Ricky Gervais and the Golden Globes: Let the insults begin!
I thought I was one of the few people in showbiz who actually reveled in Ricky Gervais' outrageous antics as host of the Golden Globes earlier this year. He took on all comers, from Charlie Sheen and Cher to the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. itself, joking about HFPA members taking bribes and introducing the organization's president by quipping: "I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in. It was messy."
So who would've guessed that the HFPA, after all the abuse it took, would invite Gervais back to host the show again in January? But the organization announced Wednesday that Ricky is back in action. Apparently some of the membership was opposed to the move. But any dissension in the ranks was squelched by NBC, which broadcasts the show and is, as you may have noticed, something of a ratings-challenged network. Since the ratings for last year's Globes were solid -- at a time when many awards show's ratings are on the skids -- NBC clearly figured that the prospect of more controversy would draw more eyeballs.
But is it a really good idea? If I were a HFPA member, I'd have mixed feelings, since Gervais let the cat out of the bag last year, making cracks about what Hollywood insiders have known for years: The Golden Globes are a joke, run by an organization whose shenanigans and ethical lapses have made it a laughingstock at the very same studios that fall over one another wooing the HFPA in hopes of scoring an armful of awards, all because the studios' Oscar consultants believe the Globes are a necessary steppingstone to Oscar glory.
On the other hand, knowing that Gervais is willing to call it like he sees it will undoubtedly make the Globes must-see TV.
As a viewer, I'm delighted to hear that Gervais has returned to duty. Some people may have found his Globes schtick mean-spirited. I thought it was a breath of fresh air, a welcome respite from the air-kissing accolades and softball media fluff that have threatened to turn awards season into a gigantic kiddie circus. At the Oscars last year, the hosts were so well-behaved that you almost believed that beneath the tinsel there really was simply more tinsel. If a show like the Globes wants any hope of attracting a younger audience, it needs someone who will be willing to act a little uncouth and occasionally draw a little blood.
Gervais recently wrote an essay about the difference between American and British humor. In it, he explained that he never actively tries to offend anyone, saying, "That’s churlish, pointless and frankly too easy. But I believe you should say what you mean. Be honest. No one should ever be offended by truth... When dealing with a so-called taboo subject, the angst and discomfort of the audience is what’s under the microscope. Our own preconceptions and prejudices are often what are being challenged."
In fact, the reason Gervais caused such an uproar at the Globes this year was because he did deal with a taboo subject -- Hollywood's private distaste for the very organization it so eagerly seeks to curry favor with. It caused great discomfort, but mostly with the people in the industry who have the most at stake in promulgating the myth that the Globes are meaningful awards. As a true comic provocateur, Gervais is at his best when he says what he means, which is why I can't wait to hear what he'll have to say about the swells in the audience at January's Globes ceremony.
Photo: Ricky Gervais with his partner, Jane Fallon, at the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills this year. Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters