Post-strike changes help create wide-open race

Incumbents
The cult audience of “Mad Men” was denied a proper celebration when it won the TV drama award at the strike-

impaired 2008 Golden Globes, so expect redoubled merriment if the instant classic can repeat. The WGA walkout had an even bigger impact on two of last year’s nominees, forcing “Big Love” and “Damages” to the sidelines for 2008 and rendering them ineligible for the upcoming Globes, but the rest of the list remains in contention. “Grey’s Anatomy” has been credited with recapturing some of its creative mojo in its latest season. “House” is the bellwether for procedurals, while “The Tudors” hopes that being on sabbatical since spring won’t hurt.

Freshmen
The strike also shows its impact here, as the fall 2008 season notoriously offered less in the way of new programs — but you can’t underestimate the HFPA’s taste for a fresh face. Though it premiered without excessive fanfare, Alan Ball’s HBO follow-up to “Six Feet Under,” “True Blood,” gained appreciation over time, along with the even less heralded “In Plain Sight” (USA). Fox’s “Fringe,” on the other hand, entered the season with heavy expectations — and arguably has met them. Cable cousin FX has reason to hope that “Sons of Anarchy” can grab the “Damages” slot, though its relative lack of star power could pose a handicap. Instead, HFPA voters might lean toward a vehicle with more familiarity: ABC’s adaptation of the U.K.’s “Life on Mars,” which features Michael Imperioli and Harvey Keitel. Other known faces — Simon Baker, Rufus Sewell and Christian Slater — boost the prospects of “The Mentalist,” “Eleventh Hour” and the just-canceled “My Own Worst Enemy.”

Sophomores and upperclassmen
“Breaking Bad” and “In Treatment” are sophs in name only, awaiting second-season premieres after having completed their frosh seasons in March. Conversely, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” which premiered the night of the 2008 Golden Globes announcement, has already found its second-season groove, while “Saving Grace” has finished season two. Fellow sophs “Burn Notice,” “Gossip Girl” and “Life” have more than their share of die-hard fans. Though one-time nominee “Heroes” is again in the midst of publicized creative challenges, third-year series “Brotherhood,” “Brothers and Sisters” and “Dexter” can all make viable cases for Globes inclusion. Two-time nominee and 2006 winner “Lost” got left out of the drama finals last time around but is still a serious player. Series such as “The Closer” continue to await the call, and then there’s “Friday Night Lights,” which remains brilliant but has been relegated to the obscurity of DirecTV’s 101 channel.

Post-Graduates
In this decade, only three shows have been nommed for drama Globes after their fourth seasons. One, “ER,” last made the finals in 2000 but is just now reaching its farewell season. Meanwhile, it’s been five years since the HFPA last tapped three-time nominee “CSI” and six years for “The Shield” (which won), while all four “Law and Order” noms came in the 1990s. No other drama vet has received a series nom.

Farewell
Fans of “The Wire” might cling to hope for a kudo call — but the show, which concluded its storied run this year, has made zero impact on the Globe voting body.

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