REUTERS - Ben Affleck and "Argo" were not the only big winners at Sunday's Golden Globes - the show itself scored big numbers in the ratings while co-hosts Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler won warm notices from critics and fans alike.
Sunday's broadcast of the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards received its best ratings in six years, outpacing other award shows such as the Emmys and People's Choice Awards, NBC said on Monday.
The three-hour broadcast on NBC was up 28 percent from last year in the coveted 18-to-49 age group, and spiked 17 percent in total viewers, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.
Some 19.7 million Americans tuned in to the show hosted by Fey and Poehler, compared with 16.8 million who watched last year, when acidic Briton Ricky Gervais was host, prompting comparisons from many quarters.
Sunday's big Golden Globe winners were musical "Les Miserables," which garnered three awards, and Iran hostage drama "Argo," which won best dramatic movie and best director for Affleck.
Viewers seemed enthusiastic about this year's show and the hosts. The movie site Fandango.com found in an overnight poll that 87 percent of moviegoers thought Fey and Poehler were more entertaining than Gervais, who has hosted several times.
And nearly two-thirds of respondents said wins for "Argo" and Affleck for best drama and best director were the night's biggest surprises. Nearly one-third named "Lincoln," which won only one award for Daniel Day-Lewis as best actor in a drama, as having been accorded the biggest snub.
Media experts also gave Fey and Poehler a big thumbs up, while fans and celebrities alike took to Twitter to express their delight with the pair.
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres posted that Fey and Poehler "are hilarious. I don't know why someone didn't think of this sooner."
The Hollywood Reporter raved that the annual show, where stars are known for imbibing freely, table hopping and generally letting loose, was "a funny, rousing and swiftly paced affair," adding "credit in large part goes to" Fey and Poehler.
Comparing the duo to previous host Gervais, it noted that "it was nice to see Fey and Poehler prove that they could be fantastic, funny hosts while also staying out of the limelight."
The New York Times said the co-hosts "brought charm and easy good humor to a ceremony where stars are supposed to relax and have fun. And it was one of the more amusing awards shows because of it."
It added that after three years of Gervais' "puerile bullying," the two comedians "were gentle - up to a point," citing their joke about "Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow knowing a bit about torture, having "spent three years married to James Cameron." Bigelow and "Titanic" director Cameron divorced in 1991.
The Hollywood Reporter called the quip "A well-crafted thing of beauty that will be remembered for a very long time."
The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, worried for the host of this year's Oscars, which will air on February 24.
"Poor Seth MacFarlane," its critic wrote. "Until Sunday night, hosting the Oscars must have seemed so easy." But Fey and Poehler, "lovely, brilliant and utterly fearless ... made awards-show hosting an art form again, helming three hours of occasionally hilarious, occasionally emotional and surprisingly enjoyable TV."
And the Atlantic joined the chorus of praise, saying the pair "killed it" with their opening monologue.
The Washington Post was more qualified, if still approving, calling Fey and Poehler "the two women we'd rather watch awards shows with (in sweat pants) than watch them endure the indignity of having to host" the show. Now, its critic added, addressing the hosts: "You've done your duty."
NBC is a unit of Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) (Editing by Jill Serjeant and Doina Chiacu)