Did Ricky Gervais go too far at the Golden Globes?
Pity the poor award show host. Go for the easy, Mel Gibson-size targets and you're accused of taking no risks. Take shots at the room, and at the hand that feeds, and you're deemed mean and unfair.
Ricky Gervais found himself both on an evening that otherwise saw few moments of shame or shock -- no Ryan Bingham stuck at the bar when his name was called, no Christine Lahti locked in the bathroom, as both were in previous editions of the awards show.
Even to his critics, Gervais was polarizing only in spots; his disappearance for nearly an hour in middle of the show meant he only had select opportunities to get under people's skin. Most of the material that irked was from the opening monologue, particularly a line about Scientologist actors (an apparent reference to Tom Cruise) and pokes at the cravenness of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which of course hands out the Golden Globes.
Robert Downey Jr. thought the tone Gervais set was "mean-spirited and "mildly sinister" (it probably didn't help that the actor was a target himself). But Christian Bale told reporters backstage that "I don't think he went too far" and "I hope he goes further."
Even at this newspaper, the commentators were divided. Times TV critic Mary McNamara called Gervais' performance "snotty," "abusive" and going for "dangerous targets" with the Cruise and Hollywood Foreign Press jokes. But my film-staff colleague Patrick Goldstein commented, in regard to the same jokes, "Talk about bashing safe targets."
The flap was a little reminiscent of Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2005, when he took a shot at Jude Law by comparing him unfavorably to Tom Cruise, prompting Sean Penn to call out Rock and defend Law as "one of our finest young actors," prompting commentators to call out Penn.
In the light of Monday, the producers of the Oscars are probably thanking the heavens that they chose, for the first time in several decades, non-comedians as hosts in Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Surely someone will say the pair wasn't funny or mean enough.
Photo: Ricky Gervais before the Golden Globes Sunday night. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP