At the Golden Globes, this year looks a whole lot like last year

Now that we've got electing a president out of the way, it's time to get back to the more important business of giving awards to television shows and motion pictures. More than a month out from the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nominees for the 2008 Golden Globes have been announced; the statuettes will be handed out nine days before power shifts in Washington. And then we can all go back to sleep until Oscar time.

Two things, and two alone, make the Globes special, to put not too fine a point on the word "special." It honors movies and television together. And the broadcast is considered a good party -- Hollywood at play, the way we like to imagine it. That it is also considered a bellwether of the Academy Awards strikes me as just a matter of scheduling; if the Oscars came first, they'd have the same reputation in relation to the Globes.

The Golden Globes are often said to be "ahead" of the Emmys in their television picks -- another matter of scheduling, partly, because the Emmys precede the fall season that the Globes take into account. This fall season, however, although not utterly devoid of merit, has given off a dead-fish smell, and the Globes' current TV nominees look a whole lot like the Emmys' last batch. (Hello again, "Recount," "John Adams," "In Treatment," "30 Rock," "Mad Men," etc.) But they also look a lot like last year's Golden Globes.

While for the most part deserving, the nominations are nevertheless so predictable and narrowly apportioned as to make it seem that the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. pays attention only to the obvious, well-hyped and well-established. (Almost as much can be said of the Emmys, of course, at least in the major categories.) Indeed, the number of repeat nominees suggests the members just got out their old ballots and copied the names again, throwing in a few new faces to make it look fresh.

In the category of best performance by an actress in a television comedy or musical series, for instance, four out of five nominees are back from last year, and all have been nominated before; four out of five nominees for best performance by an actor in a dramatic television series were also named last year. All of the nominees for best TV comedy or musical series are repeat visitors; it is the fourth time up for Hugh Laurie, Kyra Sedgwick, Steve Carell and Mary-Louise Parker, the fifth time for Tony Shalhoub.

It hasn't been the greatest year for TV. The writers strike broke the last season to bits; the current one has no traction.

But there is good work beyond the Globes' horizons: "Breaking Bad," "Battlestar Galactica," "The Shield," "The Wire," "Summer Heights High," "Somebodies," "Men in Trees," "Generation Kill," "Pushing Daisies," "Aliens in America" -- I could go on, as no doubt could you.