The 71st Annual Golden Globes: TV Review

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler save the day again.
Tina and Amy forever.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler shine brightest as hosts and the Globes avoid a bloated middle section to make it a relatively grump-free night.

If the contract to host the Golden Globes indefinitely hasn't been issued backstage to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, then the Hollywood Foreign Press Association doesn't know what it's doing.

True, lots of people think the HFPA doesn't know what it's doing anyway, but almost everyone can agree that the Fey-Poehler combination was, once again, the highlight of the night. Their jokes didn't cross any lines but were also not soft (like Oscar jokes), and that's a very difficult recipe to master.

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In an incredible run to kick off the night, they riffed on the Golden Globes audience (women and gays), mocked the HFPA members and their affiliations so deftly I'm not sure the group has considered being offended, sent zingers at Matt Damon (in comparison to the star-studded room: "You're basically a garbage person,"); Jonah Hill, George Clooney in Gravity ("It's basically the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age,"), pronounced all the difficult nominees' names right but purposefully called Tom Hanks "Tam Honks" (and then called back to that same joke), and just generally nailed everything they tried.

The Fey-Poehler performance alone made the 71st Golden Globes worth watching, even before the first award was handed out.

But almost immediately after that, the show hit a glitch when Jacqueline Bisset both won for supporting actress in a series, miniseries or TV movie (when she probably shouldn't have) and then rambled on, sometimes as if she'd lost her train of thought numerous times, and let out a swear word that slipped past the censors. Not that the last part is a big deal -- awards shows, even with a seven-second delay -- often go silent when they bleep out swear words and sometimes screw that up as well. No, it's that Bisset wouldn't leave the stage and it took forever for the show to play her off (something it was, oddly enough, too quick to do for people we actually wanted to hear).

Putting aside the rights and wrongs of the picks -- at least on the movie side, where I'm not capable of crafting an opinion -- the Globes fell victim to pacing problems; strange decisions in directing that often felt jarring, erratic and poorly chosen; and suffered a number of sound issues as well.

On the technical side, it was not a strong night.

And yet, despite keeping some people on longer than they might have needed (Diane Keaton, U2), and playing important winners off too soon, the Golden Globes managed to avoid having a really bloated middle section as so often befalls the Emmys and the Oscars. The Globes moved at a decently brisk pace (no big and time-sucking retrospectives other than Woody Allen, no pointlessly indulgent musical numbers, etc.), so it can't be faulted on what has become the most predictable and annoying problem with modern awards shows. If the Emmys and Oscars can somehow learn to cut the fat, they'd be a lot more watchable -- and it might not hurt to put a lot of champagne on the table like the Globes do, even if it leads to some tipsy moments (which end up being more entertaining than someone thanking their managers, lawyers and publicists).

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There are some odd tics to the Globes -- the best director pick coming way earlier than people expect, the strange category titles and the requirement to thank the HFPA, etc. But mostly, this awards show, above all others, is at least entertaining and seems to move quickly through the night.

But easily the best element the past two years has been Fey and Poehler. It's essential to sign them again. They are flawless at this -- crafting huge laughs at many turns and walking that line of skewering the assembled celebrities (or their projects) without hurting their feelings. That's so incredibly hard to pull off in a notoriously thin-skinned town.

You're not going to get better hosts. [Fey and Poehler are already signed for next year's Globes.]

No awards show is perfect. But if you get the right hosts and don't bog the affair down with pointless add-ons, then all that's really left to complain about are the choices. But that happens at the Oscars and Emmys and Tonys and Grammys as well. And there will be an endless string of "snub" stories to follow. That's not something the Globes needs to fret over.

No, all it needs to do is clean up the directing and producing a bit, rehire the dynamic duo of Fey and Poehler, and work on the delicate task of playing off the right people while allowing others to have their say.

That's a lot shorter of a to-do list than the Emmys and Oscars people are staring at. So the night must have been a success. Feel free to debate the winners and losers all you want, but as television entertainment it worked more often than not.

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