HFPA still makes room for surprise choices and longstanding critical and audience faves

Sticking with the thesis that the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. enjoys carving out its own kudos turf, the org’s nomination of rookie shows and breakout thesps surprised hardly anyone.

As expected, ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and lead actress America Ferrera made the cut, as did NBC’s “Heroes” and its Japanese star, Masi Oka.

Yet the group still made room for surprise choices and longstanding critical and audience faves, making the overall list a well-rounded look at what 2006 had to offer on the small screen.

While, as it has in years past, HBO grabbed the most network noms — 14, with nine of those coming from its well-produced telepics — the HFPA’s choices from the pay cabler weren’t what many expected.

“Big Love” was the only HBO show to be selected as a drama series nominee, beating out “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire” from its own network home. No doubt “Love” was a hit with critics, but the others certainly had much more fanfare behind them. An interesting selection indeed.

It might’ve been an anti-Emmy move (and certainly the Globe voters try to distinguish themselves from the TV Academy in any way possible) but, regardless of the org’s reasons, noms for the show and star Bill Paxton were well deserved.

Meanwhile, Showtime continues to dazzle the HFPA, with noms arriving for dark comedy “Weeds,” and its stars, Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins and Justin Kirk. Also tapped was Michael C. Hall for “Dexter.”

On the broadcast side, “Desperate Housewives” finds the comedy category comfy (though, three years later, its place here remains somewhat of a mystery) with a series nom and shout-outs for both Marcia Cross and Felicity Huffman.

Though NBC is having a hard time gaining traction with Nielsen viewers, the Peacock made a nice showing with nine noms, including a few for the aforementioned “Heroes.” Patricia Arquette is invited back to the party for “Medium” while Alec Baldwin — whose corporate suit Jack Donaghy is so funny that NBC U execs aren’t sure whether to laugh or cry at the way he intercedes with programming — is looking for his first Globes win, after going 0-for-4 on the film side.

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