“When you run afoul of the Hollywood Foreign Press, they make you host this show two more times,” Amy Poehler grinned during the opening monologue to last year’s Golden Globe Awards. The crack was aimed at Ricky Gervais, the British comic whose three-year streak at the awards show is typically summed up with delicate, nonjudgmental phrases like “controversial” or “polarizing.” Now, of course, the joke seems downright prophetic: Poehler and cohost Tina Fey are set to continue their dynamic-duo act through 2015, making them the second performer (or rather, pair of performers) to lead the Golden Globes three times in a row. But even though there’s no one I’d rather see do their thing again — and again and again and again — than Fey and Poehler, the news that the Golden Globes would have yet another hosting hat trick was as much a disappointment as a pleasant surprise.
Fey and Poehler’s performance last year was masterful, and yes, an improvement over Gervais’ — a stint whose jokes leaned a little too far towards the “Hugh Hefner is old and gross!”/”Did you guys know Jodie Foster is gay?” side of things. The 2012 ceremony, by contrast, had its fair share of ad hominem humor (James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino, and James Franco all ended up collateral comedic damage), but managed to convey a sense of genuine respect for the nominees, a welcome relief from Gervais’ occasionally palpable contempt. And the rapport between the two women is unbeatable, a fact they weren’t afraid to contrast with Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s disastrous Oscars performance the year before.
But while Fey and Poehler are guaranteed to give us the best possible version of the modern awards ceremony, installing them for three years just perpetuates awards shows’ image as dry, predictable spectacles designed to deliver maximum ratings with minimum controversy. Some, like the MTV VMAs, reverse this formula by being deliberately provocative, but they’re simply the exception that proves the rule: groups like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are looking for known quantities to pull in viewers (almost 20 million, in Fey and Poehler’s case) while ruffling relatively few feathers. If those known quantities also happen to put on a good show, that’s great — but it’s also incidental.
By handing out its hosting gigs in three-year stints, the Golden Globes send the message that they’re not risking a Franco-Hathaway debacle. But they’re also not attempting to pull off conversation starters like Chris Rock’s 2005 turn at the podium, which, while “offensive” enough to ensure Rock wouldn’t return to the Oscars stage for another seven years, also managed to include an open monologue on the rarity of true stardom that served as both a jab at show business’s ego and an excuse to call Tobey Maguire a “boy in tights.” Those are the Academy Awards ceremonies that earn the show a place in water-cooler conversation; giving the job to Billy Crystal for a ninth time, not so much. Not that the Oscars are a model for daring casting choices; there’s a reason why Crystal headed up the show four years in a row while Rock will never get the change again.
That’s what’s most troubling about Poehler and Fey locking down the Golden Globes through 2015. After going almost a decade and a half without a host, the HFPA had a chance to differentiate itself from its biggest competitor when it hired Gervais in 2010. Instead, it’s simply generated its own set of Crystals, Goldbergs, DeGenereses, and other rock-solid options the Globes will turn to again and again rather than reaching out to riskier entertainers. I’m not worried about how the show will turn out this year or next — it’ll be fabulous, as anything Fey and Poehler touches is — but I am saddened that in the long term, the Golden Globes demonstrate no signs of shaking up the model that keeps awards shows America’s most watched, yet least exciting broadcasts. We’ll all enjoy Poehler and Fey’s second and third shows, just like we’ll love their probable fourth and fifth and sixth. But I won’t be able to help wondering what someone else could have done with the Globes, even if the risk ended up costing the show a Nielsen point or two.