Global Fail at the Golden Globes

Billy Porter - always divine

This piece first appeared at

There are quite a few things in life that bore me. Sean Penn every time he opens his mouth, anti-vaxxers, Harry and Meghan  – tolerance is not my middle name.

But the 80th Golden Globes took boredom down to a whole new level, so much so that I thought I’d entered the first stages of rigor mortis.

And, apparently, America agrees. The TV rating absolutely collapsed, down 23% from 2021 to its lowest audience ever.

Broadcast by NBC after a hiatus last year, following claims of racism in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, whose members make up the judging panel, it was deemed time for a shake-up. Alas, it was anything but. Far from shaking things up, the HFPA delivered a three-hour diluted cocktail of such breath-taking tedium, even the audience – normally so practiced at donning fake smiles, especially when the camera is on them – looked as if they’d rather be on a one-way ticket to euthanasia.

The host, Jerrod Carmichael, said he was there only because he was black and was also getting paid $500,000. He looked as if he was asleep on the job. Maybe he was, which was why, after pacing the stage throughout the opening monologue – every word looked as if was having to be extracted from him with pliers – he sat down on the edge of the stage.

Would he ever get going? Was he just nervous? Delivering his material with all the speed of a maimed sloth, he came to life only when he told the audience to shut up – which he did on a number of occasions throughout, at one point becoming really exasperated at the level of noise. It’s called losing your audience, mate.

We learned that the real reason he was given the gig was because the director had told him he was chosen because he was such a talented comedian. Really? Where is the humor in saying the HFPA didn’t have a black member until the death of George Floyd? Or that the Beverly Hills Hilton, where the event was taking place, was ‘the hotel that killed Whitney Houston.’ Two people who died in tragic circumstances. There were a couple of snickers in the room, but both ‘jokes’ were largely met with the kind of faces people make when they discover they’ve picked out the coffee cream in a box of chocolates.

He really didn’t elicit much laughter at all – the nadir of any comedian’s life – but then awards audiences face this problem constantly now. Do they laugh or boo? Do they laugh at the bad taste jokes and risk the camera picking up their guffawing, or do they sit stony-faced and look suitably disgusted, in order to convey their moral superiority?

This lot seemed genuinely confused and looked more bored than any actors I have ever seen. In my experience, they tend to enjoy these events – especially the winners – but less so at the Oscars. where you have to go eight hours without going to the rest room.

When Ricky Gervais hosted the 2020 Golden Globes, the audience thought he was hysterical – Tom Hanks aside. Even though Gervais called them out the Hollywood elite for being the critics they undoubtedly are, they appeared to register a fundamental truth – preaching to others about the state of the world while luxuriating in their mansions and expressing moral outrage while at the same time turning a blind eye to predator and rapist Harvey Weinstein.

But then Hollywood has always presented itself as a great moral arbiter. As they did last night, actors take the opportunity, in their speeches, to lecture everyone else about what they should or should not be doing – before they get in their Bentleys en route home.

There was widespread outrage among the Hollywood elite at the 2022 Oscars when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage for allegedly dissing his wife. But that outrage didn’t last long. Jesus didn’t forgive tax collectors in a tenth of the time it takes this lot to forgive those who go astray.

At least Brendan Fraser stood by his guns and boycotted this years’ awards, despite being nominated, after claiming HFPA Phil Berk sexually assaulted him.

The speeches last night will also go down as the boring in awards ceremony history. The tedious shape of things to come was clear when Ke Huy Quan took the stage to pick up the award for Best Supporting Actor in Any Motion Picture – Everything Everywhere All at Once. His acceptance speech went on. And on. And on. Dear Lord, was he ever going to stop? Where was Carmichael barking his instructions when you needed him?

It was the same with Michele Yeoh, who picked up Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, for the same movie. She banged on and on, too – and even shouted at the piano player, Chloe Flower, whose music was the cue to leave the stage, to shut up. Flower would have been forgiven for wrapping a piano wire round her neck.

Wokeism in the speeches aside, the problem with most of the speeches were the endless thanks. Austin Butler, who won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture for Elvis, could not stop declaring his endless love for everyone – his fellow nominees, Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis himself. Love was gushing out of his every pore. Is there anyone he doesn’t love? As Elvis sang – Baby, I Don’t Care.

One question about the beeps they put in for swear words – why don’t they put them in for blaspheming, too? I’m no religious enthusiast, but it seems to me odd that if someone were to get up on stage and blaspheme against Mohammed, there would be outrage. But somehow, it’s all right to say ‘Jesus Christ!’

There were a few good speeches in amongst the ocean of words. Ryan Murphy was given the Carol Burnett Award and even though he appeared to thank everyone in the room, it was a heartfelt speech that made you realize just how far we have come in terms of diversity – HFPA aside.

Visually, the event offered nothing in terms of excitement or glitz, either, and the room was equally underwhelming – namely, those hideous golden colored chairs that litter every hotel conference and looked as if they’d been retrieved from a dumpster in the afternoon. Couldn’t the events manager at least have put a nice covering with a bow over them, to make it more appealing to viewers? The hideous gold/orange set was likewise vile, like something out of the 1930s – plain and way too big. Aida could easily lose an army of Egyptians on a stage like that.

It gave us one laugh, though, when Sean Penn turned up on stage with a tan that blended easily into the orange background. Didn’t he look in a mirror before he left the house?

As for the direction – pointless shots of people’s heads, the occasional chair seat, cutting away from the main stage with often shaky, bizarre camera angles, for no reason whatsoever. At various points, the speech was slightly out of sync, too.

And get a bigger venue. Winners were taking far too long to get to the stage, especially some of the women in enormous billowing frocks that made you worry they might be in traction by the end of their speeches.

At least there were some great costumes and, for the most part, the frocks were better than those wheeled out at the Emmys last year. Jenny Ortega – Netflix’s Wednesday -– stunned in Gucci, as did Jessica Chastain in Oscar de la Renta, and Lily James in Atelier Versace. Poor Lily said that what she was looking forward to most was getting out of it, and the way she was clutching her waist, seemingly in distress, on the Red Carpet, it was impossible not to feel her pain.

Clare Danes came in Giambattista Valli Haute Couture, but in a cream pattern of squares and a pink bow that made her look as if she’d been raiding the Downton Abbey curtain rails. The sublime Billy Porter did not disappoint, as per usual, and resurrected his 2019 Oscars look with a tuxedo gown, but this time in fuchsia.

Jerrod Carmichael looked astonishing in several changes of costume – which was lucky, as he was in urgent need of something to detract from his material.

Inevitably, I didn’t like a lot of the results. Where was The Menu in the winners list? The star of that brilliant movie, Ralph Fiennes? How did Netflix’s Wednesday and Jenny Ortega not pick up anything?

Overall, it was the dullest awards night in living memory. On the evidence of last night, maybe next year we can go back to the ceremony not being broadcast at all.