This story first appeared in the Oct. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
As the big kid on the block, the Oscars long have resented the upstart Golden Globes infringing on their territory. No one at the Academy officially will cop to that. But ask whether the recent decision to move up its nominations announcement to Jan. 10 -- three days before the 70th annual Golden Globes will air on NBC -- is designed to steal some of the Globes' thunder, and Academy officials react with mock surprise that there's even another awards show worth discussing.
But the Globes are refusing to be upstaged. In fact, on Oct. 15, they one-upped the Oscars by signing up as hosts not only 30 Rock star Tina Fey, who long has been on the Academy's wish list, but also her pal Amy Poehler, whose Parks and Recreation also airs on NBC. "Tina and Amy are amazing together. It's a combination people will want to see," enthuses Orly Adelson, president of Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Globes with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Here's the added irony: Sources say Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, who gave both actresses their start and produced their 2008 comedy Baby Mama, was instrumental in helping put together the hosting team. Earlier this year, the Academy asked Michaels to produce the Oscars, with Jimmy Fallon, another SNL alum, headlining the Feb. 24 telecast on ABC. But when ABC execs raised objections to giving such a big promotional platform to the star of NBC's Late Night, that plan was dropped. Instead, the Academy turned to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who brought Family Guy and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane on board as a surprise host.
In tapping Fey and Poehler -- well-known comic personalities with a big fan base of women, who disproportionately watch awards shows -- the Globes have seized on a possible weakness of the more male-skewing MacFarlane. "He's very inside," says Tim Brooks, an author and TV historian and former network executive. "Younger viewers probably know the name, but he's not an A star."
The Academy believes MacFarlane will bring new viewers to the show, though it knows it has some work to do in introducing him to the wider and more female audience the Oscars attract. (Last year, about 39 million viewers tuned in, compared with 17 million for the Globes.) To that end, strategy sessions at Academy headquarters already have begun.
Certainly, Fey, 42, and Poehler, 41, promise to make the Globes a friendlier event than it was for the past three years when bomb-lobbing host Ricky Gervais had some celebrities laughing nervously. "Obviously it will be a kinder, gentler show," notes Brad Adgate, senior vp at Horizon Media, noting that Fey's and Poehler's sitcoms attract younger audiences. "Tina Fey is a good choice, particularly," says Brooks. "She's appealing to younger and older viewers. She's accessible. She's not too trendy but trendy enough. Amy Poehler is a little bit more of an inside choice. But neither one of them depends on raunchy humor -- we're not talking Chelsea Handler here. Grandma is going to be fine watching Tina Fey, too."
And both Fey and Poehler know their way around the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom. Poehler received her first Globe nomination this past year, but Fey has been nominated five years running, winning in the best actress in a television comedy category twice. More importantly, they know how to inject fun into the usual awards-show rituals. At the 2011 Emmys, when Rob Lowe and Sofia Vergara began reading off the nominees for best actress in a comedy series, Poehler ran up onstage, signaling her fellow nominees, which included Fey and eventual winner Melissa McCarthy, to join her as they all clasped hands like anxious beauty pageant contestants. Although the bit was scripted, Poehler made it look spontaneous. "I like Seth a lot, but I don't feel a compulsion to see what he's going to do as much as with Amy and Tina," says veteran Laugh-In producer George Schlatter. "We kind of know what Seth will do, but the two of them have great secrets when they walk out onstage, a new kind of communication." Tweeted their SNL cohort Seth Meyers of their newest gig, "Poehler and Fey hosting the Golden Globes is excellent news for those who love a good time."
Still, there is the question of whether those Oscar noms, coming right before the Globes, could draw focus away from the NBC show. It might even make it harder to persuade some Oscar contenders to appear as presenters because if their names aren't included among those of that Thursday morning's Oscar nominees, on Sunday night they'd face a red carpet filled with reporters ready to ask about the snubs. On the other hand, all the media attention that coalesces around the Oscar noms also could benefit the Globes. And announcing first could erase the impression that the Oscars take their cues from the Globes (though that was never really the case). "We don't look at it as a rivalry with the Oscars," says Adelson of Dick Clark, which, like The Hollywood Reporter, is owned by Guggenheim Partners. "The fact that they moved the nominations -- we think the buzz will actually help us. In fact, we're happy they are helping us." And even some Academy types are becoming resigned to the fact that the two shows are destined to coexist. "Look, I think they made an interesting choice in Fey and Poehler," admits one veteran Academy member. "The Globes are still considered one of the great parties. It should be a lot of fun."