By Alan Carter
Special to TelevisionWeek
The great debate raging in Hollywood these days isn’t over the best platform for viewing movies at home or whether Michael Ovitz really should have been fired from Disney. The water cooler talk is all about the smash hit “Desperate Housewives” and whether it should be considered a comedy or a drama.
Whichever side you fall on, the ABC show, with its racy themes of adultery, kinky sex, murder and suicide, is up for a best comedy at the Golden Globes.
Contrary to popular opinion, producers say they did not enter “Housewives” as a comedy to avoid what many believe is stronger competition in the drama category. “Our show is unique,” said executive producer Michael Edelstein. “It’s definitely a `dramedy,’ no matter how dark some of the subject matter. In addition to the drama and real moments, there are moments of irony and a lot of comedic elements to our show.
“I don’t think TV is stuck in the tent anymore that says if a show is one hour it has to be a drama.”
That debate aside, conventional wisdom says “Housewives” is pretty much a lock to walk away with the prize. Golden Globes voters like newcomers, and they like hip shows that garner media attention. The voters are members of the press corps, after all.
It’s worth noting that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association doesn’t always embrace a show because it is popular. “Cybill,” for example, beat out “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Seinfeld” in 1996.
But the media buzz given to “Housewives” almost from its debut will be hard to ignore. It won’t hurt the show that three of the four leads are also vying for best actress-or that the story lines can have viewers laughing one minute and in suspense the next.
“The nomination means a lot to us,” Mr. Edelstein said. “I think the nomination means people have noticed this is not an easy show to do. The show is something extraordinary. And might I add the Hollywood foreign press has great taste.”
HBO’s “Entourage” is another strong contender-another newcomer, and on cable, HBO in particular, which can be a plus with the foreign press. And the show, about a Hollywood actor and his posse of hangers-on (loosely based on the real life of actor Mark Wahlberg), is buzz-worthy. It premiered this past summer to wide acclaim.
But the HFPA voters who love cable fare have already shown allegiance to “Sex and the City.” That show was nominated five times previously and won three of those times. This is the series’ last year of eligibility, and sentimentality often goes a long way in awards voting. The “Sex and the City” finale was widely praised for being funny and giving a big emotional payoff to series fans.
NBC’s “Will & Grace” is threatening to become the Susan Lucci of the Globes. The landmark show about a gay man and his straight female friend has been nominated five times previously and went home empty-handed each time. (Note to the “Will & Grace” cast and crew: You’re in good company. “Friends” also went 0 for 5, and “Frasier” was shut out with eight nominations and no wins.)
Ratings have dipped somewhat this year, and many people feel, creatively and critically, the show jumped the shark a bit when Grace got married to guest star Harry Connick Jr. If “Will & Grace” were to win this year, it would likely be riding on the sentiment over its long run.
Fox’s “Arrested Development” has outstanding critical buzz and is coming off a previous Globe nomination and an Emmy win last September. If it weren’t for “Housewives,” this would probably be the show to give “Sex and the City” a run for its money. But the dysfunctional (and broke) Bluth family, with its infighting, is really no match for the seemingly endless dysfunction on “Desperate Housewives,” which not only has twice the airtime but more than twice the viewership of “Arrested’s” small but growing legion of fans.
The Globes in recent years have embraced lower-rated or lower-profile shows (such as last year’s win for “The Office”), which gives “Arrested” a possible boost. But don’t bet the frozen Bluth assets that it will happen this time.
The comedy contest this year seems to be no contest: “Housewives” should win, unless sentimentality for “Sex” takes over.