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TV glows with Globes

The returning award show is known for its venturesome picks.

November 19, 2008|SCOTT COLLINS

The TV industry always pays close attention to the Golden Globes because of its long tradition of championing series that are later embraced by Emmy voters and a wider viewership.

Earlier this year, for example, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the group of journalists that administers the awards, selected AMC's 1960s period piece "Mad Men" as best TV drama. Eight months later, the Emmys seconded that choice.

But the Globes ceremony that NBC will telecast Jan. 11 will assume a special importance because it will be the first since a three-month writers strike waylaid the TV business starting in November 2007. In a controversial move, strike-plagued NBC last January aired a truncated ceremony -- really, a recitation of the winners rather than any kind of show -- that was blasted by critics and drew only 6 million total viewers, less than one-third of the show's typical audience, according to Nielsen Media Research.

So, the 2009 Globes telecast will inevitably be seen as a de facto progress report on the industry's continued recovery from the labor unrest.

Officials promise that the Globes are set to pick up where they left off before the strike.

"We're back to normal this year," said Mike Goodridge, vice president of HFPA. "It was a great disappointment last year. But it was circumstances beyond our control."

Some members are still wounded by the way in which the ceremony became embroiled in the politics of the work stoppage, with industry talent pressured not to attend the ceremony and the network committed to airing a show no matter what. But Goodridge insisted that the Globes, which like other major award shows has seen its grip on younger viewers loosen in recent years, haven't lost any momentum.

"We felt we were a scapegoat," Goodridge said. "It was very unfair the Globes were targeted. . [But] we were sympathetic to the writers."

But "the show has been going on for 65 years," he added. "People want it back, bigger than ever."

The Globes' centrality to the Oscar derby is well-documented; its importance to the TV world is somewhat less recognized.

Yet the Globes have given many series vital early boosts -- and in some cases, allowed producers to bask in award love that Emmy voters could not quite bring themselves to bestow. Among such honorees are "The Shield," "The X-Files," "Sex and the City," "Party of Five" and the original BBC version of "The Office."

Globe officials say their 87 active members are willing to be more adventurous in their choices than other award-show voters because they do not work in the industry. "We're journalists, we're not industry peers," said Jenny Cooney, a longtime member from Australia. "We approach things from the basics of, 'What am I watching when I go home at night?' There's never been any agenda with us."

This time around, though, Globe voters may find it difficult to match their past traditions when it comes to ferreting out unexpected TV series worthy of praise. That's because the Globes have usually gravitated toward new series -- and the strike greatly reduced the number of those this year. ABC, for example, premiered just one new scripted series this fall, the sci-fi cop drama "Life on Mars." And even acclaimed returning shows such as "24" and "Damages" found their schedules uprooted because of the strike.

But for those shows that did make it onto the schedule, a little Globe love could never hurt, as the producers of "Mad Men" and other shows can testify. As Cooney said, "A lot of shows are struggling and are hoping we could make a difference."

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scott.collins@latimes.com

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