Early on in the revamped "Fashion Police," which returned Monday with a Golden Globes special, Kathy Griffin gave a nod to the late Joan Rivers.
"I just want to thank my good friend, who we all miss, Joan Rivers," Griffin said, looking upward. "Of course. So Joan, I know you're watching from heaven. But don't get it twisted. I will not be afraid to bring the hammer down on anyone and on everyone. I learned from the best."
It was the only mention of the pioneering Rivers, the alpha of the weekly fashion roundup that served as a platform for her snark and willingness to take on celebrities and celebrity. Initially, that seemed like a misstep, a wrong calculation by the show and its producers, daughter Melissa Rivers among them.
But as "Fashion Police" continued, the four co-hosts -- returning Kelly Osbourne and Giuliana Rancic, plus stylist Brad Goreski ("The Rachel Zoe Project" and "It's a Brad, Brad World") and Griffin -- were clearly on a different show from the one Rivers helmed. Sure, the set had a coat of fresh teal paint, the chairs were rearranged (Osbourne on stage left rather than right), but more than the decor, the dynamic had been reassembled. That was the right way to go. You can't replace Rivers, and they didn't try.
This new "FP" is more of an ensemble. The co-hosts didn't defer to Griffin's opinions as they generally did Rivers', so the focus shifted away from a comedian's show about fashion toward a series about style told with comedy.
Griffin had the funniest lines -- she called the ill-fitting white gloves worn by Amal Clooney "bovine insemination gloves," and noted that Kerry Washington's two-tone look was akin to "one of those dresses that would have lost someone on 'Project Runway'" -- and proved herself the cast's MVP. She certainly drew upon some of the insider celebrity bashing she's known for -- Lorde is apparently "so humorless ... so ridiculous" -- but Griffin moved beyond, repeatedly touching upon one of the most annoying aspects of the modern red carpet: Its perfection.
"Yawn, perfect again," she noted of Lupita Nyongo's floral purple ombre gown. "She's like the Meryl Streep of fashion." Griffin even reminisced about the wild style of onetime red-carpet staple Cher and, really, who doesn't miss the good-old, unpredictable days before everyone had a stylist?
Griffin's embrace of the wonderfully horrible -- she called Lana Del Rey's aquamarine choice the "bridesmaid's dress that you're forced to wear" while saying she loved it -- was a necessary balance to the ever-stiff Rancic, whose commentary, as usual, rarely ventured beyond thoughts like, "it is perfection." Goreski and Osbourne fell in the middle, he able to give decent context to celebrities and their chosen designers, she a fashion nerd right along with him as both were in agreement on their picks for the Globes' best (Emma Stone) and worst (Del Rey) dressed.
Though Griffin did make a reference to selecting the biggest "fash-hole" (a Rivers term) of the Globes, viewers determined the best and worst looks from choices posted online. In the past, Rivers' pick ruled.
Still -- and maybe it was all those Joan Rangers clicking away, maybe it was the invisible hand of Rivers somehow smacking about in the ether -- Griffin's choice for best dressed got the popular vote. Jennifer Lopez (showing two kinds of cleavage ... both on the front), won over much more reasonable (and therefore less amusing) options.