And the loser is ... NBC News. The network's tumultuous attempts to cobble together a stop-gap resolution to the writers strike-disrupted Golden Globes telecast exposed the news division's pliability in serving as NBC's corporate tool, and Sunday's telecast -- finally handed over, grudgingly, to the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. -- further blurred the line between the news operation and "Access Hollywood." Breathless banter between "Access" hosts Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell put the maraschino cherry on a night to remember, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

And the loser is … NBC News. The network’s tumultuous attempts to cobble together a stop-gap resolution to the writers strike-disrupted Golden Globes telecast exposed the news division’s pliability in serving as NBC’s corporate tool, and Sunday’s telecast — finally handed over, grudgingly, to the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. — further blurred the line between the news operation and “Access Hollywood.” Breathless banter between “Access” hosts Billy Bush and Nancy O’Dell put the maraschino cherry on a night to remember, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Attempting to make the best of a bad situation — and salvage some of its ad booty — NBC presented the Globes results as a staged announcement, at the last minute opening up the event to other TV outlets such as TV Guide Network and E!, which, confusingly, carried the HFPA’s live news conference.

NBC also proceeded with a two-hour “Dateline NBC” devoted to the nominees, which might have been justified in its original intent — as a Saturday-night tease to the awards, killing time against an NFL playoff game — but, shifted to Sunday, merely reminded us how rarely the network devotes precious primetime shelf space to serious news, inviting questions about NBC’s priorities.

Put in an unenviable position, Bush and O’Dell fulfilled every stereotype about anchors of fluffy entertainment news shows, analyzing winners in each category as if they were calling Ohio for the Democratic nominee. The only redeeming aspect of their presentation was, thanks to the time strictures (25 categories in an hour, minus commercials), the two were forced to limit their empty exchanges to a few hasty lines.

“This is fun!” Shaun Robinson of “Access” enthused, unconvincingly, during a completely unnecessary throw to her, offering further limp second-guessing as to why the HFPA’s 80-some-odd members voted as they did.

If there was a bright side here, let’s face it, an hour is about all the Globes truly merit. At the same time, the exercise demonstrated what everybody doubtless already knew — namely, that without high-profile actors fumbling through emotional acceptance speeches, an awards “announcement” has about as much pizzazz as taking the car for an oil change.

“Today’s” Matt Lauer, meanwhile, hosted the “Dateline” spec subtitled “Going for Gold,” which emphatically underscored just how flaccid much of network news has become — including NBC’s inane decision to incorporate football analysts Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis and Cris Collinsworth giddily handicapping various categories.

Equally embarrassing was a segment featuring Bravo’s Kathy Griffin, providing tips on awards/red-carpet etiquette for an evening with no red carpet.

Granted, there was nothing wrong per se with the soft-focused features on nominees Kyra Sedgwick, James McAvoy, Denzel Washington, William Shatner, Patricia Arquette, Jeremy Piven, Amy Adams, Nikki Blonsky, Ellen Page and Sally Field, and Blonsky’s first-person diary was kind of sweet. Yet as a whole those pieces possessed about as much substance as an electronic press kit, though I did keep waiting for correspondent Chris Hansen to subject Shatner to a “To Catch a Predator” grilling, out of sheer force of habit.

Jeff Zucker cut his professional teeth producing “Today,” but the NBC Universal chief’s apparent lack of concern about safeguarding NBC News’ integrity has accompanied his rise within the corporate hierarchy — evoking fewer howls than it should, perhaps, because of his credentials as a one-time news guy.

This year’s challenge to keep the Globes spinning in some bastardized form will soon mercifully recede into the rear-view mirror, and the showcase can regain its well-cultivated reputation as a loose, boozy, anything-goes party when the town gets back to normal. As for the 65th Globes, only NBC’s audience at home needed a drink to sit through it.

The Golden Globe Winners Special/Dateline NBC

Special; NBC, Sun. Jan. 13, 7-10 p.m

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