HFPA often rewards newcomers in TV categories

Emmy voters predictably went for “Mad Men” and “30 Rock” in a big way this year, but by the time members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. hand out the Golden Globes in January, those shows may well be yesterday’s news.

The HFPA has a history of using its later ceremony date to get a jump on recognizing freshman television series and their stars. In the past, those rewarded have included skeins such as “The X Files” and “Six Feet Under” and breakout talent such as Jennifer Garner and Teri Hatcher. This year, the group’s flag-planting ways could benefit new shows like “Glee” and “Modern Family” as well as Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) and Lea Michele (“Glee”).

“You want to be careful so you don’t give an award to someone who turns out to be a flash in the pan,” says Australian journo Jenny Cooney, a member of the HFPA’s TV committee. “But, at the same time, it’s nice to be first and recognize shows that maybe aren’t immediately apparent as ‘award-winning.”

Sometimes those choices involve programs and actors that Emmy voters never nominate in the main categories (FX’s “Nip/Tuck”) or those who never actually win the trophy.

“The HFPA loves to nominate offbeat people and programs and, sometimes, rectify what could be seen as Emmy oversights,” Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara says. “And in the cases of Hugh Laurie (“House”) and Mary Louise Parker (“Weeds”), you have to love them for that.”

Heading toward the 67th Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 17, Fox’s “Glee” already looms as a formidable new contender in the musical or comedy category, with the show’s breakout star Michele and supporting player Jane Lynch also logical choices for noms.

“It’s hard to bet against ‘Glee,’” says Television Without Pity website manager Daniel Manu. “It’s such a huge breakout show that it would be difficult for the Globes to overlook it. Plus, it’s both a comedy and a musical, tailor-made for the category.”

Other new series that may find some love from the HFPA include ABC’s ensemble docu-comedy “Modern Family,” CBS’ legal drama “The Good Wife” and Showtime’s dark comedy “Nurse Jackie.”

Among performers, the lead actress categories have long been the favored spots for HFPA members to recognize newcomers. Anna Paquin won last year for HBO’s “True Blood.” Glenn Close took the dramatic actress category for the first season of FX’s “Damages.” Also among recent winners: Garner (“Alias”), Hatcher (“Desperate Housewives”), Keri Russell (“Felicity”), Parker (“Weeds”) and America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”).

That proclivity could augur well this year for Margulies, Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”), Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”) and “Cougar Town’s” Courteney Cox.

“I’d put Falco as a favorite in the comedic category simply because Collette has already won an Emmy, and the Globes like to be first,” Manu says. “And Cox is on a broadcast network, which the HFPA usually ignores.”

HFPA member Elisabeth Sereda says there may no longer be such a bias, noting that the “inventiveness of cable has spilled over and influenced broadcast television in a very good way.”

Indeed, the HFPA’s Cooney says that even in the thick of this prime movie-viewing time of year, she sometimes has difficulty working up the motivation to go to screenings — “There’s so much good TV now,” the Los Angeles-based Cooney says. “You want me to fight traffic when chances are the movie isn’t going to be as good as what’s stored in my DVR?”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more