Blame that TelePrompTer, or the guy reading from it, or the weather, or the Giants, or “Hidden Fences,” or the numbing inevitability of the whole affair (“La La Land,” take one more bow), but the 74th annual Golden Globes telecast was a drag.
It was overlong, overindulgent, and overstuffed and while long, indulgent stuffiness do tend to come with this particular territory, there is -- you’ll perhaps concede -- a matter of degree. Sunday exceeded all.
What happened? What didn’t? A Red Carpet flub (by Jenna Bush Hager) referring to some mysterious “Hidden Fences,” later -- inexplicably -- repeated by presenter Michael Keaton? A busted TelePrompTer that forced Jimmy Fallon to vamp at the worst possible moment, then attempt a recovery when precious seconds had already dissolved away -- forever? The tribute to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher that looked like it had been cribbed from HBO’s “Bright Lights” (which launched Saturday night) and otherwise felt more like an obligation than the heartfelt elegy it should have been?
Or: An opening number that was lively, well-staged, inventive and visually arresting -- yet which seemed to celebrate just one movie (you know which one) and thereby essentially give away the entire evening?
Drag, drag, drrrrag.
Let’s begin with Jimmy and that broken prompter. The irony -- now a bitter one -- is that Mariah Carey after her New Year’s Eve-from-Hell also blamed a technical flub on dick clark productions -- which produced this show. DCP said afterward that in thousands of hours of live productions an error of that magnitude had never happened and didn’t during NYE either. And wouldn’t you know? The very next live DCP production.
How big a deal is a malfunctioning TelePrompTer? Only if the stage had caught on fire could it have been any worse. Everything is thrown off, not to mention the confidence of the person who needs more confidence than anyone else in the room.
It was easy to feel sorry for Fallon, until you heard the material -- a long impression of Chris Rock, and a few ineffective pokes at Donald Trump, including: Some wonder what it would have been like if King Joffrey had lived? “In twelve days we’ll find out.”
Fallon, in fact, was ill-suited to the mood of this crowd -- an ugly, angry, still-raw mood left over from an election outcome which represented their worst possible nightmare. A few in attendance Sunday said they would flee the country following such an outcome. But they’re all still here.
Possibly the nicest, most genuinely sweet host who ever handled the Globes -- on the opposite side of the spectrum of say, Ricky Gervais -- Fallon had also made the inexcusable mistake of being nice to Donald Trump in their last encounter. He mussed the candidate’s hair, outraged Hillary Clinton supporters and stepped right into the pile called the 2016 election. Nevermind that Fallon is nice to everyone -- from stars to sitting presidents. All anyone remembered was that hair. Stephen Colbert -- or Samantha Bee -- would have been a better match for this crowd.
In fact, it was left to Meryl Streep to capture the zeitgeist -- the zeitgeist in that particular ballroom anyway. Her aux-armes-citoyens! speech was terrific and a real barnburner that turned a somnolent crowd into a fully engaged, awake one. Finally -- you could almost hear them say -- someone who understands our pain.
She turned her Cecille B. DeMille moment into a Donald J. Trump one, but the weird thing about her speech is that her punchline matched the one from Hugh Laurie’s acceptance speech, given just moments earlier after accepting his win for “The Night Manager.”
You remember: Hollywood ... foreign ... press... the most hated things in America at the moment.
She must have had her own personal TelePrompTer Moment when she heard Laurie use the exact same line. She recovered, perfectly, and made it seem as if she was riffing on the points he had raised. Nevertheless, it still felt like a borrowed line, and not especially an imaginative or original one the second time around either.
There were plenty of other good speeches -- Tom Hiddleston (for “The Night Manager”), Viola Davis (for “Fences”), Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone...
Tracee Ellis Ross and Donald Glover -- winners for “Black-ish” and “Atlanta” respectively -- gave a couple of the best. “I want you to know that I see you -- we see you,” she said of women of color “and colorful people whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy, and valid and important...”
An African-American woman hadn’t won this particular award in decades which gave an added measure of weight to those words -- and to think that Ross was considered a long shot for this.
Glover had in some respects the biggest night of everyone: A Globe for best actor in a comedy and best comedy. That’s another historic twofer and a powerful indication that television has changed and an important awards show has embraced that change.
The night may have been a drag and a bummer, and a sodden, Teleprompter-subverted, political grandstand of a night. At least there were plenty of great movies and TV shows worth celebrating, these two included.