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The Winners and Losers of the 2023 Golden Globes

Hollywood’s most tumultuous award show returned to television and offered a surprising number of pleasing moments—even if the play-off music almost stopped them from happening

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After a 2022 full of scandal and backlash over the lack of diverse representation in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the newly reformed Golden Globes returned to television on Tuesday night. Host Jerrod Carmichael opened the show by addressing the controversy head-on, and then the Globes carried on as usual: drinks flowed, speeches ran overlong, and everyone at some point complimented Rihanna. Below, we highlight the major winners and losers of the new and maybe even improved Golden Globes.

Winner: The Ke Huy Quan–aissance

As someone who grew up with Indiana Jones and The Goonies, I always wondered what happened to Ke Huy Quan. Child actors fizzle out in Hollywood all the time, but for Quan, stepping away from the industry had less to do with disinterest than a lack of opportunities for Asian American actors. Thankfully, Quan, 51, hasn’t just revived his career with an affecting supporting role in Everything Everywhere All at Once: He’s thriving. A Golden Globe win, coupled with a tear-jerking speech that began with him thanking an in-person Steven Spielberg for giving him his first acting opportunity, has Quan in the driver’s seat for an Oscar. Not bad for someone who, just five years ago, saw Crazy Rich Asians come out in theaters and began mulling a comeback. —Miles Surrey

Winner: Jerrod Carmichael

“I’m here because I’m Black.” The evening’s host wasted no time in addressing the elephant in the room. And why would he? Jerrod Carmichael seemed extremely aware the Golden Globes needed him more than he needed them. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s loss of face and community support was the stand-up comedian’s gain, handing him a huge opportunity on the national stage—which he promptly opted to literally sit on, an indication of his hosting stint’s relaxed, intimate, and often irreverent vibe.

Carmichael’s performing style is neither big nor hyper-polished, which could have counted against him while commanding a room. But his deceptively soft-spoken delivery proved a perfect fit for a downsized, more informal show, and it gave Carmichael cover to tell some genuinely subversive jokes. (Introducing two Top Gun: Maverick actors with a pointed swipe at Tom Cruise and Scientology took a good deal of air out of the room.) Carmichael also came off as humble and genuinely honored to be there, offering heartfelt tributes to the likes of Rihanna and Regina Hall. As a bonus, he squeezed in an astonishing number of outfit changes—because when you’re handed half a million dollars, a stylist, and three hours on TV, you better make the most of it. And make the most of it Carmichael did, in more ways than one. —Alison Herman

Loser: Play-Off Music

Arguably the worst job at an award show goes to whoever is in charge of starting the play-off music when an acceptance speech runs too long. This year’s Globes were no exception. (Instead of rushing winners off the stage, why don’t these shows trim the fat elsewhere?) The play-off music interrupted several speeches throughout the ceremony, and rather than speed things along, it usually had the opposite effect. The time that Michelle Yeoh took to remind the person in charge of the play-off music that she can literally kick their ass could’ve been spent thanking the Everything Everywhere All at Once team, which she ultimately did. (The music was even more aggressive when Argentina, 1985 won Best Picture – Non-English Language; clearly, the Globes were banking on the team behind the film not being experts in martial arts.) Yeoh’s moment made for an amusing sound bite, but going forward, it would behoove award shows to heed Colin Farrell’s words after his own speech got the play-off treatment: “You can forget that piano.” —Surrey

Loser: Nepotism

Remember Miss Golden Globe—sorry, Golden Globe Ambassador? The annual honorary title once symbolized all that was silly and starstruck about the Globes, highlighting young people whose primary achievement was being born with a famous parent. The HFPA certainly got it right on occasion; alumni include Laura Dern and Dakota Johnson. But the organization seems to be aware that the rite of passage is now a liability, making the Globes less credible as a Serious Award Show that cares about quality and not just A-list appeal. No ambassador was introduced on air this Tuesday, nor is one credited on the official Globes site. Instead, trophies were presented by model Addieson Caulder, the first trans presenter in Globes history. The conspicuous absence is a small win for meritocracy, but a tragic loss for snarky Twitter jokes. —Herman

Winner: Alcohol

Let’s be honest for a second: The real reason the Golden Globes have endured as one of the biggest award shows of the year is because the ceremony is historically known as the one where celebrities get absolutely hammered. Like Hot Ones host Sean Evans getting famous people to be their most authentic selves by feeding them brutally spicy wings, the Globes has alcohol to thank for moments of hilarity and candor. One such person this year was Mike White, whose acceptance speech for The White Lotus was, by his own admission, going to be done in Italian before he backed out because he drank too much. (In White’s defense, apparently food was no longer being served by the time he was ready to eat.) The only thing better than White’s genuine, inebriated joy at winning the award was his casual dig that so many networks passed on The White Lotus before HBO gave it a shot. They call it liquid courage for a reason, and I’m so glad the Globes kept its most sacred tradition alive in 2023. —Surrey

Winner: Feel-Good Arcs

Hollywood loves a comeback, almost as much as it loves a newly minted Next Big Thing. Tuesday’s honorees were admirably diverse, likely a partial response to recent scandals around the Globes’ votership and historic blind spots. But they also shared an underdog narrative. Quinta Brunson made memes for BuzzFeed; now she has a hit network sitcom. Ke Huy Quan couldn’t find any acting work for decades; now he’s a face of a Best Picture contender. Jennifer Coolidge scraped by as a comedic character actress; now her friend Mike White has pushed her career to new heights.

Abbott Elementary and Everything Everywhere All at Once are themselves uplifting stories. Abbott follows a group of well-meaning public school teachers as they try to do right by their adorable kids; Everything Everywhere is a hopeful portrait of intergenerational and inter-dimensional love. The White Lotus may be darker and more cynical, but its success is similarly fueled by how good it feels to watch—or, in the case of awards voters, help make that success happen. The Globes didn’t go all in on optimism, also rewarding a grisly parable like The Banshees of Inisherin. But in toasting Tyler James Williams, Michelle Yeoh, Coolidge, and Quan, the HFPA did have a slight bias toward the life-affirming. L’chaim.Herman

Loser (SOMEHOW): Better Call Saul

Award shows have not been kind to Better Call Saul. The Breaking Bad prequel has still, inexplicably, failed to win a single Primetime Emmy despite a whopping 46 nominations, while the Globes haven’t even bothered to nominate it for Best Television Series – Drama until this year. But if there was ever going to be a time for that to change, why not for Better Call Saul’s brilliant final season? A strong showing at the Globes could’ve given the show some real momentum heading into its Emmys swan song later this year—instead, all us Saul-heads got was more pain.

It’s bad enough that the Globes failed to even nominate the great Rhea Seehorn, whose turn as the moral conscience of the series, Kim Wexler, will go down as one of the greatest television performances of the century. But then the Globes didn’t give a trophy to Bob Odenkirk, who, need I remind you, NEARLY DIED WHILE FILMING THE FINAL SEASON. (The winner in Odenkirk’s category, Yellowstone’s Kevin Costner, couldn’t make it to the Globes on account of the historic storm that passed through California, which was so unprecedented as an excuse that Regina Hall couldn’t keep it together.) By the time that House of the Dragon topped Better Call Saul for Best Television Series – Drama, I was no longer mad at the Globes; just disappointed. Award shows might continue to deny Better Call Saul the trophies that it richly deserves, but the fans know the truth: This show was so good, man. —Surrey

Loser: Globes Skeptics

Against the odds, the HFPA pulled it off: a somewhat credible, reasonably efficient, and honestly fun to watch broadcast after two years off the air. None of the winners were outright embarrassing, a potential result of an expanded voter base. Some were even exhilarating. Giving RRR the Globe for Best Original Song feels like the best-case scenario for an award ostensibly voted on by a truly international membership, though the Academy has been ahead of the Globes on that front for a few years now.

Even as the Globes shed some of their more embarrassing elements, they also retained the loose, tipsy feel that makes them a refreshing counterweight to the Oscars’ self-importance. Carmichael repeatedly had to shush the audience after commercial breaks; Mike White was visibly trashed; there were no time-wasting montages about the Power of Cinema. As nominee Brendan Fraser’s boycott suggests, the Globes are still a long way from fully righting their wrongs. But Tuesday’s proceedings were a promising start to the post-scandal era—more reputable, but not too reputable. Where’s the fun in that? —Herman

An earlier version of this piece misstated the day that the Golden Globes ceremony occurred.