Best Comedy/Musical series

Jan 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

This year’s Golden Globe nominees for best musical or comedy series take full advantage of the broad range of their category. The series constitute what David Hoberman, executive producer of the nominated “Monk,” called “a potpourri of shows.”
The list includes “Arrested Development,” a one-camera series in its first season on Fox; “Sex and the City,” a one-camera series from HBO that has won the category twice before; the three-camera “Will & Grace” from NBC; the one-hour “Monk” on USA; and “The Office,” running in the United States on BBC America, a cable network available in only 38 million TV homes.
“Will & Grace” and “Sex and the City” each have been nominated five times. The other three are newcomers to the category. That two of the nominees are on broadcast networks, two on basic cable networks and one on HBO, a pay TV service, also demonstrates the wide mix.
“The range of nominees makes me think that the foreign press is recognizing that American television has been energized,” said Mitch Hurwitz, executive producer of “Arrested Development.” “I think they are saying to us, `Don’t just do the same things. Take some risks.”’
Last year’s winner, HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” did not qualify for recognition because its latest original episodes did not run during the 2003 calendar year. This left some executive producers of the nominated shows wondering which series snagged “Curb’s” vacant slot.
“We’re the only multiple-camera show shot in front of an audience nominated,” said Jeff Greenstein, executive producer of “Will & Grace.” “That says something about where American comedy television is today, and it makes us feel really good about our nominations because inevitably shows get judged differently. There is often a perceived [higher] quality to a one-camera show.”
“We were shocked to be nominated this year,” said Jhoni Marchinko, another executive producer on “Will & Grace.” “After you’ve been on for a number of years you think they look for the new hot thing. You do your work in your little bubble, and kudos such as this let you know people are watching and people are liking it. That’s why the recognition is so thrilling.
“As for winning, well, we’ve been down this road before,” Ms. Marchinko said. “We go not expecting to win, but knowing the Golden Globes, it will be a great party.”
Handicapping the category in advance is a fool’s errand. A perusal of past winners indicates anything can happen. In 1983 and 1984 “Fame,” a series with music but more sturm und drang than comedy in its story lines, won the category. There is also precedent for a series produced overseas, such as “The Office,” winning. “Upstairs, Downstairs” won best series honors in the drama division in 1975.
“The Globes has a fabulous track record of spotting new efforts and new trends,” said Paul Lee, executive producer of `The Office’ and CEO of BBC America. “A few years ago they honored `The Shield’ before anyone else did. For us, the nomination says we’re every bit as good as the best on NBC and HBO.
“And I might add that in terms of genre, `The Office’ is very much in line with `Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and `The Larry Sanders Show,’ which the Golden Globe voters have supported.”
Mr. Lee said he sees the Globes telecast as a means for American audiences to find “The Office,” a series he described as “a mockumentary” focusing on the lives of office workers at a paper supply company in a dreary British city. Ricky Gervais, the star and co-creator of the series, is also nominated as best actor. He’s the first British actor to be nominated in this category.
“There will be 25 million people watching our clips, which are hilarious,” Mr. Lee said. “Because of the nomination we’re running the 12 produced episodes again, Thursdays at 10 p.m., so people can see them.”
Mr. Hurwitz echoed Mr. Lee’s sentiments about the upside to the nomination.
“Fox has been very generous to us, giving us an order for additional episodes, but we have been struggling to find an audience,” he said.
“We’re hoping that the TV audience will ask themselves, `What’s this show that got this nomination? We should check it out.’ That’s what makes this nomination so gratifying.”
Pinpointing what is special about the nominated episodes is not easy for the shows’ producers.
“Last year they honored Tony Shalhoub, who is `Monk,’ but the show was not nominated,” Mr. Hoberman said. “This year perhaps they looked more closely at the show itself. Our show has elements of both comedy and drama, a mix you don’t often find in television.”
Mr. Greenstein, who, along with Ms. Marchinko, became a showrunner on “Will & Grace” a season and a half ago, said the nomination provides some validation for their creative choices.
“We took some risks. We had Grace get married and we killed off Stan. To get the nomination on our watch feels supportive,” he said.