Guys, let’s pretend. Let’s pretend, for just one second, that an awards show is not just an empty recitation of who won what. Let’s pretend that it is a legitimate form of entertainment, crafted with the same attention to detail as any of the films or TV shows that it celebrates.
Of course, you can’t pretend it’s the same thing as those things. But we talk about football on a level beyond the score; the pace and drama of the games matter. Let’s lean into that same approach. Because the Golden Globes are just a prelude to the other awards shows to come this year.
Even before the actual awards show started, NBC knew who its headliners were this year, inserting a trailer for the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler comedy “Sisters” into the preshow. No matter the star wattage of the evening, Fey and Poehler, as hosts, sustained it — in the form of living, breathing eff yous to those who might say women can’t be funny.
Seriously, women can’t be funny? Fey and Poehler have made hosting an awards show — the toughest and least funny job on television — into one of the year’s comedy highlights.
At the beginning, the duo kicked off their romantic comedy — I’m sorry, I mean their three-time hosting domination — with an opening monologue that worked its way up fast from safe…to Cosby rape jokes. And not just your garden variety Cosby rape jokes, but Cosby rape jokes that offered the one-time legend no leniency or forgiveness. Just pure scorn, masked by ridicule. (And that “Downton Abbey” star Joanne Froggatt was one of the first winners of the night, for her performance as a rape survivor, and mentioned letters she’d received from real-life rape survivors about their experiences and how they’d felt unable to speak out.)
Like most awards show hosts, Fey and Poehler did go largely AWOL within the first half of the show. But when they were an active presence, there was no pullback, especially with “The Interview”-related comedy bits featuring Margaret Cho (who previously performed for Fey as Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un on “30 Rock”) as a visiting North Korean dignitary.
The Globes telecast even sold Poehler and Fey as reasons to keep watching, during one of the first commercial breaks — and upon said return, we got a North Korean bit featuring Cho, Meryl Streep, Michael Keaton and a photobomb by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Forty-two minutes in, the evening might have hit its emotional climax, thanks to Jill Soloway’s acceptance speech for best comedy series “Transparent.” The pressure to go political vs. personal is always present with these speeches, but when the personal is political — Soloway created her series after her parent came out as trans — the impact is inescapable.
But with the Golden Globes, though, a major component in the flow becomes the awkward overlap between film and TV, which began with the Original Song award going to “Selma” for the song “Glory.” This becomes like the Chekhov’s Gun of awards wins — easy to assume that because this happened to be the first major film win (aside from J.K. Simmons for “Whiplash”), “Selma’s” odds looked good.
And the mood of the evening didn’t distract from that, especially after the emotional acceptance speech by Common and John Legend didn’t change that perspective. Ricky Gervais did show up, like a plot twist that never paid off, leading to thoughts of what an awards show where one host forcibly seized away control from another would be like.
That didn’t happen, because the common complaint of any awards show — that of boredom — did prove to be inescapable tonight. The moment at which, for this viewer, the Golden Globes became a hollow litany was the announcement of the winner for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie. Maggie Gyllenhaal delivered a speech about female representation in “The Honorable Woman” that was nice enough, though I’m sure as complicated as the roles she claims to celebrate…a lot had already happened.
Yet, when “Birdman” won the Best Screenplay award, it became another Chekhov’s gun moment: Because that’s the game, looking towards the lesser awards to predict the major ones, one that helpfully distracted from heartfelt yet generic speeches from creators.
That all diverted from the artifice of the show, which suffered from the limitations of its format. It could have been worse, because writing great awards banter is not easy, and suffocating great talent can go all kinds of wrong. Yet for the most part, the presenters were not stifled, and there was much fun to be had. The show even managed to find a new sort of bit for the presenting duo trope — while Benedict Cumberbatch had been previously announced as a presenter, he was invited up to the podium as a “volunteer.” The result was easily one of the most organically enjoyable moments of the evening.
Plus, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were two standouts: Regarding Tomlin’s “prediction” on the set of “9 to 5” that one day TV would be available via alternate means (like, say, Netflix), Fonda said, “I thought you were high that day.”
“Two things can be true,” Tomlin snapped back.
In general, the Golden Globes is a hard show to evaluate, because it bills itself as a fun party — the “drunken cousin” to the Oscars, but it’s a fun party that has a lot of work to do — honoring the best in film AND television, which these days are fighting for dominance. That could be frustrating, but it does lead to legitimate opportunities for those involved.
Because here is a magical thing to remember, when you watch someone like Gina Rodriguez or Matt Bomer win a Golden Globe — it’s not just a moment for them. It lasts forever. It might not be an Emmy or an Oscar, but it will be something they can celebrate the rest of their lives, and it can help them get their passion projects made. Winning a Golden Globe is not just a dream come true — it can make future dreams come true.
So that’s why we care, and that’s why we watch. It goes beyond even the spectacle of TV’s two funniest women poking hard at the industry and the world. It drags the ball and it drops the ball, but it’s an opportunity to recognize art, and really, there are never enough opportunities for that.