After two years of controversial, sometimes cutting, quips, Ricky Gervais quickly became a distant memory as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stepped into the spotlight Sunday night to host the 70th annual Golden Globes with a gleeful spirit and wit to spare.
“We want to assure you we have no intention of being edgy or offensive because as Ricky learned the hard way, when you run afoul of the Hollywood Foreign Press, they make you host this two more times,” Poehler said.
Viewers should be so lucky.
Their presence here and there throughout the show -- Poehler and Fey both donned costumes to appear in the audience as fake nominees -- provided entertainment and amusement. They disappeared for too-long stretches but eventually popped back up to liven up the proceedings (Poehler sitting with George Clooney during the Best TV Comedy Actress award was another great sight gag). But the show might have been better with less time between their appearances.
“Only at the Golden Globes do the beautiful people of film rub shoulders with the rat-face people of television,” Poehler said during the telecast’s opening.
Fey praised Anne Hathaway’s performance in “Les Miserables,” saying, “I have not seen someone so totally alone and abandoned like that since you were on stage with James Franco at the Oscars,” a dig on their much-panned Academy Awards hosting stint in 2011.
Some other notable elements of Golden Globes night:
-- Decent red carpet on NBC: NBC had cast members from “Today” host NBC’s preshow, and for the most part they didn’t encourage viewers to punch out the TV set. They seemed to know their stuff about the stars they interviewed, certainly better than we’ve seen in recent years on other network pre-awards shows.
-- Worst awkward moment: Catherine Zeta-Jones sings a few bars from “Les Miserables.”
-- Best awkward moment: In what appeared to be a TelePrompTer fail, presenters Salma Hayek and Paul Rudd stood on stage with nothing to say, but Rudd eventually saved the moment with his reaction.
-- Second-best awkward moment: The president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seemed like she was about to ground the show to a halt, but then she got off some funny lines (“I know Jeffrey Katzenberg will never forget my name because he never knew it in the first place”). Did Fey and Poehler give her some comedy pointers?
-- Worst technical skills: This Golden Globes telecast doesn’t deserve an Emmy award, that’s for sure. Lots of technical glitches, including a recurring problem with microphones that seemed to have a hard time picking up what some presenters were saying.
-- Best presenters: Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell pretended not to know anything about the nominees in their category, a fantastic bit with Ferrell giving Jennifer Lawrence the nickname “J-Law.”
-- Least hilarious presenter: Maybe in a year with Gervais hosting, Sacha Baron Cohen’s gutter humor would have worked, but in the context of Fey and Poehler hosting, it felt out of place. Although his dig at Russell Crowe’s singing in “Les Miserables” -- “four months of singing lessons -- that was money well-spent” -- was funny and deserved without getting gross.
-- Most surprising cameo: Former President Bill Clinton showed up to introduce the clip to Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”
-- Best reaction shot: Lena Dunham gave great face in her surprise reaction to the presence of Clinton. Tommy Lee Jones looking predictably dour during the Wiig-Ferrell skit was also unintentionally amusing.
-- Best new identity: Poehler, perhaps channeling her “Parks and Recreation” character, Leslie Knope, said, “Wow, what an exciting special guest. That was Hillary Clinton’s husband!”
-- Funniest acceptance speech: Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress winner for “Silver Linings Playbook,” began by saying, “I beat Meryl (Streep)!,” and later thanked Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, saying, “Thank you for killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here.”
-- Most sincere acceptance speech: There was something admirably sincere in the specificity of Anne Hathaway’s acceptance when she thanked Sally Field for being at “the vanguard against typecasting” for her ability to go from the Flying Nun to Norma Rae to Mary Todd Lincoln.
-- Oddest acceptance speech: In accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award actress/director Jodie Foster maybe came out as a lesbian, maybe quit acting and definitely defended the value of privacy while possibly tossing away some of her own. It was occasionally moving, but mostly bizarre.