Say what you will about Ricky Gervais, but when the provocative comedian presided over the Golden Globes, you never forgot who was hosting.
After a pre-recorded opening video, parading stars of trendy TV and movies through yet another “I’m trapped in Los Angeles traffic, what do I do?” bit (this time with a timely parody of “La La Land’s” opening number), host Jimmy Fallon may as well have stayed in his car. An accident prompted him to do just that, when the teleprompter that was supposed to display his opening monologue went blank during the first few minutes of the live show. When it came back on, what followed — a pianist/penis joke about Ryan Gosling, a Chris Rock impression, and a few easy quips about Donald Trump — were largely, limp, predictable jokes without the edge of Gervais or the wit of Poehler and Fey; jokes that were later outdone by the stars themselves.
Aaron Taylor Johnson’s upset win for “Nocturnal Animals” set the tone for a night of upsets. Billy Bob Thornton got the speeches off to a good start by prodding fellow nominee Bob Odenkirk. (“So there you go, bud.”) Julia Louis-Dreyfus had the best musical moment when she subbed in for Questlove as DJ, Hugh Laurie made the best Trump joke — “I won this at the last ever Golden Globes. I don’t mean to be gloomy, but it’s just that it has the words ‘Hollywood,’ ‘foreign’ and ‘press’ in the title.” — which also happened to serve as a perfect introduction to Meryl Streep’s impassioned, beautiful speech that brought the house down.
The Golden Globes are always a rather speedy endeavor, moving efficiently from winner to winner, speech to speech, in part because the HFPA honors both film and TV and thus needs to keep the pace up, but also because the ceremony wants the spotlight on the famous faces in attendance. Even the “in memoriam” tribute to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds was atypical for the Globes. (Usually, they don’t pay homage to industry members who passed on last year.)
So to see the stars step up and save what felt like an overly lengthy show was as fitting as the Globes were overstuffed. Yes, the show lagged after Streep’s incredible speech, when “La La Land’s” sweep became evident and with all the TV awards already handed out. But it would have been an utter disaster if not for the many minor moments courtesy of major stars: Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell’s bit on the first animated films they saw, Donald Glover’s sweet acceptance on behalf of “Atlanta,” and two — count ’em, two — speeches from the great Viola Davis.
These brief snippets bolstered a show absent a strong personality. This wasn’t “Hollywood’s wildest party,” as promised, nor did it benefit from a host who disappeared after a timid start, only to reappear (sans beer, cocktail, or actually edgy material) for groan-inducing goofs like introducing Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain as “Chastain and the Redmayne” (to the tune of “Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill). But the moments provided by the stars were built into something grand online: the award show’s best friend, especially when three-hour broadcasts feel twice as long.
Take, for starters, Tracee Ellis Ross winning right before “Atlanta” took home Best Comedy Series. Casual viewers may have simply been happy for the series independently, but those sifting through Twitter could share in the joy of those who saw something much bigger go down:
As much as I love VEEP and JLD, Tracee Ellis Ross and ATLANTA winning back to back was beautiful. #GoldenGlobes
— Nix Santos (@n__ix) January 9, 2017
Shortly thereafter, when Laurie was making the most of his surprise visit to the stage, the world applauded alongside him, collectively acknowledging superior wit and demanding more of the same, no matter how it comes about:
Hugh Laurie should replace Jimmy Fallon. like tonight, on The Tonight Show, and also just in his personal life probably idk #GoldenGlobes
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) January 9, 2017
When the HFPA tried to squeeze in the aforementioned tribute to Fisher and Reynolds, viewers shared their frustrations with the simple, brief clip show as a way to properly honor the dearly missed mother and daughter duo.
I think Carrie Fisher would’ve appreciated if that vague intro had mysteriously led to an homage to an entirely different mother & daughter.
— emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) January 9, 2017
And then, the most telling moment of what went wrong with the ceremony surfaced online: Ryan Reynolds and Andrew Garfield’s shared kiss.
— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) January 9, 2017
This is what the Globes are supposed to be about: surprises, silliness, and stars. Though the moment certainly didn’t merit the news alerts sent out to bait clicks, it’s exactly the kind of thing NBC and the HFPA would push to sell the zany brand of the Golden Globes — and the cameras all but missed it. The broadcast paid it no mind, and without social media, most viewers likely would have never noticed the shared smooch between Reynolds (who just lost his category) and Garfield (who would lose soon after).
One has to imagine even more wonderful moments went down out of sight; moments likely to surface online as the parties rage into the wee hours of Monday morning. How the broadcast can bring us closer to the stars — as close as we feel on social media, thanks to selfies and snaps from the floor — should be of chief concern to the producers, but it’s the host’s responsibility to draw out better moments from the stage. Fallon didn’t do that, settling for a simple prerecorded bit and a tame monologue.
Credit to the Golden Globes for providing the space for all this to happen and to NBC for beaming it into our homes, but if we’re expected to keep buying into the ceremony as an entertainment necessity — and not something best consumed vicariously through social media — we need more than just the basics. We need a broadcast ready and willing to pick out the moments that make the ceremony unique. After all, if the partygoers are this game for a good time, shouldn’t the party itself be better?