Golden Globes Review: Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh’s Goodwill Only Goes So Far in a Rushed, Confounding Night

The odd couple hosts had great chemistry and greater intentions, but they couldn't corral lots of surprises into consistent entertainment.

Right from the start, Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh did what great hosts do: They set the tone, and then they stuck to it. But even though that spirit came straight from the heart — no Ricky Gervais-style roasting, no Sandra “Oh Snap!”, and no Andy Slams Nerds — it didn’t connect at the same level throughout the night. Even though the 2019 Golden Globes were everything their reputation promised going in — surprising, pretty weird, and largely positive — they were far from smooth, often awkward, and too rushed. Moreover, the winners and show’s structure often abandoned the host’s attempts to do the right thing, as TV was bumped by the way side while film honored two controversial entries.

TV’s top two categories were dismissed quickly. “The Americans” was the fourth trophy handed out (as a sign of respect, it’s the last at the Emmys), and after that surprise win, things took a turn for the worse: The Best Comedy Series trophy was handed off as an afterthought, and viewers soon forgot all about the winner after the top two film prizes went to “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” — two movies facing backlash for accuracy issues, among other criticisms. These peculiar choices, as well as the ceremony’s weird quirks, sent the whole telecast off the rails.

In a ceremony that felt as cramped as the small ballroom looks, the monologue, overall, was solid. Oh had great timing, and Samberg supported her with self-deprecating wit. But it felt like the hosts didn’t hit their stride until near the end, especially Oh. Their running sincerity gags were only all right — “Bradley Cooper: You are hot.” …OK — and illustrated a lack of follow-through that could be tied to limited prep time. Each call-out was on point, but didn’t often reach the next-level hilarity these two are capable of. It took an assist from Emma Stone, apologizing from the crowd for playing an Asian woman in “Aloha,” to elevate things. (That being said, lovingly mocking about-to-be-Golden Globe winner Lady Gaga for repeating the same line during the “Star Is Born” press tour was commitment to an insider bit that paid off.)

76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: Steve Carell and Carol Burnett, accepting the Carol Burnett TV Achievement Award at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 6, 2019 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)
Carol Burnett at the 2019 Golden Globe AwardsPaul Drinkwater/NBC

But things did eventually elevate, in part because the hosts acknowledged in-the-moment shortcomings: “Darren Criss of Ruth Chris Steakhouse is here” is the kind of one-off line that kills for being so short and so dumb. Sandra Oh breaking during her “First Man” bit worked well because she acknowledged how silly it came across. Sure, booting Jim Carrey from the film section back to TV didn’t really make sense (or spark any memorable lines), but Samberg going for it by “whitewashing” Oh’s lines and then letting Oh have a transcendent moment of sincerity absolutely worked.

“I’m not fooling myself, next year could be different, but right now this moment is real,” Oh said. “Trust me, it’s real. Because I see you, and I see you — all these faces of changes. And now, so will everyone else.” Her delivery may have been a little heavy, but it’s better to go over in that moment than under.

When the awards started being handed out, things started to get away from the hosts (literally — they weren’t around that much) and NBC overall. The bleeping of curse words was so egregious whole sentences were lost, and the camerawork was wonky, missing key reaction shots and cutting to at least one unnecessary moment as well. (The director has to know to show Oh’s parents as much as possible, and should’ve known better than to show two major stars returning to their seats during the HFPA president’s welcome speech. The former is what makes the show great, and the latter betrays the positive vibes promised from the start.)

76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: Jeff Bridges, winner of Cecil B. Demille Award at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 6, 2019 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)
Jeff Bridges at the Golden Globe AwardsPaul Drinkwater/NBC

Momentum was also a problem. We’re all still listening to Jeff Bridges’ clearly unrehearsed speech (God love him, but wow), and meanwhile poor Regina King and the “Spider-Verse” team were played off early. (Well, they tried to play off King.) Multiple presenters doubled up on categories, announcing two at a time and speeding through select categories. (Even with the undeserving “Kominsky Method” winning Best Comedy, you’re really going to rush through that and Best Drama Series?) It’s as though having a new category (the Carol Burnett Award) spooked the HFPA into putting the pedal to the metal for the first two hours.

Making time for the legendary Burnett (and Steve Carell’s excellent introduction, complete with cutaways to a visibly touched honoree) was worth it, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice consistency for one additional speech. As was pointed out, this kind of rush only further illustrates there are worse things than a show that runs long. The 2019 Golden Globes did everything right leading up to the awards. They hired the right hosts. By adding an honorary TV award, they made a gesture of equality toward the two mediums being honored. They were even teed up for ratings success by a (devastating) NFL playoff game as the show’s lead-in.

But if you don’t give your stars room to breathe, how are they supposed to shine? If you cede more time to film winners than TV winners (Christian Bale literally asked for help to continue his speech!), are you really saying they’re on the same level? And if you race through the show you’ve been promoting for months, are you really that proud of what you’re showing? The easy answer is “Not with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as the big winner!”, but what went wrong with the Globes went beyond the HFPA’s strange picks.

Grade: C+

The 76th Golden Globe Awards aired Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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