Just goes to show how off the wall -- and hilarious -- these awards can be, says Ken Tucker
Jessica Alba, Dark Angel
Credit: Alba: Greg Corp

Jessica Alba is a Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress?

As a TV critic, I look to the Golden Globes television nominations for the sort of selections the more staid Emmys are slow to catch onto. This year’s announcements from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which awards the Globes, did not disappoint: The Globes’ nod to CBS’ new ”C.S.I.” and a long overdue acknowledgment that Sarah Michelle Gellar, of the WB’s ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” is a strong dramatic actress were among the more pleasant surprises.

The Globes are all about glitz and publicity, so the fact that Robert Downey, Jr., made the cut — as a supporting actor in the ”series, miniseries, or television movie” category — seemed both a recognition that he has, singlehandedly, made Fox’s ”Ally McBeal” worth watching again but, given his drug arrest troubles, would also be a much talked about pick, and a sure boost to the ratings when the Globes awards are telecast on Jan. 21.

But wait a minute: ”Dark Angel” Jessica Alba in the dramatic actress category? I’ve thought the hype behind the James Cameron produced Fox sci fi show has always been dubious (its ratings, while certainly not disastrous, aren’t those of a big hit, and for all the press ink spilled about her looks, I haven’t seen much evidence of Alba being hailed as a great thespian). But apparently the hype is also self fulfilling: Alba’s nomination — among Gellar, Sela Ward (ABC’s ”Once & Again”) Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco (HBO’s ”The Sopranos”), and (cough, cough) Amy Brenneman for CBS’ ”Judging Amy” — renders Alba one of the Globes’ most off the wall nominations since the bygone era of Pia Zadora.

The other wonky thing about the Globes is that while, unlike the Emmys, they offer separate categories for drama and comedy in the lead roles, the supporting actor categories are an undifferentiated mishmash. For example: You know that category that Robert Downey, Jr., is in? His competition is ”Will & Grace”’s Sean Hayes, ”Frasier”’s David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney, ”The West Wing”’s Bradley Whitford, and Christopher Plummer, who played F. Lee Bailey in the low rated miniseries ”American Tragedy.” Come on — how can any voter make a valid judgment between the sort of delicate light comedy touch Downey is bringing to ”Ally” versus the measured strength and stop on a dime versatility Bradley Whitford pulls off week after week on ”West Wing.”

It’s goofy. But it’s also show biz. I’m rooting for Bette Midler to win best actress in a comedy — not because she deserves to win (her show’s lame, and ”Malcolm in the Middle”’s Jane Kaczmarek deserves recognition), but because Midler will probably give a hilarious acceptance speech. That’s what the Golden Globes are good for.