Feb 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

“Luckily, I don’t have to shoot you.”
That was the not very comforting message delivered by a female police officer as TelevisionWeek publisher Chuck Ross and I took a wrong turn trying to find our way to the Beverly Hilton last Sunday. We were quickly directed to the correct traffic lane to approach the 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards.
Streets were closed off blocks from the hotel. The unprecedented level of security came in waves. The traffic officer politely told us that if our car had entered the blocked-off area of Santa Monica Boulevard, she would have shot us. That’s when she smiled, and said, several times, as if it were a great relief to her as well, “I won’t have to shoot you.”
Welcome to the war-on-terrorism era of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual gala. For Sunday night’s show you needed more than a ticket to get in. You needed identification, which had to be shown on three separate occasions. Our entire car was searched, including glove boxes and the trunk, with a mirror on a pole for the undercarriage inspection. We entered the premises through a metal detector.
Inside, outside and in the ballroom the security was unusually visible. During the dinner, bulky security types in black tie moved among the crowd, plastic in their ears and beeps emitting occasionally from their body-hugging electronics. Win or lose, this crowd was going to feel safe.
A year ago attendance at the Globes was impacted and ratings were down as everyone worried about an imminent U.S.-led war with Iraq. This year the celebratory atmosphere returned. Once again it was about how the stars dressed. Politics was returned to its proper place as a sideline, even for an activist like Globe winner Tim Robbins.
While the heavy security ensured there were no terrorist incidents, a read of reviews for the “Globes” shows how disappointed some critics were that there were no on-stage disasters to titillate them. The L.A. Times reviewer lamented that the “Globes” is a show where “the main appeal is the chance to see something unexpected or outrageous,” which this year’s show, in his opinion, didn’t deliver.
That’s because having lively acceptance speeches from Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Clint Eastwood (for Sean Penn) and Mary-Louise Parker wasn’t considered as interesting as having the winner caught in the ladies’ room. Jim Carrey’s shiny bald head, Danny DeVito’s bad jokes, the surprise wins by BBC America’s “The Office” and first-time wins by Anthony LaPaglia and Frances Conroy weren’t enough to keep some critical eyelids propped open.
This from critics who have become so jaded that a fast-paced, well-produced show full of the biggest stars in the world leaves them as cold as the Northeastern winter. This is the same mentality possessed by the people who go to auto races for the crashes, to hockey games for the fights, to baseball to watch a batter get beaned or to live TV broadcasts to hear someone accidentally say the F-word, as U2’s Bono did last year at the Globes. (Apparently Diane Keaton’s use of the S-word this year, which was not properly bleeped in the East Coast feed, did not qualify as exciting either.)
But it is no surprise the critics like to carp, the Hollywood elite like to snicker or journalists enjoy dishing about everybody and everything. The problem is that if they were honest, this was a hard show to pan except to call it boring because the sky didn’t fall in. They couldn’t even complain about the ratings, which rebounded from last year and were excellent.
The fact is that despite an effort by the movie academy to undermine the “Globes” and other awards shows by shortening the season, the Hollywood Foreign Press voters were once again amazingly prescient. Compare their list of winners with the Oscar nominees announced last Tuesday. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won the Globes’ drama prize and was the movie most nominated by the academy. Globe winners Charlize Theron, Sean Penn, Diane Keaton, Bill Murray, Peter Jackson, Renee Zellweger, Tim Robbins and Sofia Coppola all are Oscar nominees as well.
Although the Emmys are still a long way off, and often don’t reflect the Globe picks as accurately as does the academy, I would be willing to bet Globe honorees HBO’s “Angels In America” and “Sex and the City,” as well as Fox’s “24,” all will be nominees when the Emmys’ turn comes.
I do have one complaint to make to the talented team of producers behind the scenes, led by the ageless Dick Clark. This was one time the show moved too fast. There was little but award presentations. No witty host to make timely observations. No production numbers, no clip packages, little sense of history. And only the one honorary award to Michael Douglas, introduced by the only tape package of the evening. These are all elements that could have helped make it a more satisfying package.
Thank God for Mr. Douglas, who came out and made a gracious speech, noting that his career has benefited from his work in both movies and television. I was only sorry his dad, who won the same award years before, was not able to be there, or chose not to be there.
But honestly, Dick Clark, what were you thinking? Near the end of the show, presenters were warned not to banter, just to read the list. During the final commercial break, Mr. Clark himself came on the loudspeaker to plead for the winners to limit the length of their remarks.
In the end, however, the show ran about five minutes short. The very best parts, where the winners get to be emotional and where there might be a chance for some outrageous remarks, were cut short. The pressure was on to get on, grab the gold and get off. It seems to me a producing team this good could have made some cuts earlier in the show to leave time for proper presentations and acceptances at the end, at least for the biggest awards.
Those are little complaints about a well-done evening that is meaningful to the industry, is a predictor of other awards and is a TV event that harkens back to the glory days of Hollywood.
Unlike other awards shows, the “Globes” continue to feel like a great party where winners are surprised and being spontaneous is in fashion, even if this year was a bit tame.
At least that made the job easier for all those security guards.