Best Drama Series

Jan 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Whichever television series the Hollywood Foreign Press Association selects as best drama in the upcoming “61st Annual Golden Globe Awards,” the category is among the most competitive in the derby and a sign that creative distinction springs from all corners of today’s multichannel universe.
The five nominees are all critically lauded series, three from broadcast networks-CBS’s top-rated “CSI,” Fox’s espionage thriller “24” and NBC’s long-running “The West Wing”-and two from cable-“Nip/Tuck,” from basic cable channel FX, and “Six Feet Under,” from pay powerhouse HBO. Two are previous Golden Globe winners in the category: “Six Feet Under” in 2002 and “The West Wing” in 2001.
There’s no clear frontrunner among this group. Unlike other award contests, it’s impossible to predict Golden Globe results, industry watchers say, given the penchant of the Hollywood foreign press for out-of-nowhere choices. Last year, FX’s original series “The Shield” was the surprise winner as best drama series (along with star Michael Chiklis for best actor in a drama series). In the past, the group has selected unusual, edgy shows in this category, such as “Six Feet Under” in its first season, and ABC’s oddball “Twin Peaks” in 1991.
“They like underdogs,” said Joel Surnow, creator and executive producer of the nominated “24,” now in its third season.
That turns the attention to “Nip/Tuck,” in its first season on FX, the once-obscure cable channel that’s forging an identity with a few breakout shows.
When the series about Miami plastic surgeons made its debut in July, some critics, turned off by its cynical vision and gory depictions of surgery, blasted it. But “Nip/Tuck” gained the kind of buzz few programs on cable achieve, and in time, viewers began to appreciate its offbeat sensibility.
“It became a zeitgeist show very quickly,” said Ryan Murphy, “Nip/Tuck’s” creator and executive producer. Mr. Murphy said the foreign press understood the series’ ambitions-to look through the lens darkly at contemporary preoccupations with physical appearance. One of its stars, Joely Richardson, is nominated for best actress in a drama series.
“It’s such a strong year in the category,” Mr. Murphy said. “All four of those shows against us are iconic. So for our show to be against those, I am quite overwhelmed and thrilled.”
Since the Golden Globes cover the previous calendar year, television nominations bridge two seasons. This creates a tricky situation for “The West Wing,” which endured a management shake-up last May when creator Aaron Sorkin departed along with fellow executive producer and director Thomas Schlamme after a season of declining ratings. If “The West Wing” wins the Globe, the original creators would share the stage with their replacements, a potentially awkward moment. (Despite this backstage turmoil, “The West Wing” won its fourth consecutive Emmy last September for best dramatic series.) Martin Sheen, who plays the president of the United States on the show, is up for best actor in a drama series, and co-star Allison Janney is competing for best actress.
“Six Feet Under” won two years ago, which might undercut this year’s chances for the offbeat series about a family of undertakers, but the foreign press loves HBO. In the television categories, the pay cable giant responsible for groundbreaking series such as “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” scored 20 nominations-more than any other entity. One of “Six Feet Under’s” stars, Frances Conroy, is up for best actress in a drama series.
Fox’s “24” has numerous fans among the Fourth Estate and already has been honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the American Film Institute, TelevisionWeek’s semiannual Critics Poll and the Television Critics Association. Its star, Kiefer Sutherland, took home the 2002 Golden Globe for best actor in a drama series, and he’s up for it again this year. The fact that “24” has never been honored by the foreign press as a series might provide a boost in the voting, but executive producer Mr. Surnow said he believes the group tends to favor new shows.
Whatever happens, Mr. Surnow said he’s honored by the accolades. “We’re all in this business to be recognized,” he said.
“CSI,” whose influence as a top-rated series is partly responsible for the surge in TV’s forensics investigation dramas, has never won a Golden Globe. This year its star, William Petersen, is nominated for best actor in a drama along with the show itself.