Despite several satisfying and historic wins, the Golden Globes is still a sinking ship

After Sunday's trial run on CBS, it's tough to see how this mess makes more sense than airing "Yellowstone" reruns

By Melanie McFarland

Senior Critic

Published January 8, 2024 6:01AM (EST)

Ali Wong wins for performance for an actress in a limited series for "Beef" at the Golden Globes  ( Sonja Flemming/CBS )
Ali Wong wins for performance for an actress in a limited series for "Beef" at the Golden Globes ( Sonja Flemming/CBS )

In case you didn’t watch the 81st Golden Globe Awards, which was the right call, you may be wondering why its host Jo Koy isn't featured in the photograph above these words.

If you did watch Sunday’s CBS telecast, you already know the answer. Koy bombed spectacularly. 

Hey, it happens. But it's the why of it that's especially damning. Previous Globes hosting fails have been chalked up to the ringmaster being moody and evil, a la Ricky Gervais, or occasionally funny but overwhelmingly caustic — still talking about Ricky Gervais – or bland but acceptable. Like Jimmy Fallon, who the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hired in 2017 to cleanse the foul aftertaste Gervais’ 2016 performance left behind. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler struck a perfect balance between edge and affection, making them a favorite duo, although Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh, the first Asian performer to host the Globes, earned positive marks.

Koy accepted the job on short notice after many more famous comedians declined to take the gig. Perhaps those sending their regrets or "hell nos" viewed the Globes gig as pointless, like sowing seeds on salted Earth, after Jerrod Carmichael walked onstage last year and read the HFPA for filth for hiring him because he’s Black.

A year later, the HFPA as we once knew it is no more, transformed into a for-profit enterprise owned by private equity firm Eldridge Industries. This telecast is the first to be produced by Dick Clark Productions and Eldridgea major investor in A24, the independent film company that produced the Globe-winning limited series “Beef.”

Dick Clark Productions is owned by Penske Media Corporation, which also owns every major Hollywood trade publication, but any ethical misgivings one might have had about this isn’t even in the back seat – it’s languishing at a rest stop many miles back. Regardless, this is only worth bringing up to say many, many journalists have written about the lack of necessity of awards show hosts in years where a worthy one can’t be found.

Koy reminded us of that as alleged joke after absent punchline failed to land. The room didn’t turn on him, which would have been delightful, so much as it joined all of us watching at home in wishing he’d go away.  

“I got the gig 10 days ago! You want a perfect monologue? Yo, shut up. You’re kidding me, right?” he said as the groans rolled forth. “Slow down. I wrote some of these, and they’re the ones you’re laughing at.”

What, like this one about two best movie Globe contenders? “‘Oppenheimer’ is based on the 721-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Manhattan Project,” Koy said, “and ‘Barbie’ is about a plastic doll with big boobies.”

Beavis. Beavis. He said boobies, Beavis.

The room didn’t turn on Jo Koy so much as it joined all of us watching at home in wishing he’d go away.  

A joke’s provenance doesn’t matter when the deliverer can’t sell it, and a better comedian would have refused to say these words and instead gone rogue. Koy has years of experience, and yet made dumb cracks about “Saltburn” star Barry Keoghan’s genitalia being as big as Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose in “Maestro” and took a lifeless swipe at Robert De Niro – as a fanboy, he assured us.

“Robert De Niro, your last performance is your greatest performance — how’d you get her pregnant at 80?”

Jo Koy hosts the Golden Globes on Jan. 7, 2024 (Sonja Flemming/CBS )But his least strategic move may have been to involve Time magazine's Person of the Year. Citing the Globes’ lead-in, an NFL doubleheader, he said, “The big difference between the Golden Globes and the NFL? At the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift."

Thanks to this, the shot that will live in infamy is now a meme of Swift downing her cocktail while shooting daggers from her eyes.

If it were judged purely by the caliber of the winners, the 81st Golden Globes acquitted itself splendidly if predictably. A few of the early winners thanked the journalists of the HFPA, including Robert Downey, Jr., who snagged a deserved best supporting actor in a drama award for his work in “Oppenheimer.” That seemed like a jab at the old HFPA, except when one considers that the new for-profit body’s voting membership consists of 300 journalists from countries around the globe.

An October HFPA press release cited by Reuters further describes the body’s demographic breakdown as 47% female, and 60% racially and ethnically diverse. That is not the primary reason that, for example, Lily Gladstone won for her performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” making her the first Indigenous person to win a best actress in a drama Golden Globe. Gladstone’s performance is transcendent and deserves all the accolades it is receiving.

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The same is true of “Beef” co-stars Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, who made history as the first Asian Americans to take home Golden Globe awards for best actress and actor in the limited series/TV movie category. On the same night Hayao Miyazaki, a living legend, took home his first-ever Golden Globe for “The Boy and the Heron.”

These are solid wins along with the expected ones for “Oppenheimer,” its star Cillian Murphy, and director Christopher Nolan, along with the wins for “Poor Things” and its star Emma Stone in the movie comedy categories.

Better, although essentially weightless in the awards realm, were the wins for “The Bear” in the best TV comedy category (although it is decidedly not a comedy) along with its stars Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri.

Succession” and its stars Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen and Kieran Culkin scored Globes, and will likely have Emmys to pair with them next week. But out of all the winners, Edebiri scored with the audience by thanking her cast, agents and managers, but also “assistants! The people who answer my emails. Y’all are real ones. Thank you for answering my crazy, crazy emails.”

Then again, there were the nonsensical presentations of new awards for best cinematic and box office achievement, which went to “Barbie” after voters passed over its stars and director, and the inaugural award for best stand-up comic, a bid to appease Netflix and HBO.

"Stand-up comedy is a brutal business,” said Jim Gaffigan, a genuinely funny comedian who was not nominated, and had to hand this hollow victory to, yes, Ricky Gervais. Why can’t the HFPA quit this man?

It’s difficult to care about an awards body bent on drowning itself.

Other presenters were better at carrying forth the old spirit of the Globes, like Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell engaging in a kooky, nonsensical dance to odd music that kept interrupting them. Their interlude reminded us of past telecasts that relied on the stars’ charisma and natural comedic timing, although a bit performed by “Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse” stars Shameik Moore, Daniel Kaluuya and Hailee Steinfeld before announcing the best motion picture screenplay winner was fairly inspired.

“To demonstrate the importance of writers and writing, we asked that this segment be written not by writers, but by studio executives,” said Kaluuya, before turning to Moore with a stilted, “What is up, Shameik?”

“Not much, Daniel. How are you, Hailee?”

“I am relatable,” responded Steinfeld. “I am enjoying the Golden Globs. [sic]”  

I strain to imagine viewers who suffered through the full show would make that claim.

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It’s difficult to care about an awards body bent on drowning itself regardless of the contortions in which it engages to win back the public’s trust.

Between the declining ratings, the lingering stench of scandal, and expanding debates about its relevance, the Globes have been on life support for several years. CBS stepped in to air the 2024 telecast after NBC declined to do so, but reportedly as a trial run.  

Considering that the 2023 broadcast set a new record low by drawing an audience of around 6.3 million, the producers did not have a high bar to clear.

On the off chance that some viewers were inclined to forgive and forget, all they had to do was catch a glimpse of Kevin Costner at a table in the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom looking like he was caught in a hostage video. He wasn’t much more spirited as a co-presenter with America Ferrera who, bless her, stretched her enthusiasm to places that would challenge Weird Barbie’s flexibility to compensate for his lifelessness.

Nevertheless, it’s tough to fault his bad mood. CBS could have chosen to air work he’s already completed, sparing him and the rest of us the inconvenience of having to witness an award show cast with actors in no mood to celebrate.

On Sundays, CBS attracts a comparable if slightly smaller average audience than the one that showed up for last year’s Globes by airing past seasons of “Yellowstone” in primetime. In no universe could one imagine any of that show’s fans sticking around through Koy’s monologue with the hope that the remaining two hours and 50-something minutes would improve.

Those of us that did witnessed victories worth celebrating, accompanied by the sinking feeling that these history-making moments arrived just in time to beat the lights turning off for the last time on what used to be a must-see live awards event.

By Melanie McFarland

Melanie McFarland is Salon's award-winning senior culture critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

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