"The Fabelmans" and "Abbott Elementary" may have been among the big winners at the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards, but those revelations took a backseat Tuesday to the most suspenseful question: How would the broadcast address its tarnished reputation?
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which gives out the awards, has been under scrutiny ever since the Los Angeles Times revealed in a 2021 story that the organization didn't have a single Black member. The investigation also sparked criticism of voter perks that appeared to have led to third-rate films and TV show reaping nominations. The furor led to the show not being aired last year — and forced the HFPA to make some dramatic changes.
Host Jerrod Carmichael didn't ignore the controversy. In his opening monologue, the Emmy-winning comedian skipped the normal practice of roasting the star-studded audience and went after the HFPA instead.
"I won't say they were a racist organization, but they didn't have a single Black member until George Floyd died," he said, pacing across the stage at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. "So do with that information what you will."
He said that he was only invited to host because he was Black and that he only took the job for the $500,000 paycheck.
The jokes — if you can call them jokes — drew little audible response from the audience. They seemed unable to decide whether to laugh or apologize for showing up.
Those who did attend got a chance to see "Banshees of Inisherin" (comedy/musical) and "The Fabelmans" (drama) win best-picture awards, confirming their status as Oscar front runners. "The White Lotus," "Abbott Elementary" and "House of the Dragon" were tops in TV.
They also got a chance to watch firsthand as the HFPA tried to prove they had reformed — and convince NBC to air its ceremony beyond this year. Its decision to add more voters from underrepresented groups may explain why a considerable number of winners were people of color.
Of the 16 acting awards, six went to minorities, including the night's first winner, Ke Huy Quan, who was on the verge of tears when he was honored for his supporting work in "Everything Everywhere All At Once," That was followed by a crowd-pleasing win for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" star Angela Bassett.
"Let's keep the Black girl magic going," said presenter Niecy Nash-Betts after announcing that Quinta Brunson had won for her lead role in "Abbott Elementary," an honor that adds to her Emmy win last year for her work in the writers' room.
One of the most powerful speeches of the night came from Michelle Yeoh for winning best actress for "Everything Everywhere."
"I remember when I first came to Hollywood, it was a dream come true, until I got here," she said. "I was told I was a minority and I said that's not possible." She said one person expressed surprise that she spoke English.
She told him that she learned it during her 13-hour flight to America.
The HFPA made other strides to prove it has turned over a new leaf. Many of the presenters were minorities. Asian-American pianist Chloe Flower tinkled TV songs in and out of commercials.
Ryan Murphy received the Carol Burnett Award, given for outstanding achievement in television. He used his stage time to honor Billy Porter and other groundbreakers like Jeremy Pope and MJ Rodriguez.
"My mission was to take the invisible and unloved and make them the heroes I longed to see, but never did, in pop culture," Murphy said.
The evening's other pre-determined honor went to Eddie Murphy who got the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which celebrates an artist's lifetime of work.
Murphy, who could once be counted on to create a stir at such stuffy affairs, was too cool to get emotional.
In fact, the whole proceedings were as somber as the obligatory dinner at the boss' house. In the past, the Globes could be counted on for some shenanigans, thanks in no small part to free booze.
It might have once been a surprise to get a taped message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but now it's almost obligatory.
Aside from Carmichael's jabs, including a joke about Tom Cruise returning his three Globes in protest and the Beverly Hilton being the hotel that killed Whitney Houston, most of the winners stayed within bounds, sticking to standard acceptance speeches that recognized the usual suspects, behaving as if all they were sipping on was apple juice.
The most consistent disdain was directed at Flower for playing music that indicated it was time to wrap up their thank-you speeches. Yeoh even half-threatened to beat her up.
A considerable number of big name nominees were no shows, including eventual winners Kevin Costner, Zendaya and Amanda Seyfried. But many others were in attendance, including Rihanna, Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg, who was honored as best director for "The Fablemans,"
Spielberg, like most of the other winners, pretended like the last couple of years didn't happen. Maybe the numerous victories for the historically overlooked was statement enough.