The Golden Globes couldn’t stand prosperity. After a promising opening monologue (or dialogue) from hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and some enthusiastic early breakthrough wins, the show gradually degenerated amid lame presenter banter and bloat – punctuated by highlights, true, but falling victim to the usual excesses. Heartfelt acceptance speeches for some meaningful work periodically invigorated the telecast, but those islands were surrounded by plenty of dry stretches. While the Globes remain a very friendly made-for-TV construct – with star-oriented categories in abundance – the out-of-the-box choices were finally offset by all the customary award-show tics.
Granted, the outsized importance the Globes wield is hard to explain, especially with its position as an Academy Awards bellwether having been less reliable in recent years. Nevertheless, the town and awards ecosystem have embraced it, and the ratings have remained strong enough to warrant a level of coverage and excitement that goes beyond the respect the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (ribbed playfully by “The Grand Budapest Hotel” director Wes Anderson) probably deserves.
That disclaimer aside, Fey and Poehler pretty much knocked it out of the park with their introductory material, cleverly tackling obvious targets – from “The Interview” to Bill Cosby – while addressing Hollywood foibles without sounding either mean-spirited or (worse) fawning over the talent in attendance.
After that, though, they largely disappeared – something the Globes has a history of doing with its hosts, which was painfully evident during Ricky Gervais’ stints. Given their limited screen time, it’s hard to see how they worked up enough of a sweat to bother changing outfits.
Moreover, when they finally returned, it was with Margaret Cho to reprise an unfunny, borderline-offensive shtick as a North Korean representative, which was barely tolerable once, much less three times.
Early winners gave the telecast considerable momentum. That included Gina Rodriguez’s moving acceptance for “Jane the Virgin” and comedy honors to Amazon’s “Transparent” (and later star Jeffrey Tambor), representing two services that wouldn’t have even been invited to the party in years past. Matthew Bomer also delivered poignant comments in winning for HBO’s “The Normal Heart,” which coupled with the “Transparent” wins, delivered a powerful message on behalf of the LGBT community.
Hell, even the usual sleep-inducing HFPA President’s obligatory on-air moment carried additional resonance, with Theo Kingma bringing much of the audience to its feet with an endorsement of free speech in light of recent events.
From there, though, the program appeared, charitably, under-rehearsed. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader awkwardly giggled over jokes they could barely deliver. David Duchovny looked as if he was sleepwalking. Gervais tittered around the fringes of skewering the celebrity crowd (“Famous people are above the law, as it should be”), then pulled back and dutifully plodded onward.
There were some unexpected and welcome touches – Billy Bob Thornton’s remarkably terse acceptance speech for “Fargo” – and tiresome ones, like Kevin Spacey’s self-important story about director Stanley Kramer, or Patricia Arquette reading her thank-yous.
To their credit, the producers let the winners speak. But patience wasn’t always rewarded, and there were some pregnant moments – reflected in the audience’s reaction shots – on whether, say, Michael Keaton’s emotional outpouring after winning for “Birdman” was, in fact, going to go anywhere.
Nor were the speeches helped, strictly from a technical perspective, by frequent use of a close-up camera angle that felt as if it was trying to see inside the performers’ ears. And so it went.
George Clooney lent considerable class to the proceedings in receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award, managing to incorporate the Charlie Hebdo attack, the merit of honoring little-seen projects and a conciliatory “It’s enough just to be nominated” pitch into one spirited speech. (Fey and Poehler also scored earlier by pointing out the ostensible absurdity of Clooney receiving a career-achievement award whilst sitting alongside his accomplished humanitarian wife, a “non-pro,” in trade-paper parlance.)
Finally, although Fey and Poehler joked about the way TV is treated at the Globes during the monologue (they ran out of time before discussing it), the time lag for winners in those categories before reaching the stage proved a drag throughout the evening.
Then again, a measure of clumsiness was foreshadowed by NBC’s hour-long arrivals show, which once again featured the increasingly popular “Any excuse to plug our morning team” rationale clashing with the “Gosh, this is awkward” reality of red carpets.
On the plus side, NBC spent less time obsessing over fashions, other than the compulsory “Who are you wearing?” questions. But “Today’s” Matt Lauer, in particular, seems to approach this assignment with a level of detachment that borders on indifference. That included sending off most interviewees by saying, “Have fun tonight,” as if this was a singles mixer and not – at least for the nominees – a heavily hyped watershed in their careers.
NBC also missed an opportunity to spend any significant time discussing events in Paris, while Lauer seemed absurdly enamored with repeating the fact Fey and Poehler stated in advance that they won’t be hosting the Globes again, and thus have “no accountability.”
Alas, the Globes might be over for another year, but for its producers and the “Today” crew, tomorrow is another day.