Golden Globes TV actresses preview

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Whatever television's shortcomings may be, the quality of actresses in primetime doesn't happen to be one of them. Throughout the series and longform worlds, women who earned wide acclaim for their work on the big screen -- such as Judi Dench, Holly Hunter, Laura Linney, Anna Paquin, Susan Sarandon and Emily Watson -- are finding fulfilling roles on TV, too, enriching the tube's acting quality to its highest level in memory. It makes for a particularly daunting series of choices in the acting categories for the 66th annual Golden Globe Awards in advance of the nominations announcement on Dec. 11.

Here's a look at the chief contenders in the TV lead and supporting actress categories:



Actress (Drama)

The best news for this year's crop of nominees may be that January's Globe and Emmy category victor Glenn Close isn't eligible for FX's "Damages," since the series didn't have the requisite number of qualifying episodes. But even without her presence, there's more than enough competitive fire here to go around.

Consider that the field of top contenders includes three Oscar winners, including two -- Hunter and Paquin -- who won lead and supporting actress Oscars for the same film, 1993's "The Piano." Hunter is a potential nominee for TNT's "Saving Grace" and Paquin for the HBO vampire excursion "True Blood." The other Oscar victor here is Sally Field -- a two-timer, no less, for 1979's "Norma Rae" and 1984's "Places in the Heart."

Field, who hopes to earn a nomination for ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," is a nine-time Golden Globe nominee and two-time winner who was one of seven nominated for a 2008 Globe.

Hunter, too, earned a nod early this year, while Kyra Sedgwick is gunning for her fourth consecutive nomination for her work in another TNT drama, "The Closer" (for which she won Globe gold in 2007).

Mariska Hargitay, of NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," won in her only Globe appearance back in 2005, while Patricia Arquette has earned nominations the past three years for NBC's "Medium" but is still in the hunt for her first win.

There also are a few trump cards in this stacked deck, including a couple of Fox sitcom veterans vying for attention in dramas: Jane Kaczmarek for TNT's "Raising the Bar" and Katey Sagal for the ultraviolent FX biker hour "Sons of Anarchy." Both have multiple Globe nominations in their past -- Sagal with four for "Married ... With Children," Kaczmarek three for "Malcolm in the Middle" -- but both have a legitimate shot at cracking the lead drama list this time. At least they would if the competition weren't so thick. Still, look for Sagal in particular to earn strong consideration in a category without a clear favorite.



Actress (Musical /Comedy)

Is it possible for Tina Fey to lose? Not likely. The woman is simply on one of the great rolls ever to be experienced by a comedic actress on television. Consider that in 2008 alone, she won three Emmys (for writing, producing and starring in NBC's "30 Rock"), a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, a WGA Award and a TCA Award. She also became a national treasure for her dead-on weekly impersonation of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" through September and October. It would qualify as a major upset were Fey to be denied a second consecutive Globe for her portrayal of Liz Lemon on "30 Rock."

If you want to bet on a long shot in this race, however, the way to go is Christina Applegate, nominated back in January for her work in ABC's "Samantha Who?" and the object of an outpouring of support for her unflinching battle this year with breast cancer that resulted in a double mastectomy. Applegate also happens to be very good on a comedy that seems to get better and more sure-footed with each passing week. The category figures to get filled out with several repeat nominees, including 2007 winner America Ferrera (vying for her third consecutive nod for her role on ABC's "Ugly Betty"), Showtime's "Weeds" lead and 2006 winner Mary-Louise Parker (who has four Globe nominations in her past) and Anna Friel for ABC's "Pushing Daisies."

There's also a chance for a couple of rookies to gain their first Globes attention, including Molly Shannon and Selma Blair for NBC's "Kath & Kim," the well-received Elizabeth Reaser in CBS' "The Ex List" and the Brit Billie Piper for her racy turn in Showtime's "Secret Diary of a Call Girl."



Actress (Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television)

This looks to be Linney's year finally to win herself a Golden Globe after three previous tries. Her portrayal of Abigail Adams in HBO's megadecorated miniseries "John Adams" already earned her the Emmy in September, though a Globe triumph in its wake is hardly a given. And it's interesting when you consider that Linney has been nominated three times apiece for Oscars, Emmys and Globes and won all three of her Emmy attempts but lost the other six. Her Globe streak is poised to be broken, however, unless one of the other distinguished potential nominees takes home the prize.

Those competing with Linney for honors here happen to collectively be a superb group -- with five having earned past Oscar nominations and two of them winning.

At the top of that list is Dench for her work in PBS' "Masterpiece: Cranford." If she's nominated, it will be her eighth, two of which resulted in wins.

Likewise making a strong bid to crack the list are Sarandon, a seven-time Globe nominee still seeking her first victory, this time for the HBO film "Bernard and Doris"; Kim Cattrall, a four-time Globe nominee who previously won for "Sex and the City" in 2003 and who could be considered for her role in PBS' "Masterpiece: My Boy Jack"; and previous Oscar nominees Watson (Lifetime's "The Memory Keeper's Daughter"), Shohreh Aghdashloo (HBO's "House of Saddam") and Catherine Keener (Showtime's "An American Crime"), each seeking their first Globe wins (and in the case of Aghdashloo and Keener, their first nominations).

Finally, Phylicia Rashad likewise has never received a Globe nomination but turned in a dazzling performance in ABC's remake of "A Raisin in the Sun."



Supporting Actress (Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television)

Historically, these TV supporting categories are among the least predictable on the Globes list, at least in part because they are so all-inclusive (covering longform projects as well as series). But one good rule of thumb in these kudofests might be to take note of royalty. Ergo, if someone has a "Dame" in front of their name, it goes a long way with the HFPA crowd. So keep an eye on Dame Eileen Atkins for her already Emmy-winning performance in "Masterpiece: Cranford," which could well wind up with two Dames honored in a single night.

Also making strong bids from the movie/mini world are the Emmy-nominated Audra McDonald for "A Raisin in the Sun," and Laura Dern, a Globe winner in 1993 for "Afterburn," who earned wide praise for her work as Katherine Harris in HBO's "Recount."

Meanwhile, in terms of series performances, Rachel Griffiths is bidding for her second straight category honor for "Brothers & Sisters," and Katherine Heigl her third in a row for ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." And notably, while Jean Smart has copped three Emmy crowns (including one in September for "Samantha Who?"), she has never been so much as nominated for a Globe. If this isn't her year, it may never arrive.
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