Series, minis and telepics are all thrown together

Nobody is looking to make the three-hour Golden Globes any longer, but the supporting acting races on the TV side have become a demolition derby that could use a little separation.

As it stands now, not only are comedy and drama performers pitted against one another, but there’s no separation of series — movies and miniseries either. Meaning that, in a bizarre scenario, Donald Sutherland, who appeared in all episodes of the dramedy “Dirty Sexy Money,” could face off against Andy Serkis’ abbreviated appearance in the ultra-serious telepic “Longford” vs. Kevin Dillon from the comedy “Entourage.”

Oh, wait, that already happened last year.

TV is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to reflect the merging of networks and genres, says Jenny Cooney Carrillo, Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. member and chair of the Globes’ TV committee. She says the supporting actor and actress categories were originally added to recognize performances in all TV genres. “In an ideal world, would we like to split them up and have six more categories? Maybe, but who’s going to watch?”

Says Chicago Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan, “The Globes have always been excellent at avoiding category bloat, and I applaud them for that.”

Ryan calls movies and miniseries categories the main cause of such award show inflation, but she sees the omnibus solution as less than perfect. “A better way to do it would be to split them between comedy and drama,” she says.

Vera Anderson, an HFPA member who serves on the TV committee, admits that more streamlined categories would make voting easier.

“I always have a problem voting in these categories because I often feel there are more great supporting actors than leading men or women. It’s apples and oranges.”

Anderson says she’s not aware that the idea of splitting the supporting categories has ever been officially discussed, but says, “It’s actually a very valid point, and something I have thought about.”

Ryan has another suggestion: Eliminate TV movies and minis.

“There aren’t that many movies and miniseries that warrant it. They’re not topnotch, top-caliber, and they tend to bulk up the categories. Why pretend that it’s a vital category when it’s not? With two really good exceptions per year, it’s not really worth it.”

Some contend that combining comedy and drama is actually good for people on difficult-to-categorize shows, especially dramedies such as “Ugly Betty” and hybrids like “Eli Stone.”

“I kind of like the notion of drama and comedy being thrown in together, if there were a fair way of doing it,” Sacramento Bee TV critic Rick Kushman says. “It’s the same sport; they’re playing the same game. It’s like the difference between being an offensive and defensive football player — it’s still football.”

Kushman, too, isn’t convinced that including telepics in the category is a good idea. “A two-hour movie versus 22 hours of production? That seems like a whole different thing.”

Unlike the Emmys, where actors submit a single episode for nomination, the Globes consider all performances throughout the calendar year. So while Neil Patrick Harris may be evaluated on every episode of “How I Met Your Mother” airing in 2008 — spanning some of the show’s third and fourth seasons — he’s essentially competing against David Morse of “John Adams” or Tom Wilkinson from “Recount,” who had prominent supporting roles in short-term productions.

Critics may suggest leveling the field by adding new categories or dividing existing ones, but the HFPA isn’t keen on expanding. That leaves the option of increasing the number of nominees in the supporting categories.

“I’ve been advocating that for a long time,” Ryan says. “It’s so maddening that in an era where there are so many shows that the categories remain so static.” She and Kushman both note how the top 10 Emmy shortlists released this year better reflected their own picks than did the final nominees.

“In one way, if the Globes had 10 nominees (in supporting categories), we might feel less outraged, but ultimately, there’d still just be one winner,” Kushman says.

For now, there are no plans to update the system, says Cooney Carrillo. “Every three or four years, we talk about it, but at the end of the day, we don’t do anything about it,” she says. “We don’t feel strongly enough about changing it because we don’t feel like there’s any one particular group or person or network or show that’s really been hurt.”

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