NEW YORK – It was elegant, eloquent, genteel and classy.
Wait – that was “Downton Abbey,” airing Sunday night on another network.
On NBC, it was “The 70th Annual Golden Globes Awards” – the yearly televised blowout lubricated by an open bar where party-favor statuettes are distributed to a lucky few.
Much about the famously quirky Globes (such as: Why? and How?) always needs to be taken on faith. The Globes just are, because they are. And people seem to like it that way, the Globes’ quirkiness included.
This year, viewers got a generous dose of Globes weirdness courtesy of Jodie Foster, recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.
In a hopped-up, borderline-unhinged confessional that left some in attendance moist-eyed but surely had many more witnesses scratching their heads, Foster took this opportunity to (among other things) go public as a gay woman, or maybe not (“I am single,” she declared, after a teasingly big buildup); announce her retirement from acting and/or show business, or not; and let the world know it should stop pestering her for details of her life beyond what she’s willing to reveal through her art.
“I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show,” she said. “Privacy: Someday in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.”
Foster’s was the night’s most jaw-dropping performance, and will surely be discussed and deconstructed for days to come.
But if everything about this year’s Globescast didn’t make sense right away, one thing – or, rather, a twosome – made perfect sense: Co-hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
Co-rivals for best actress in a TV comedy or musical, they both lost to “Girls” star Lena Dunham. But they were likely the night’s biggest winners.
As fellow “Saturday Night Live” alums and longtime friends, they make perfect comedy partners – Fey, a little more wary and neurotic; Poehler, a little more wide-eyed and goofy. And both of them brilliant and fearless.
They even made sport of arguably the night’s most august moment — President Bill Clinton’s surprise appearance to introduce the nominated film “Lincoln.”
“Wow, that was exciting,” the breathless Poehler marveled afterward. “That was Hillary Clinton’s husband!”
In rip-roaring opening remarks, they quickly acknowledged controversial past host Ricky Gervais.
“We want to assure you that we have no intention of being edgy or offensive tonight,” Poehler declared, “because, as Ricky learned the hard way, when you run afoul of the Hollywood Foreign Press, they make you host this show TWO MORE TIMES!”
Unlike Gervais, who some observers felt had crossed the line when he was presiding, the Poehler-Fey duo proved charming and adorable, yet still had bite.
Addressing Globe-nominated director Kathryn Bigelow, whose “Zero Dark Thirty” includes wrenching scenes of torture, Poehler scored laughs and even gasps by conceding she hadn’t followed the uproar about the film, “but when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who was married for three years to (director) James Cameron.”
Fey noted that Ben Affleck, soon to be named best director, had shot his first two films in Boston. “But he moved this one (‘Argo’) to Iran, because he wanted to film somewhere that was friendlier to outsiders.”
They had fun zinging the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which administers the Golden Globes.
Poehler, seeming to mistake HFPA for a medical condition, warned that, “When left untreated, HFPA can lead to cervical cancer.”
On a couple of occasions, Fey placed herself at a table in a silly disguise, where she was included among a category’s group of nominees.
With a shaggy wig and mustache, she was identified among those up for best actor in a TV film or miniseries: “As the professional volleyball player battling restless leg syndrome – Damian Franciso in `Dog President.”’ Needless to say, Damian Franciso didn’t win anything except chuckles.
The broadcast wasn’t as raucous as it has been in past years. On the other hand, it wasn’t nearly as refined as “Downton Abbey” (for which Maggie Smith won as best supporting actress though, alas, was a no-show).
All in all, Fey and Poehler made good on their promise and stewarded a fun, funny show in a fashion the Oscars might envy. An achievement like that should be grounds for these funny ladies hosting the Globes two more times – at least.