The hardest-working person at Sunday night's Golden Globes ceremony may have been whoever was in charge of the bleep button.
Never before have the words of so many been heard by so few during a national awards-show telecast.
Shaking off the professional gloss that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler spent the last three years attempting to apply to a ceremony that previously reveled in "surprising" wins, onstage snark and audience mishaps, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has clearly decided to return to its original brand of self-denigrating self-promotion.
Which included, apparently, a lot of F-bombs. They began early when Jonah Hill, co-presenting the second award of the night (as "the bear" from the film "The Revenant"; don't ask), made jokes so profane that half were bleeped.
The profanity muting continued with such increasingly regularity that at least twice it seemed like a "technical difficulty" until they finally peaked, not surprisingly, when host Ricky Gervais introduced Mel Gibson.
After Gervais — who has a history of insulting Gibson — insulted him again ("I'd rather have a drink with Mel in his hotel room than Bill Cosby"), Gibson returned the favor ("I love seeing Ricky every three years or so; it reminds me to get a colonoscopy"). Gervais went back to the stage to embrace Gibson and ask him a question, which was, of course, bleeped from the telecast.
The second-hardest-working people in the room quickly became the journalists tweeting what was said.
So it was that kind of night.
In other words, everyone may think the Globes are stupid and insignificant, but as long as the big names keep showing up, who cares?
And they all showed up, as they do every year. Well, Maggie Smith sent her regrets, but she's Maggie (bleeping) Smith.
Everyone else was there. From Matt Damon, looking sheepish as he accepted jokes about his nomination for actor in a musical or comedy ("The Martian" was a comedy?) and then again as he accepted the award, to "The Big Short" costars Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, the latter of whom feigned irritation upon learning he would not be presenting alone.
America Ferrara and Eva Longoria had the smartest bit of the night, mocking a previous Globes mix-up by pointing out that they were not Eva Mendes or Gina Rodriguez, while Leonardo DiCaprio provided the evening's best moment. Not with his acceptance speech but with the raised-eyebrow face he made as Lady Gaga brushed past him to receive her award for actress in a limited series ("American Horror Story"). She beat out Felicity Huffman ("American Crime"), Kirsten Dunst ("Fargo") and Queen Latifah ("Bessie").
So it was that kind of night too. For years, the Globes have been marketed as an Oscars predictor, but as television has become the hotter art form, the HFPA has increasing positioned itself as New Age tastemaker. The nominees all but ignored traditional broadcast networks and big shows in favor of smaller-known and streaming-service fare. Still, while Rachel Bloom's win for the ambitious but struggling "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" made sense, two wins for Amazon's "Mozart in the Jungle" marked the return of the old arbitrarily crazy Globes just as surely as all those F-bombs.
On the positive side, maybe more people will watch "Mozart in the Jungle," which is pretty good if not "Best."
It was as if Poehler and Fey had never happened. Gervais was back just as if he had never left, opening with an often uncomfortable monologue poking fun of random celebrities (Jeffrey Tambor and Caitlyn Jenner were early targets), clinging to his signature glass of beer and repeating jokes about the worthless nature of the award and the shameless nature of the group bestowing it.
"It's a bit of metal given to you by a group of confused journalists so they could meet you and take a selfie," he said.
A fondness for gold and geometry gave the set a '70s game show feel, and more than a few winners had to wait for several minutes while presenters made jokes even after the envelope had been opened.
Composer Ennio Morricone won for the "Hateful Eight" and director Quentin Tarantino accepted for him, so we got a crazy rambling speech in which he invoked Mozart (who was having a big night), referred to film composing as "ghetto" and claimed, incorrectly, that Morricone had never been honored.
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg dutifully made jokes about the "TV people" behaving badly and having to walk a far distance to the stage, Sylvester Stallone won supporting actor in a movie for "Creed," got a standing ovation and thanked his "friend" Rocky Balboa, and Gervais appeared at regular intervals to complain about the length and the stupidity of the show.
But Taraji P. Henson finally injected some life into the show when she won for "Empire."
Handing out cookies as she swarmed the stage, she proclaimed "Cookies for everyone!" while in the next breath snapping at some hapless soul who had stepped on her dress.
Hyper and exultant she began her list of thank-yous only to see the "wrap up" warning on the monitor. "Oh, no," she said. "I waited 20 years for this. You're gonna wait."
Tina and Amy would have been proud.