Golden Globes review: Ricky Gervais a timid host, broadcast tedious

Senior Television Writer
01.16.12 46 Comments


Ricky Gervais came out to host the 2012 Golden Globe Awards and tried to again paint himself as a rebel undermining the system from within. And yet even he could go so far with that angle, what with this being his third time as host, and what with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association asking him back after he spent last year’s telecast gleefully ripping most of the movie stars in the room.

“Now, the Hollywood Foreign Press have warned me if I insult any of you,” Gervais explained, “they’ll definitely invite me back next year as well.”

Still, even if his re-invitation was essentially officially-sanctioned satire, Gervais seemed reluctant to go for the jugular the way he did in 2011. His jokes were either extremely gentle, or at the expense of people who weren’t there (and weren’t likely to be there anytime soon) like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber. It was oddly reminiscent of his first time hosting the show, when he seemed nervous and unsure of just how far he could go.

A defanged Gervais might make the event more comfortable for the stars, but it defeats the purpose  of inviting the guy to host. He’s not Billy Crystal; taking it easy on everyone and just trying to have a good time isn’t in his skill set.

And Gervais’ forgettable performance was just the start of what was a fairly brutal three hours. The awards were given out in what mostly seemed a random order, the introductions were largely stiff(*), the speeches largely tedious laundry lists of agents, managers and studio executives(**), and the show quickly began running behind.

(*) A notable exception: the husband-and-wife team of William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman harmonized on a musical intro. A nice moment, and a reminder that those two need to be on-camera together more often. Maybe she can stop by “Shameless” now that “Desperate Housewives” is ending. 

(**) Octavia Spencer from “The Help” very briefly seemed like she was going to do something memorable when she began by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but then she remembered she had so many people to thank before she got played off by the orchestra like everyone else, because God help us people be given time to speak instead of trailers of all the nominated best pictures. Among the rare speeches that stood out was the tag-team of “Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan and star Sofia Vergara being amusingly, inconsistently bilingual. 

As for the TV awards themselves (here’s the full list of winners), Kelsey Grammer (who is, indeed, terrific on Starz’ “Boss”) and Matt LeBlanc (who was the one part of “Episodes” I didn’t hate) brought a ’90s Must-See TV flavor to the evening, Laura Dern’s status as a former “movie star” (and an interesting, if not particularly comic, performance on “Enlightened”) beat out presumptive winner Zooey Deschanel fitting the HFPA profile as the Hot Young Thing, and Showtime had itself a heck of a night overall (LeBlanc, Claire Danes and “Homeland”).

There’s also the continued silliness of ongoing British drama series being continually treated as “miniseries,” which meant that “Downton Abbey” (whose second season just began airing here on PBS) was named best miniseries, and Idris Elba was named best actor in a movie or miniseries(***) for the second season of BBC America’s “Luther.” Deserving winners both, but they may need to rename the categories to “movie, miniseries or British drama we like a lot.”

(***) Also nominated in that category: Dominic West for BBC America’s “The Hour,” which means Stringer Bell just got over on Jimmy McNulty again.

What did everybody else think? Did you enjoy Gervais more than I did? Did any speeches or presenters stand out to you? Any wins that pleased or upset you in particular?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at

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