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Golden Globes have a way of spotting hot TV shows

Give a few dozen journalists from faraway places like Colombia and Tahiti ballots to choose the best television shows and actors in America, and you’re bound to get quirky results.

But the funny thing about the Golden Globes, which do just that, is the voters are pretty good at spotlighting great shows and performers. This year that’s likely to include AMC’s Mad Men, ABC’s rookie comedy Pushing Daisies and Glenn Close in FX’s buzz-starved Damages.

“This group of international journalists is like: 'What the hell?’ says TV Guide critic Matt Roush. “But their reputation is that they will sometimes look at what’s new, as opposed to what’s always been nominated. They are not stuck in a rut like it sometimes feels the Emmy mechanism is.”

The public seems to think so. Twenty million people watched the Globes telecast in January, its biggest audience since 2004 and about 7 million more than watched the Emmys.

Ballots will be sent by the end of this month to members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with nominations announced Dec. 13. The 65th annual awards will be handed out on NBC on Jan. 13—presumably. (NBC says it doesn’t believe the writers’ strike will affect the show. But Barry Adelman, executive producer of the telecast, is a little more equivocal. In a statement, he said he’s “hopeful” the strike will be over soon, but “we intend to explore all of our available options.”)

HBO’s The Sopranos is eligible for the Globes for one last time, so it may crowd out some newcomers. But other veterans could drop off the list, such as the Fox drama 24, which didn’t have a great season, and perhaps comedies like Showtime’s Weeds and HBO’s Entourage that are aging past their buzzworthy stage.

Among comedies, ABC’s Ugly Betty won a Globe last January as best comedy and is a shoo-in for another nod. Daisies is the only first-season show almost everyone thinks has a good shot at popping up in the Globes in 2008, as best comedy.

“Critics and TV insiders like it because it’s different,” explains Troy Patterson, Slate’s TV critic. “It’s the one new show that has a point of view that’s worth talking about, even if you don’t like it.”

NBC’s 30 Rock, which won an Emmy, and its star Tina Fey have a good shot at nominations, as do previous nominees ABC’s Desperate Housewives and NBC’s The Office.

ABC’s Samantha Who?, this season’s most-watched rookie sitcom and a good one at that, is a long shot. Its star, Christina Applegate, has the name recognition to get a nod, however. A nomination for the sitcom wouldn’t be shocking, given the Globes’ history of handing statuettes to shows like Alias and X-Files before they received wider acclaim.

And Showtime’s Californication lacks the buzz needed for a Globe, say critics, but star David Duchovny stands a slightly better chance at some recognition.

The best comedy actress category will be crowded with returning nominees, like the women from Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty and possibly past winners like Mary-Louise Parker of Weeds and previous nominees such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus from CBS’s New Adventures of Old Christine. America Ferrera, the star of Betty, won this year (she also won an Emmy in that category).

Alec Baldwin won as best actor in 30 Rock and will likely be back in 2008, along with Steve Carell from The Office. But the Globes may make room for new actors by pushing aside award-show staple Tony Shalhoub of USA’s Monk.

Mad Men has the best shot among newcomers for drama nominations. TV Guide’s Roush says he’d like to see series star Jon Hamm get a nod.

“Talk about a breakout star,” he says. “Everybody is talking about Jon Hamm. I’d love to think the buzz around that show will translate into Golden Globe attention.”

The Globes aren’t immune to tossing predictable shows into the mix, with The Sopranos and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy likely to be nominated. Still, other previous nominees like ABC’s Lost and NBC’s Heroes have lost some luster from the recent past, so there’s a good chance they’ll be pushed aside.

That could open the way for longer shots like HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me and Showtime’s The Tudors and Dexter, whose lead actor Michael C. Hall was nominated this year. FX’s Damages is also a long shot. Its stars Glenn Close and possibly Ted Danson, however, have a pretty good chance of being nominated.

The Globes, like other awards shows, have a soft spot for actors playing against type or who are best known for movie roles, like Sally Field of ABC drama Brothers & Sisters.

Hugh Laurie from Fox’s House won as best actor in a drama this year, and Kyra Sedgwick of TNT’s The Closer snagged best actress. Both are likely to be nominated again.

The Globes’ history of mixing unexpected nominations with the expected is what ChicagoTribune columnist Maureen Ryan likes about the awards. “What’s really great about the Globes is that they try to help shows that don’t get a lot of hype, including cable shows that deserve recognition,” she says. “But they strike a balance between obvious and laudable choices while also going a bit off the beaten path.”