By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
Is this the year another show wins the Golden Globe as best comedy series or will it be three in a row for “Desperate Housewives”? The ABC comedy/drama will be facing formidable competition when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association presents the 64th annual Golden Globes in Beverly Hills Jan. 15. The ladies of Wisteria Lane will be pitted against two previous best comedy nominees-HBO’s “Entourage” and Showtime’s “Weeds”-as well as ABC’s hot newcomer “Ugly Betty” and NBC’s Emmy Award-winning “The Office.”
According to TV Guide columnist Michael Ausiello, “Desperate Housewives” will be a bit of an underdog this year, and may even be taking the place of a more worthy entry. “`Scrubs’ should have been included,” he said. “That’s the only glaring omission, and I would have given it `Housewives” slot. I was shocked that it made the cut-especially at the expense of “Scrubs,” which might be the funniest show on TV. `Desperate Housewives’ has won the past two years, so if it were to pull out three in a row, I think a lot of the people who have said that it’s been struggling creatively are going to have egg on their faces.”
Two of last year’s nominees, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Everybody Hates Chris” weren’t included this time around, making room for at least one new series, “Ugly Betty.” “To me it looks like they couldn’t have picked five better candidates. `Entourage’ everybody loves, `The Office’ has always gotten a lot of attention, `Ugly Betty’ is a very funny show, even though it has melodramatic moments, and obviously people like `Weeds’ a lot,” said Joel Keller, assistant editor of TV Squad, who nonetheless echoes Mr. Ausiello’s views about “Housewives.” “You could debate whether `Desperate Housewives’ belongs because I don’t know how funny this past season was.”
Kathie Skerry, Web master of GiveMeMyRemote.com, also bemoans the exclusion of “Scrubs” and the inclusion of “Desperate Housewives.” “I don’t know why `Scrubs’ keeps getting overlooked. `Desperate Housewives’ lost its flair a little bit, and I think their strongest episodes were at the beginning of this season and those were more dramatic. I’m not sure how that qualifies as best comedy,” she said.
The addition of hour-long shows that are part comedy and part drama, such as “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives,” to the best comedy category has been a trend of late. In 1993 CBS’s quirky dramatic comedy “Northern Exposure” won the Golden Globe as best drama series. But since 1998 similar comedy/dramas, such as Fox’s “Ally McBeal,” have been placed in best comedy and have won the Globe.
Part of the reason for the change in definition of what constitutes a comedy versus a drama involves conceptual changes in the sitcom format. “Just look at the major comedies: The NBC Thursday night lineup has no laugh tracks, no audiences. It’s hard to find multicamera comedies with a laugh track. It still exists-like `How I Met Your Mother’ and `Two and a Half Men’-but I think people are getting more comfortable with the smarter, highbrow comedies,” said Ms. Skerry. “If it was up to me, I’d make these award shows come up with a new category. There are so many shows that just hover between comedy and drama now. A show like `Desperate Housewives’ should not be up against `The Office.’ They’re going for two different things.”
Orlando Sentinel TV critic Hal Boedeker likes the blending of whimsical dramas in the comedy category. “By designating those shows as comedies it makes the whole sitcom field look better,” he said. “The half-hour form is so undernourished right now. Frankly, I think we’re lucky to have the hour shows-`Ugly Betty’ and `Desperate Housewives’-because if we didn’t it would be a pretty weak field. `Ugly Betty’ and `Desperate Housewives’ would have a hard time being recognized, perhaps, in the dramatic category because they’re not that dramatic all the time. “
“The Office” could be seen as the odds-on choice for this year’s Golden Globe since it has already snagged the Emmy Award. “I think the Globes are going to jump on their bandwagon,” said Mr. Ausiello.
Ms. Skerry also predicts a win for the NBC comedy. “`The Office’ should win,” she said. “`Entourage’ is a great show, but again, it straddles that line between comedy and drama. `Ugly Betty’ is a very funny show. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t make me laugh out loud. `The Office’ is the one in this category that’s a true comedy.”
Mr. Boedeker is going against the trend, predicting that the newcomer will win the top prize. “My choice would be `Ugly Betty’ because it’s just a breath of fresh air,” he said. “Also, it has those telenovela roots and I think that will appeal to a group of foreign reporters like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.”
“I really don’t think the international connection has anything to do with it,” said Mr. Ausiello, although he wouldn’t mind seeing “Ugly Betty” win. “America Ferrera’s performance makes that show. But I’ve never seen a trend in that direction, with the one exception being when the British version of `The Office’ won. That shocked everybody.”
Shock isn’t that unusual when it comes to the Golden Globes. In the long history of the awards, there have been a few wild wins. The HFPA once chose “Cybill” as best comedy (1996) and then “Third Rock From the Sun” the very next year. So anything is possible when the stars gather on Jan. 15. “The 64th Annual Golden Globe Awards” will be telecast live on NBC at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).