Voters bring vet laffers to 'The Office'

It can’t be considered too much of a news flash that the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. put a foreign show into the exclusive television elite.

But it is a first. Never before has the HFPA nominated a foreign-based program to be included in the drama or comedy series until it tabbed “The Office.”

The BBC-produced skein (which airs on BBC America in the States) starring Ricky Gervais will face off against USA’s “Monk,” HBO’s “Sex and the City,” NBC’s “Will & Grace” and “Arrested Development,” Fox’s Nielsen-starved but critically applauded series that the network recently renewed for the season.

“It’s a very English comedic show and plays to the sensitivity of our members,” says Jenny Cooney-Carillo, one of the chairs of the HFPA’s TV committee, of “The Office.” “They appreciate that kind of humor. We don’t have a lot of American shows that really connect with members.”

One that certainly hasn’t made headway with voters is “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which is a five-time Emmy nominee and most recent winner for comedy series. Yet despite those accomplishments, the series has never been Globes nommed and was shut out again this year.

But “Raymond,” cut from classic-sitcom cloth, shouldn’t take it personally. The HFPA traditionally leans away from anything traditional on the six major broadcast nets and favors more avant-garde programming.

And those type of shows are often found on cable, both basic and pay variety. HBO led all networks with 20 nominations while NBC was the biggest broadcast net with 10. Showtime made huge strides from last year with seven noms after being shut out the last two years.

“It was a particularly strong year,” says Showtime entertainment prexy Robert Greenblatt. “Our strength was in the movies, something in which Showtime has been strong in the past. Now I would love to get our series in there in the coming years.”

“Angels in America” led all programs with seven noms, including miniseries or TV movie and actor and actress nods for Al Pacino and Meryl Streep, respectively.

“HBO knows how to find that one great thing every year. Sort of like they did with ‘Band of Brothers,’ ” says Cooney-Carillo. “It’s their calling card.”

Showtime fared well with the controversial telepic “The Reagans” as both leads — James Brolin as the ex-president and Judy Davis as his first lady — were nominated. For miniseries or TV movie, Showtime has two entrants: “Soldier’s Girl” and “Tennessee Williams’ The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” to go up against an all-HBO lineup of “Angels,” “My House in Umbria” and “Normal.”

HBO would’ve certainly pulled in more than 20 noms had “The Sopranos” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (which won last year) been entered in the kudos race. Neither aired during the Globes eligibility period and were left off the ballot.

That left more slots open in both the drama and comedy categories.

FX’s “Nip/Tuck” received a drama nom in its first season and CBS’ “CSI” returned after being squeezed out last year.

The drama race, which also includes “24,” “Six Feet Under” and “The West Wing,” was made all the more interesting when the 2003 champ, “The Shield” wasn’t nominated.

That’s not too unusual, says Cooney-Carillo, the HFPA’s TV co-chair.

“We like to spread the wealth around,” she explains. “We’re much more inclined to give something to ‘The Shield’ and then give to something else, say ‘Nip/Tuck,’ the next year.”

Newbies always fare well at the Globes and this year was no exception. On the actress side, Amber Tamblyn of CBS’ “Joan of Arcadia” and Joely Richardson of “Nip/Tuck” were singled out for their work in dramas while Alicia Silverstone of NBC’s “Miss Match” and Bitty Schram of “Monk” were acknowledged.

“Bitty is as good as Tony (Shalhoub),” says Cooney-Carillo, while admitting that “Monk” is an HFPA fave with three noms. “She has to keep up with him.”

Returning to “The Office,” Gervais — who is also a writer, producer and director for the series — was nominated in the comedy actor category along with Bernie Mac, Matt LeBlanc, Eric McCormack and Shalhoub, all of whom have been chosen previously.

The supporting awards have always been a glitch for the HFPA, which doesn’t separate series from TV movie. Thesps who work on 22 episodes of one program compete against those who work on one project.

This year, for example, Sean Hayes of “Will & Grace” competes against three actors from “Angels” (Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Wright) and Lee Pace of “Soldier’s Girl.”

On the distaff side, Mary-Louise Parker of “Angels” goes up against the “Sex and the City” ladies — Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis (who scored her first nom) and Cynthia Nixon — and Megan Mullally of “Will & Grace.”

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