With so many highly anticipated movies crowding into the spotlight during the final weeks of the year, it's easy to forget that the Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 16 — the first major award show of the season — hands out television kudos as well. And since the telecast reaches 150 countries — and tends to generate a larger worldwide audience than the Emmy broadcast in September — a best series nomination can generate a significant publicity boost, particularly for those newly minted programs the Globes are first to recognize. Among this year's wet-behind-the-ears best series nominees are "Boardwalk Empire," which premiered on HBO in September, Showtime's Laura Linney-starring "The Big C" and AMC's "The Walking Dead," a ratings juggernaut about a zombie apocalypse that has aired just six episodes since its Halloween premiere.
Here's a rundown of the best series nominees with an assessment from Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara.
"BOARDWALK EMPIRE" (HBO) Season 1
The series: Initially tagged as a retread of too-familiar gangster territory by some, the Prohibition-era "Boardwalk Empire" has garnered good premium cable ratings and strong overall critical support with its dense, deepening stories, magnetic minor characters and standout performances by Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald, both of whom were also nominated.
The critical take: "The production value is so high and the writing is so smart compared with other shows — but compare it with what it could have been — that's how you have to judge these expensive shows. The pilot was amazing, but since then people have been struggling to like it."
"DEXTER" (Showtime) Season 5
The series: This dark, offbeat procedural about a serial killer who's also a forensics cop is a perennial Globe favorite — lead Michael C. Hall and supporting actor John Lithgow won trophies last year, and the series was nominated. Season 5 introduced a new love interest, played by Julia Stiles, who, along with Hall, is nominated for acting.
The critical take: "Last season's finale had raised some interesting issues — in that Dexter had broken his own code and inadvertently caused the death of an innocent [his wife]. I thought the new season would deal with that, but it went a whole different way and ignored the elephant in the room. It's a pretty amazing show, but can you really give it a best series Globe? I think not."
"THE GOOD WIFE" (CBS) Season 2
The series: The sole network drama among the nominees, this sophisticated meditation on politics and scandal could be mistaken for a slick legal procedural were it not for its superior writing and involving love triangle. Julianna Margulies won the Golden Globe last year, and both she and costar Christopher Noth are nominated this season.
The critical take: "This show is at the top of its game and as sharp as it gets for a network legal drama — it's one of the best-written shows on TV."
"MAD MEN" (AMC) Season 4
The series: Its ratings are still dwarfed by its critical acclaim, but this stylish stew of office intrigue, voguish vice and character introspection set in a 1960s Madison Avenue advertising firm is a perennial Globe favorite, having won best drama series its freshman season and every year since. Actors Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are also nominated.
The critical take: "I think there's this blanket assumption that this is the best-written show on television, but it isn't always. I find it too slow and self-conscious and preachy. I'll be very happy when something else wins."
"THE WALKING DEAD" (AMC) Season 1
The series: Pulling more than double the average ratings for a "Mad Men" episode and hitting 6 million viewers for its season finale, this bleak, gory vision of a zombie-ridden world has been a ratings rocket for AMC — and critical support has generally followed suit. It seems zombies are the new vampires for Globe voters. But with only six episodes in Season 1 and a cast that's more serviceable than stellar, can this newcomer walk off with a win?
The critical take: "People ignore genre at their peril. It's a really well-done show with a huge appeal. Will it win? Probably not. But for it to be included, and have the clips shown to people who feel they're above watching a zombie show, will give it more credibility."
"30 ROCK" (NBC) Season 5
The series: It may be an eye-roller to see this giddy, fast-moving half-hour about the antic staff of a New York variety show in the award lineup season after season, and its ratings are still unimpressive by network standards, but the fun is unflagging. Did it peak in 2009, when the show won the Emmy for comedy series for the third year in a row? With both Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin also nominated for Globes this year, it's hard to tell at this point.
The critical take: "When will '30 Rock' end its reign of terror?"
"THE BIG BANG THEORY" (CBS) Season 4