In TV categories, shortlist for actors a matter of opinion

James Gandolfini, left, and Edie Falco in HBO's "The Sopranos"


With the Golden Globe nominations just 10 days away, there's plenty of advance buzz about the contenders in the TV acting categories. Most of the talk surrounds new cable shows such as FX's "Damages" and TNT's "Saving Grace" -- and speculates whether old pros like Glenn Close and Ted Danson ("Damages") or Holly Hunter ("Grace") are each destined to be anointed by the voting membership of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. Then, of course, there's James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, the stars of that erstwhile little HBO series "The Sopranos." There's a good chance they will make the nomination lists in their final year of eligibility. Who else could make it when the nominations are announced Dec. 13? Here's a look at the possible and probable hopefuls in lead and supporting categories.

Favorites: Glenn Close, "Damages" (FX); Edie Falco, "The Sopranos" (HBO); Sally Field, "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC); Holly Hunter, "Saving Grace" (TNT); Ellen Pompeo, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC); Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer" (TNT)
Possibles: Patricia Arquette, "Medium" (NBC); Minnie Driver, "The Riches" (FX); Calista Flockhart, "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC); Evangeline Lilly, "Lost" (ABC); Kathryn Morris, "Cold Case" (CBS); Kate Walsh, "Private Practice" (ABC)

Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is a race. Imagine having Close, Falco, Field and Hunter facing off in Globe combat. The four have a combined 28 nominations (eight apiece for Close and Field, six each for Falco and Hunter) and six wins (two for Falco and Field, one apiece for Close and Hunter). The inside track should probably be given to Close, who has perhaps the showiest role as a hard-core attorney with a heart of steel in "Damages." But don't discount the other three. Field just won the Emmy in September (remember her controversial speech?), and Falco will have plenty of sentiment on her side. And let's not forget Sedgwick, who won the Globe in the category a year ago and could possibly repeat -- though in this crowd that's somewhat unlikely.

ACTOR (Drama)
Favorites: Patrick Dempsey, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC); James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos" (HBO); Michael C. Hall, "Dexter" (Showtime); Peter Krause, "Dirty Sexy Money" (ABC); Hugh Laurie, "House" (Fox); Denis Leary, "Rescue Me" (FX)
Possibles: Jon Hamm, "Mad Men" (AMC); Eddie Izzard, "The Riches" (FX); Bill Paxton, "Big Love" (HBO); Jonathan Rhys Meyers, "The Tudors" (Showtime); James Spader, "Boston Legal" (ABC); Kiefer Sutherland, "24" (Fox)

Should he be nominated, Laurie will be gunning for three wins in as many years in this category -- and we know how the HFPA loves those Brits. A three-peat could well happen for the megatalented "House" lead. Standing in his way is Gandolfini, a four-time Globe nominee and one-time winner, along with 2007 nominee Hall and two-time nominee Krause. Intriguingly, the latter pair -- who starred together on HBO's "Six Feet Under" -- might just share category nominations, this time for different shows. The dark horses who can't be discounted are Hamm, who consistently delivers memorable performances in the much-praised "Mad Men"; Leary, a nominee in 2005; and the intense Rhys Meyers.

ACTRESS (Musical or Comedy)
Favorites: Christina Applegate, "Samantha Who?" (ABC); America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty" (ABC); Tina Fey, "30 Rock" (NBC); Felicity Huffman, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC); Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS); Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds" (Showtime)
Possibles: Marcia Cross, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC); Patricia Heaton, "Back to You" (Fox); Anne Heche, "Men in Trees" (ABC); Sarah Silverman, "The Sarah Silverman Program" (Comedy Central)

She won a Globe last year and an Emmy in September -- and it looks like Ferrera is the one to beat again this year. On the other hand, three-time nominee Parker can't be ruled out -- she's a two-time victor who has already been nominated twice for "Weeds." Louis-Dreyfus has three previous noms, winning once in 1994 for "Seinfeld," and Huffman has an impressive five nominations under her belt (winning in 2006 for "Housewives"). Also, considering the HFPA's love of the new, Applegate could make some noise for her first-year "Samantha Who?"

ACTOR (Musical or Comedy)
Favorites: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" (NBC); Steve Carell, "The Office" (NBC); David Duchovny, "Californication" (Showtime); Ricky Gervais, "Extras" (HBO); Lee Pace, "Pushing Daisies" (ABC); Tony Shalhoub, "Monk" (USA Network)
Possibles: Zach Braff, "Scrubs" (NBC); Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO); Kelsey Grammer, "Back to You" (Fox); Jason Lee, "My Name Is Earl" (NBC); Zachary Levi, "Chuck" (NBC)

This shapes up as an immensely interesting category, with Baldwin -- having won a year ago for "30 Rock" -- looking like the favorite but only by the slimmest of margins. We could see four previous victors in the category matched here: Baldwin, Carell (who won in 2006), Shalhoub (in 2003) and Gervais, a Globe winner in 2004 for the British version of "The Office" and who just pulled off a massive upset at the Emmys, taking home the lead comedy actor prize for "Extras." Duchovny (a winner in 1997 for "The X-Files") also has a real shot here. Finally, Grammer and David certainly can't be discounted. There are a lot of different ways this thing can go.

ACTRESS (Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Favorites: Jane Horrocks, "Masterpiece Theatre: The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (PBS); Bryce Dallas Howard, "As You Like It" (HBO); Debra Messing, "The Starter Wife" (USA Network); Mary-Louise Parker, "The Robber Bride" (Oxygen); Queen Latifah, "Life Support" (HBO); Ruth Wilson, "Masterpiece Theatre: Jane Eyre" (PBS)
Possibles: Jennifer Morrison, "The Murder of Princess Diana" (Lifetime); Gena Rowlands, "What If God Were the Sun?" (Lifetime)

For the first time in what seems like decades, Helen Mirren is nowhere to be found -- which means the movie-mini category opens up to everyone again. Of course, it still pays to place money on the Brits here: There's a good shot for Wilson as the title character in "Jane Eyre" despite the fact that she's never before been nominated for a Globe. Fellow Brit Horrocks, on the other hand, has been nominated once before, and Latifah is a 2003 winner for her work in "Chicago." Those most familiar to Globe voters would be six-time nominee Messing and eight-timer Rowlands. Messing has never won; Rowlands has won twice. That may or may not make much of a difference.

ACTOR (Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Favorites: Adam Beach, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO); Hugh Bonneville, "Five Days" (HBO); Jim Broadbent, "Longford" (HBO); Jason Isaacs, "The State Within" (BBC America); Kevin Kline, "As You Like It" (HBO); Chris O'Donnell, "The Company" (TNT)
Possibles: Oliver Platt, "The Bronx Is Burning" (ESPN); Tom Selleck, "Jesse Stone: Sea Change" (CBS)

Looking for actors from the U.K.? One could scarcely do better than this category, where voters are likely to have their pick of three in Bonneville, Broadbent and Isaacs. Broadbent, a two-time Globe nominee who was just honored in September with an Emmy for his work in "Longford," has the inside track here, though Isaacs in particular should get plenty of consideration as well. Kline has been graced with five noms through the years but is still looking for his first win. Platt, nominated once before, is greatly respected in the acting community and should get some consideration as well.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS (Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Favorites: Judy Davis, "The Starter Wife" (USA Network); Rachel Griffiths, "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC); Katherine Heigl, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC); Samantha Morton, "Longford" (HBO); Anna Paquin, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO); Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds" (Showtime)
Possibles: Rose Byrne, "Damages" (FX); Jenna Fischer, "The Office" (NBC); Sharon Gless, "The State Within" (BBC America); Sandra Oh, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC); Jaime Pressly, "My Name Is Earl" (NBC); Diana-Maria Riva, "Side Order of Life" (Lifetime); Chandra Wilson, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)

Perkins and Heigl (the latter fresh off of an Emmy win this year) are the only two category nominees from a year ago who are eligible again this time. They should both crack this lineup again, as Perkins has received nominations two years running for "Weeds." Griffiths won in 2002 for "Six Feet Under" and will make another strong bid with "Brothers & Sisters," as will two-time winner Davis for "Starter Wife." Morton has the advantage of her British heritage, as well as a dynamic performance in "Longford." And Paquin is an Oscar winner. 'Nuff said.

SUPPORTING ACTOR (Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Favorites: Ted Danson, "Damages" (FX); Michael Imperioli, "The Sopranos" (HBO); Terry O'Quinn, "Lost" (ABC); Jeremy Piven, "Entourage" (HBO); August Schellenberg, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO); Rainn Wilson, "The Office" (NBC)
Possibles: Kevin Dillon, "Entourage" (HBO); Neil Patrick Harris, "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS); Justin Kirk, "Weeds" (Showtime); Kevin Nealon, "Weeds" (Showtime); Masi Oka, "Heroes" (NBC); Aidan Quinn, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO)

An intriguing battle looms. Piven -- who just earned the Emmy in September -- has three successive Globe noms for "Entourage" and nothing to show for it. That could change this time, though a heavy-duty competitor emerges in Danson (nominated 10 times previously and a three-time winner). Imperioli is 0-for-2 in his Globe career for "The Sopranos," while O'Quinn (who nabbed this year's supporting drama actor Emmy) and Wilson have never been nominated and deserve to here. Oka and the "Weeds" boys (Nealon and Kirk) also look to be on the category shortlist.