The Golden Globes kicked off with a host of familiar faces: hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, winner Jennifer Lawrence and another victory lap for "Breaking Bad."
Last year's co-hosts picked up where they left off, starting the 71st annual Golden Globes from Beverly Hills, Calif., with a torrent of punch lines that lambasted Matt Damon, Meryl Streep and, of course, George Clooney. The starry audience roared most of all when Fey described the four-Globe nominee space odyssey "Gravity."
"George Clooney would rather float away in space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age," said Fey.
The first award of the night went to Lawrence for supporting actress for her performance in David O. Russell's con-artist caper "American Hustle." The award returned Lawrence, a winner last year for Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," to the stage for an acceptance speech -- something she said was no easier a year later.
"Don't ever do this again," she told herself. "It's so scary."
Four months after its final episode, AMC's "Breaking Bad" won for best drama TV series and best actor in a drama series for Bryan Cranston. Cranston called his honor "a lovely way to say goodbye." Creator Vince Gilligan said the award gave him "one more chance to thank the fans of the show," but left the final word for star Aaron Paul.
"Yeah, bitch," declared Paul, with what essentially became his character's catch phrase.
As expected, the Emmy-winning HBO film "Behind the Candelabra," the acclaimed Liberace drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, won for best movie or miniseries. Producer Jerry Weintraub, the famed Hollywood producer, accepted the award.
The telecast managed two expletives in its first 30 minutes, one from Elisabeth Moss (winner of best actress, miniseries or movie, for "Top of the Lake"), the other from Jacqueline Bisset (best supporting actress, miniseries or movie, "Dancing on the Edge"). Both were surprise winners.
But Fey and Poehler's playful interplay again stole the show in the early going. They're also signed up to host next year.
"This is Hollywood," explained Fey. "If something kind of works, they'll just keep doing it until everyone hates it."
Poehler said that in such a famous crowd, Damon was "basically a garbage person." He later sheepishly presented an introduction to best picture nominee "Captain Phillips: "It's me, the garbage man."
The Tracy Letts play adaptation "August: Osage County," starring Streep, Fey said, proved "that there are great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60."
Poehler and Fey last year brought the Globes telecast to a six-year ratings high of 19.7 million, winning universal praise along the way for their irreverent cracks that playfully punctured Hollywood's veneer.
The 71st Globes show finds itself on the upswing. While the more prestigious and meaningful Academy Awards ceremony wrestles awkwardly with updating its brand, the Globes telecast has thrived as a more comic, unpredictable affair, free of Oscar's self-regard and musical dance numbers.
The favorites Sunday night are "American Hustle" and Steve McQueen's unflinching epic "12 Years a Slave." The films and their much-nominated ensemble casts lead with seven nominations each, but they will be kept mostly separated by the Globes' split between comedy-musical and drama categories.
Alfonso Cuaron's space odyssey "Gravity," a worldwide hit starring Sandra Bullock, is just as much a front-runner, only with a more limited cast. When Oscar nominations are announced Thursday morning, "Gravity" (nominated for four Globes) will likely clean up in the technical achievement categories that the Globes don't honor.
Support is also strong for the Coen brothers'1960s Greenwich Village folk tale "Inside Llewyn Davis" (three nominations), Alexander Payne's father-son road trip "Nebraska" (five nominations), Spike Jonze's futuristic romance "Her" (three nominations) and Paul Greengrass' pirate thriller "Captain Phillips" (four nominations). All have found various honors in an awards season that has seen critics groups and guild organizations often make divergent choices.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 mostly freelance foreign journalists (Fey and Poehler mocked their publications), has recently undergone a change in leadership and, perhaps, a shift toward respectability. While the Globes have in the past been known for curious nominees like "The Tourist" and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," this year's nominees were seen as without such oddities.
This year, the Globes fall days after Oscar nomination voting concluded. The Academy Awards announce their nominees Thursday.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle