Review: Golden Globes Broadcast Starts Strong but Fades in Choppy Second Half

Viola Davis Golden Globe Win
Paul Drinkwater/NBC

As Golden Globes broadcasts go, the 2017 edition of the extravaganza probably lands somewhere in the middle of the pack. There were some unexpected moments, a few moving speeches and exciting wins, an array of inevitable sleepy patches and a host who was adequate but not memorable. Jimmy Fallon’s thunder was routinely stolen by a few performers who got political, or by presenters who simply had more charisma than the “Tonight Show” host. 

A fair amount of one’s tolerance for the Globes probably depended on whether the viewer had seen “La La Land” and really, really liked it. If you hadn’t, its creative team’s seven marches to the podium began to feel like 27 wins by the end of the night. At times, the musical’s big night began to feel like a re-run of the year “The Artist” seemed to win everything; Hollywood artists really do love to congratulate themselves for … being Hollywood artists. Not only was “Moonlight’s” win at the tail end of the broadcast well-deserved, that moment punctuated the long evening with a final injection of energy, which was halting at best in the second half of the Globes broadcast.

That was really the problem with this year’s Globes telecast: There were two versions of it. The generally lively first half was dominated by a diverse array of winners from deserving TV shows, and “La La Land’s” sweep hadn’t yet drained the suspense from many of the film categories. The first hour or two often had the kind of sparky looseness mixed with earnest celebration that is the hallmark of this awards telecast when it’s working.

Of course, many of the Globes wins stayed within the group’s usual parameters: Hollywood Foreign Press Association voters love to reward TV shows that are new and shiny and cool, and they also have a deep affection for pedigreed movie stars and English actors who star in handsome, well-appointed programs. Hence the wins for “The Crown” and “The Night Manager,” but deserving shows like “Black-ish,” “Atlanta,” “Goliath” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson” racked up wins too.

The second half of the broadcast had its moments, and the transfixing pair of speeches from Viola Davis and Meryl Streep in the middle of the show quite rightly overshadowed much of rest of the night. But it became increasingly annoying to witness the Globes producers play off winners in the final hour or so, and to watch Donald Glover of “Atlanta” and Barry Jenkins of “Moonlight” have to rush through their speeches made Tom Hiddleston’s self-serving and lengthy acceptance monologue earlier in the night retroactively even more irritating.

Though other moments were more dramatic, one of the big stories of the night was a changing of the guard, and not the one that takes place outside Buckingham Palace. HBO had 14 nominations going into the night, but it scored zero wins; the networks winning multiple awards in the TV categories were FX, AMC and Netflix. Of course, one year does not a pattern make, but it was notable that the winners in the TV categories did not necessarily go to the usual suspects. In recent years, “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” have effortlessly dominated many awards rosters, and despite being the kind of expensive epic that the Globes would have probably given statues to in the past, “Westworld” went home empty-handed.

Both the nominations and the winners list on the TV side reflected the small screen’s welcome (if long overdue) embrace of diversity, and Tracee Ellis Ross captured the mood of the night on the TV side when she dedicated her win for “Black-ish” to “women of color and colorful people whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important.” (One sour note came from the mid-show “jokes” that revolved around Sofia Vergara’s accent. It really beggars the imagination that anyone would find that kind of tone-deaf material humorous or that Vergara would agree to perform musty material that felt like it had been exhumed from a 30-year old Globes broadcast.)

The highlight of the night came from Meryl Streep, whose quiet intensity clearly enraptured the room. In accepting her Cecil B. DeMille award, Meryl Streep gave a heartfelt speech about the responsibilities of actors, artists and the press to “hold power to account” and create art that generates empathy. Introducing her, Viola Davis was similarly transfixing. Streep’s work makes her proud to be an actor, Davis said, and like “my body — my face — my age is enough.” 

On the other end of the mood spectrum, Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell delivered a perfectly calibrated comedic bit as they introduced the best animated film category. They each recounted tragedies that allegedly befell them when they saw animated movies as kids, and their ability to milk the moment for maximum comedic effect was a highlight of the night.

It wasn’t surprising that Billy Bob Thornton won for “Goliath” (which he was very good in) or that Tom Hiddleston won for “The Night Manager”; the Globes voters love nothing more than rewarding film actors for doing TV. “The Crown” similarly ticks a lot of boxes for Golden Globes voters: It was an expensive project loaded with prestigious actors like John Lithgow and a phenomenal relative newcomer like Claire Foy. Say what you will of Globes voters (and industry folk say lots of mocking things about them, even on the broadcast itself), it was heartening to see Donald Glover on the stage twice, and to see how enjoyable he found his win.

“Everyone in here is like magical to me,” he said.

But for viewers of the Globes, things tended to get less magical as the long night wore on.

Jimmy Fallon was hardly missed when he faded out of view for long stretches. But that made sense, in a way: Fallon’s whole late-night persona is that of the energetic party host whose mission is to make sure everyone else has a good time. He’s never really been known for the incisiveness of his monologues or the kind of spontaneous cutting humor that Jimmy Kimmel often excels at. And even though Fallon tried to launch a few Trump zingers, his comparison of the president-elect to Joffrey from “Game of Thrones” didn’t erase the memory of his infamous hair-mussing of the former “Apprentice” host. All in all, Fallon was the least memorable part of the night. After an enjoyably grandiose opening number starring many of the nominated performers and shows, he more or less handed over the reins to presenters and winners who punched through the snoozier passages regularly enough to create momentum now and then.

If we recall this telecast in future, however, what we’ll probably remember is Streep’s parting words, which she cribbed from her late friend, Carrie Fisher: “Take your broken heart and make it into art.”