Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have a well established comic rapport and proven experience in live television, stemming from their years together on "Saturday Night Live," so they were predictably at ease as hosts of the Golden Globes, from the very beginning striking the right balance of affection (explaining that absent nominee Meryl Streep has the flu, and is great in it) and snark (commenting on Kathryn Bigelow's "torturous" marriage to James Cameron) that mostly eluded Ricky Gervais during his three years as emcee.
After a winning monologue that name-checked most of the evening's biggest contenders, they made welcome appearances throughout the show – for instance, enlivening the roll call of TV movie/miniseries acting nominees by portraying the fictional stars of a TV movie called "Dog President." And when the TV Comedy Actress award was presented, Poehler waited for the results in George Clooney's lap. Poehler was also the mastermind of similar gags during the Emmys, including the 2011 race where she and her fellow Comedy Actress nominees enacted a beauty pageant on-stage.
It was a strong evening for women overall, and not just because of the show's hosts. Two actresses – Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty" and Claire Danes in "Homeland" – won for playing strong-willed CIA operatives. After Danes received her award – her fourth in as many nominations – she expressed pride over her work in television, which in recent years has proved more hospitable to complex female characters than film. Chastain, meanwhile, praised "Zero Dark" director Bigelow for challenging female paradigms in Hollywood.
The top TV comedy winner was HBO's "Girls," which won Comedy/Musical Series as well as TV Comedy/Musical Actress for star Lena Dunham, a rare female auteur who also writes, directs, and produces the series. In her acceptance speeches, even she seemed surprised at how grateful she was for the honor, and her enthusiasm was infectious.
And then there was Jodie Foster. The actress-director became the first woman since 2000 to win the Globes' Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, and, at age 50, the youngest honoree since Charlton Heston in 1967. Where drawn-out lifetime achievement presentations are usually a lull during awards ceremonies – long clip packages followed by even longer speeches – this one proved a highlight.
Defiant, emotional, and unexpectedly candid, she matter-of-factly came out of a closet she, in truth, was never really in; decried the media's obsession with celebrities' private lives; eloquently paid tribute to her ailing mother; and then not only accepted her award but seemed to bid farewell to the public stage entirely, and by the time she left she was already missed.
Presenters throughout the night were a mixed bag of refreshing comedy and awkward patter, led by Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell in an excellent, though slightly overlong routine in which they pretended not to be familiar with the Film Comedy/Musical Actress nominees, including fresh-faced ingenue Judi Dench and some unknown named "Mariel Streep"; the director cut away to audience reactions, and Tommy Lee Jones was not impressed. The actor had earlier lost his Film Supporting Actor bid to Christoph Waltz ("Django Unchained"), but whether he was irritated or just sleepy was difficult to tell.
Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance to introduce Best Drama Picture nominee "Lincoln" to a standing ovation. Host Poehler was suitably awed. Further proving that Globes night was ladies' night, she explained, "Do you know who that was? Hillary Clinton's husband!"