, “Weeds” is a compelling series, achingly funny and heartbreakingly desperate all at once, and in their sophomore season, the four housewives had far than they did their first season. Thus, Parker won for her performance in “Weeds,” Showtime’s single-camera, half-hour dramatic comedy that debuted last August.

The housewives may have been the favorites — just in terms of numerical odds, they certainly were — but this is what viewers expect from the TV half of the Golden Globes: upsets from the underdogs, and awards for fan favorites that may not be watched by the masses. Besides, “Desperate Housewives” got its revenge later.

The Golden Globes look like an awards show you and your friends could produce in the local Holiday Inn ballroom with a budget of about a thousand dollars. The statues themselves are unimpressive, statues that are reminiscent of little league trophies with their fake marble bases and plastic gold-painted tops. Even the celebrities treat it lightly. “It’s lovely to be here, and at least it’s, you know, no effort,” Emma Thompson said.

This folksy, have-fun attitude can be charming, and it’s definitely a welcome break from January’s onslaught of overproduced awards shows that offer hollow recognition. Unlike those award shows that have to tell the celebrities they’ve won just so they’ll bother to show up, The Golden Globes tends to attract all the nominees in each category. The winners are often unpredictable, and every strong performance and well-produced show or film has a shot. Considering that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has fewer than 100 members, the unpredictability makes perfect sense.

In part because of this perceived hipness, the Globes are given lots of weight in Hollywood, frequently viewed as predictors of Oscar nominations; perhaps they even influence Academy members as they cast their ballots.

The Golden Globes awarded for television series, however, don’t have the same authority, even though they tend to recognize critically acclaimed and viewer-worshiped series.

Awards that are ahead of the curveUnlike the Emmys, the Globes usually aren’t five years behind (how many years after “Frasier” became a comedy black hole did the Emmys keep flowing just because “Frasier” was familiar?) And the Globes tend to be more connected to the pulse of America.

That’s not to say the shows with the highest ratings take all the awards; in fact, the Globes tend to be ahead of the curve, awarding series such as “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck” even though they might not have the ratings of “CSI” or “American Idol.”

This year, the television acting awards went to series that aren’t breakthrough smash hits, but that have solid ratings and passionate fans. Besides Parker’s award for “Weeds,” Sandra Oh’s performance in “Grey’s Anatomy” and Hugh Laurie’s performance in “House” were both recognized. Both actors play characters that are the life at the center of their respective shows. Likewise, former “Daily Show” cast member Steve Carell won for his performance as the maddeningly annoying boss in NBC’s “The Office.”

All of those series are in their first or second years, as was every television show that won this year, continuing the Golden Globes’ tradition of consistently recognizing new shows. Every year for the past eight years, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has honored a different drama; this year, the Golden Globe went to ABC’s popular “Lost.”

The one notable exception, however, seems to be the comedy/musical category. Different shows won in 2003 (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and 2004 (“The Office”). But before 2003, “Sex and the City” won for three continuous years. And this year, while “Desperate Housewives” did not receive any recognition by way of its cast, it did win its second Globe in a row for one of the two biggest TV awards: “Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy.”

The multi-year streaks are more fitting of the crusty Emmys than the hipper Globes, but what’s more troubling is the awkward categorization, as comedies are lumped in with musicals. What exactly is “Desperate Housewives” doing in that category? And how did the least funny show in that category manage to win?

ABC’s series has its fun moments, but an hour-long soap opera just doesn’t belong in a category with four half-hour single-camera comedies. HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Entourage,” NBC’s “My Name is Earl,” Showtime’s “Weeds,” and UPN’s “Everybody Hates Chris” are all groundbreaking, original series that have helped evolve the sitcom genre, most of them over the past year or two; “Desperate Housewives” is more of a drama than it is a sitcom.

It’s inevitable that some shows defy categorization but have to be forced into one anyway; perhaps “Desperate Housewives” is one of those shows. More unforgivable, however, is the fact that supporting actors in miniseries and made-for-TV movies were nominated alongside their colleagues who are series regulars.

While there are three categories for best show (drama, comedy, and miniseries/movie), there are just two categories for supporting performers, and the category names alone prove that it’s time for a change: “Best Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.” Why not just throw in a few more, too, and make it “Best Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series, Motion Picture Made for Television, Fake News Show, or Show with Puppets that Resemble Muppets”?

Continuing to populate a category with such disparate shows forces impossible comparisons and moves it one step closer.

Still, the Globes have a long way to go before reaching the increasing irrelevance of the Emmys. At least the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association actually appear to watch television.

is a writer and teacher who produces reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.

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