6:26pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Critic's Notebook: Jimmy Fallon's Golden Globes Intro Goes All-In on 'La La Land,' Donald Trump
It was a tale of two Golden Globes intros on Sunday night, allowing us to crown Jimmy Fallon as both a winner and loser.
First, let us lightly sing the praises of Fallon's filmed intro, which pre-supposed a lot of enthusiasm for La La Land courtesy of both the audience at home and the HFPA. I don't remember the last time I saw an intro for an award show concentrate so exclusively on just a single nominee, but I guess that's what happens when you have a popular nominee that's both an actual original musical and a love letter to Hollywood.
Sure, there were other nominees woven into Fallon and company's Globes-traffic-jam take on the presumptive musical/comedy winner's freeway gridlock opening, followed by "Room Full of Stars." He had visits from nominees including Nicole Kidman and Amy Adams, backed by dancers in HAZMAT suits. Millie Bobby Brown rapped, with minimal accompaniment from her young male Stranger Things co-stars, followed by a Barb-pandering bridge featuring Esther Williams-style pool choreography. Ryan Reynolds flirted with Fallon on a piano and Fallon rebuffed Tina Fey's advances for the love of Justin Timberlake, whose impression of Fallon was probably better than Fallon's own impression of himself.
For me, the opening was too monomaniacally obsessed with La La Land, but that doesn't mean it was bad. It was, in fact, exactly what any reasonable person would have expected from Fallon, whose background and skill set practically demand a "Get To The Theater On Time" musical opening (just as he performed when he hosted the Emmys).
Then, however, disaster struck as Fallon had to go live amid an apparent teleprompter disaster. Fallon is no stranger to live TV, but you'd sure think he was based on a minute of sub-par vamping that didn't get much better than "Already you have your Golden Globes moment."
Unfortunately, even once Fallon apparently got on script, things didn't get any better. They actually got much worse.
First of all, Jimmy Fallon just isn't allowed to make Donald Trump jokes. Not if he wants me to laugh. I'm willing to laugh at a fair number of things that Fallon wants to try, or at least to try to laugh. But there's a limit to how much I'm personally prepared to chuckle at from a man who tousled our future president's hair when he now wants to compare Donald Trump to King Joffrey, mock the stars signing on for Trump's inauguration or suggest that Trump isn't a legitimate winner because he didn't win the popular vote. You coddled him, Jimmy. You coddled him. Anyway, if you want to laugh, that's just nifty. I'm not there yet.
Still, Fallon's Trump jokes were better than a Chris Rock impression that had absolutely no comedic angle, no edge and no real culminating punchline. Just as Fallon probably should avoid Trump jokes, he probably should avoid extended clowning impressions of an African-American comedian unless he's going to do it perfectly and with sharp writing. That was not the case here.
Maybe the teleprompter just never came back and Fallon went to autopilot and the only things that came to his mind in this moment were lame Trump jokes and a Chris Rock impression? I certainly can't say my own improv skills would have been better. [Yes, I know they'd have been worse. You don't need to tell me. Award show hosting is not my job.] Maybe there was a brilliantly written opening full of nuance and the many impressions Fallon does better than his Chris Rock? I guess we'll never know.
So, in the balance Fallon was fine when he was pre-taped and dismal when he had to go live and it's a long show, so I'll be back at the end with an overview examination of the show.