By Alan Carter
Special to TelevisionWeek
Gone, apparently, are the days when TV’s most popular sitcoms did episodes about getting a toe stuck in the bathtub faucet.
This season’s contenders for Golden Globes’ top musical or comedy series have humorously tackled such issues as murder, sex offenders, racism, assault, kidnapping, the N-word, adultery, alcoholism, bed-hopping, pot smoking and child abuse.
And no, that’s not just one average episode of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”
Last year’s win by the “Desperate Housewives” of Wisteria Lane was a no-brainer. It was 2005’s critical favorite, a ratings winner and one of the shows everyone was talking about (the other being the ABC drama “Lost”).
And though “Desperate’s” rather adult and quasi-serious themes caused a lot of debate among Emmy voters over whether the show was a drama or a comedy, Golden Globe voters had no trepidation about embracing the show right out of the box.
In fact, in this category, a show historically is quite likely to win in its first season. While Emmy voters are sometimes criticized for finding a show at the start of its decline, the Golden Globes (when it comes to the TV category of music/comedy) have always been rather cutting-edge.
While Golden Globe voters often vote for a show several years in a row (such as HBO’s “Sex and the City” from 2000 to 2002) they very often like the new kid on the block. That “Desperate Housewives” is still popular and different from average sitcoms (and not just because it’s one-hour-long) will help, but a lot of the buzz this year is how the show isn’t as good as it was last year.
Whether that’s true or not (and viewers still seem to love it) it might have made it a little harder for voters to give the show a nod. What’s not to love about a show that has the brains to hire the talented Alfre Woodard? OK, maybe a show that has her seemingly keeping her own child in bondage in the basement. Huh?
HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was an immediate fave when it debuted in 2000, but it didn’t win until “Sex” lost in 2003. But “Curb” did win the first time it was nominated. This year, Showtime’s “Weeds,” NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” and UPN’s “Everybody Hates Chris” are all first-timers, which would seem to say voters won’t be unhappy to find new blood and send the “Housewives” home empty-handed. “Weeds” is probably a little too out there and offbeat to win-but that’s what critics said about BBC America’s “The Office” in 2004, when it upset “Arrested Development” and “Sex and the City” to win.
HBO’s “Entourage” is nominated for a second time; it lost last year to “Desperate Housewives.” Golden Globe voters don’t mind playing catch-up and giving a show a win the following year. But take note: “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Will & Grace” have never won in this competition in any year. “Entourage,” like “Will & Grace” and “Frasier” before it, might be critically acclaimed, but as with all things traditional in awards shows, it’s better for a show to win in its first or second year of eligibility or it might be forgotten as more new shows come along. Voters traditionally like the shiny and new, which explains why shows like “Will & Grace” have never won. They missed their window of opportunity.
“Will & Grace” is going off the air, and it wasn’t even nominated. You know Emmy voters will nominate a show going bye-bye-they just do.
This year “Curb” also had a strong season. But one episode in particular, “The Seder,” in which Larry invites a convicted sex offender to his home-to the shock and horror of his neighbors and guests-was controversial and may have offended some voters. (Although on its merits, the show was just, well, hysterical.)
Critical praise and momentum would seem to favor “Everybody Hates Chris.” The show has been embraced by the Television Critics Association; the Association of National Advertisers, which gave it a family viewing award; and the Writers Guild-plus, it was nominated for a People’s Choice Award. Also, that the show is in its first season would normally make it a slam-dunk to win. But no actors from the show were nominated-a red flag indicating that voters consider the nomination is the prize.
In the show’s favor: It’s seen as edgy (the debate over its use of the N-word started from the pilot), and narrator/producer Chris Rock made many fans at the Globes for his hosting the Oscars (while the film academy might have been horrified at how Mr. Rock lambasted old, established Hollywood, the HFPA does not consider itself a member and so has a better sense of humor when it comes to movies). On the downside, Mr. Rock himself has never been nominated for a Golden Globe. For this show, maybe next year.
For a genre declared dead only two years ago, the half-hour sitcom has made something of a comeback, thanks in part to “Chris” and the other water-cooler show of the moment, “My Name Is Earl.”
The latter series gets a slight edge over “Chris” in that star Jason Lee was also lauded with a Globe nomination. NBC recently moved the show to its more prestigious Thursday night lineup, which should convince voters that this show has legs. It also won the People’s Choice award last week for new TV comedy. While Globe voters like to think of themselves as ahead of the pack (and they very often are), the group comprises journalists, and what do journalists do? They watch trends and vote for things people like.
It’s basically anyone’s award to win. But if we were betting the house (and maybe not the wife and kids along with it), our money would be on “My Name Is Earl.” And hedging slightly, “Desperate Housewives.” Or maybe “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
‘Tis true: Death is easy, comedy is hard!