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TV Review: Ricky Gervais' Golden Globes Implosion

by Caryn James
January 17, 2011 6:58 AM
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If you were watching Ricky Gervais host the Golden Globes on Sunday, for the first hour you could tell you were watching a go-for-broke performance that would become -- and I‘m not exaggerating – legendary, a benchmark by which other flameout hosting gigs are measured. In his opening monologue Gervais took on Scientologists and accusations of bribery in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that hands out the Globes.

He said that in the Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor film I Love You Philip Morris, you had “Two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay,” which was “the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists.” There was a pause in the room as if the crowd was hearing him on a satellite delay, a beat while they put it all together and realized – whoa, he’s talking about gay Scientologist movie stars! Not knowing whether to laugh or groan, they offered a muted bit of each.

That was the first obvious disconnect between what was happening in the room and the way most of us were responding at home. The jokes might have been more daring than funny, but the risk felt exhilarating because Gervais wasn’t being outrageous for its own sake. He was targeting the hypocrisy of Hollywood and the inanity and self-importance of awards themselves. The idea of rewarding excellence in film and TV is a crazy, politicized business, which makes these awards shows full of smoke-and-mirrors pretense. It’s as if no one is meant to notice the Wizard behind the curtain, orchestrating the big-money campaigns, and Gervais’ specialty is pulling that curtain back.

He crossed lines of taste and civility at times, as risky comedy always does. He made one introduction, “Ashton Kutcher’s Dad – Bruce Willis,” and Bruce did not seem amused. Things got ugly when he said of Philip Berk, the much-mocked head of the HFPA, “I had to help him off the toilet and put in his teeth,” (OK, too far) and Berk later replied bitterly, “Ricky, next time you want me to help qualify your movies go to another guy.”

But Gervais inspired some sharper replies that made the show even more volatile. He introduced Robert Downey Jr. by saying his most familiar roles were at the Betty Ford clinic and the LA County Jail, and Downey came back with his own mockery, genially delivered (he is a good actor). “Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good,” he said. Downey went into razor’s-edge jokes about his sexual intrigue with each of nominees for the Best Actress in a comedy. It was jaw-dropping fun to watch.

Then Gervais all but disappeared and the rest of the three hour show became lethally dull. That’s the pattern of most awards shows: a funny or flat opening, then endless thanks from the winners. But Gervais’ absence was so conspicuous that people on Twitter began a hashtag “RickyWatch2011.” He returned much toned-down. I would love to know what arm-twisting and litigious threats might have been flying around backstage; that would be a miniseries itself.

The Globes can be especially tiresome because -- and I truly love TV – the television awards just don’t have movie-star glamour. Katey Sagal can’t compete with Nicole Kidman in that department. There were a few good star-gazing moments: Angelina Jolie fixing Brad Pitt’s tie, Angelina posing as she leaned on Brad’s shoulder, Angelina – she couldn’t have been posing for this one -- caught on camera applying lip gloss.

There was a sweet moment when Claire Danes won for her role in the HBO movie about an autistic woman, Temple Grandin, and the real Temple Grandin wrapped Danes in a big bear hug. But mostly there were those snoozy thank-yous. Really, no one winning a big award should bore us with lists of agents and managers, not even if you’re Claire Danes, not even if you’re Terrence Winter, creator of Boardwalk Empire, and Martin Scorsese is on your list.

That tedium makes you appreciate the high-wire moments. Matt Damon, presenting a lifetime achievement award to Robert DeNiro, pretended not to know who DeNiro was until he was cast in The Good Shepherd. The routine didn’t entirely work, and neither did DeNiro’s joking response read haltingly from a teleprompter (he mocked the HFPA too!) but I loved the freshness and irreverence, the idea that they weren’t going to swallow the sanctimonious pretense of awards shows.

On the red carpet before it all began, Gervais said that when he hosted last year the HFPA asked him to return while that show was still going on, they were so happy with him. That’s not happening again, but I wouldn’t have missed Gervais’ weirdly honest implosion. I’d like to think there’s no going back to sanctimony after that, but I’m sure those Hollywood wizards can find a way.

Here's the notorious monologue:

(NOTE: This is a review of the 2011 Golden Gobes; you can find the 2012 review here.)

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  • AC | May 22, 2011 11:50 AMReply

    I like good British comedy but this Ricky Gervais sucks bloddy testicles. He is about as funny as the Queen's ass wrinkles and Prince Screwup's trophy

  • Marc | March 2, 2011 1:06 AMReply

    @ Alex on January 17th.

    Ricky was just takin the piss mate, can't u get over that lol?! As many down to earth ppl have said, movie stars who are over themselves DID find it funny, and many didn't want to laugh simply because they didn't know how others would react.
    FYI, Ricky has made 10's of millions of pounds from the office and also from Steve Carrels Office versions. He also does stand up and is one of the funniest around. He is s major success and deserves everything that had come his way.

    Get a sense of humour. Jesus!!

  • tc | January 22, 2011 12:45 AMReply

    Brilliant, just brilliant. To those that just don't get it I feel a bit sorry for you. A good measure of a person is the ability to laugh at themselves, not to take themselves to seriously. Ricky put that to the test. Was it disrespetful? only if the stars believe their own superstar status

  • MEEfO | January 21, 2011 6:27 AMReply

    I love how he recovered from the gay scientologist joke with `probably!' `My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.' Brilliant. Seriously people lighten up. After all, as he says `I warned them!'

  • Blake | January 21, 2011 6:03 AMReply

    Just another clueless yank.

  • JediElvis | January 21, 2011 3:54 AMReply

    What the hell is wrong with this country? We, or some Americans have become such wimps, that they can no longer take a joke. You know this is humour in England, and Europe? Its sexy, but noooooo here its offensive. We're worse than the Chinese!!!!

  • Claude Parish | January 19, 2011 4:48 AMReply

    Ricky Gervais hosting an awards show is proof that God loves us.
    Chill, serious people.
    Sense of humor alert.
    You who didn't know who Ricky was yesterday, can't stop talking about him today!

  • julie | January 19, 2011 3:51 AMReply

    Clair......I love humor and Ron White is one of my favorites, but I think sometimes folks cross the line. Some of his stuff was funny, I agree with you, but some of his comments were over the top and hurtful. As far as the "mother in America" I just try to go by the don't always say what you think. Thanks....the point was not missed.

  • Ron Meredith | January 18, 2011 10:18 AMReply

    Ricky Gervais was THE only appealing aspect of yet ANOTHER terribly dull award event aimed toward a group of pompous narcissistic plastic surgery addicts who somehow believe that their hallowed movie biz is the only important aspect of our society today.

    There are far far far too many award events aimed at the tiresome Hollywood Cult of Celebrity and most share the same feature: boring, boring, and intolerably boring. Unfortunately, Hollywood has transmogrified into a long list of cookie cutter "stars," all sharing a talent for insufferable mediocrity. Gone are the memorable and distinctive personalities of the early pioneers of Hollywood, and in their place, the banal, insipid, indulgent, and self-obsessed now stand in the spotlight.

    Ricky Gervais is a wonderful exception to that rule, and his penetrating satirical wit and extraordinary talent for parody is second to none The people have grown weary of false "gods," in the form of Hollywood poseurs, and the people yearn for the resurrection of neglected heroes who really should matter in our society today (e.g. nurses, teachers, soldiers, police, firemen, environmentalists, human rights activists, etc), the kinds of people who put others ahead of themselves on a daily basis.

    Hollywood is a contemporary "religion" that is proving less satisfying to its many increasingly disillusioned disciples, as more become aware of what kinds of priorities ought to matter in our society today. That is where the sharp satirists like Ricky Gervais provide an invaluable service: they lampoon the false "gods" of Hollywood, and show them for the phonies they happen to be. It is far past time to find new icons in society that stand for what our society REALLY needs today since, Hollywood now stands for the kinds of empty values that society ought to reject.

  • chicky baby | January 18, 2011 2:58 AMReply

    brilliant! if these people cannot laugh at themselves.. who can? he is edgy and ruthless, but he's witty and eloquent. look at the reactions of the people in the room.. they all had a blast. i'm not normally a gervais fan. most of his stuff is wasted on me. i think he nailed it. and really... who cares?

  • shero | January 18, 2011 2:27 AMReply

    Ricky made Robert De Niro Laugh !!!

    Isn't that enough prove that he is the best comedy in our time ... His jokes is not just to make you smile and laugh ... He make you think and wake up for matters been forgotten and lost for generations ... Other matters that you think it is great but they are not .

    I think you need to see his previews shows and stand ups to know who is he .

  • Marc H | January 18, 2011 1:59 AMReply

    He was mean-spirited & unfunny. He REALLY lost me with the false teeth comment- despite the fact that the HFP is not taken all that seriously, they do honor work and the president of the org does deserve some respect. I can only imagine how demeaned he must have felt walking on that stage after that intro, And all of us are growing old(er) and it is something that should not be the butt of crude insensitive public jokes. You CAN be funny and poke fun without being mean. Jimmy Fallon proved that on the EMMYS.

  • Jamie | January 17, 2011 11:19 AMReply

    Ricky was sensational. So was Robrt downey Junior. Mixing it up beautifully.

  • RebeccaL | January 17, 2011 10:30 AMReply

    Someone referenced Gervais's comment about "thank God...that I'm an atheist " in their comment. I've read some reviews that seem to take that remark as a insult to religious persons and I'm deeply puzzled as to why. It's obviously just a twist on people winning who say "thank God" all the time. (As if God likes them better than the losers.) I'm not an atheist and I'm not the least bit offended, he wasn't insulting believers by saying he wasn't one. I really enjoyed his hosting the Golden Globes last night and he was one of the reasons I watched.

  • Justin | January 17, 2011 10:09 AMReply

    Go Ricky Go, Go Rick Go, Gooooooooooo Ricky!!!

  • Staks | January 17, 2011 10:01 AMReply

    Ricky Gervais will be back. In Hollywood ratings matter more than a bunch of pissed off celebrities. The clips from this years awards are all over the place and now no one would miss an award show hosted by Ricky Gervais again. He did a great job in the monologue (that was all I watched due to the youtube clips). I thought is was really funny. It definitely wasn't like the rest of the boring award shows with weak jokes from comedians afraid to actually be funny. Good job Ricky Gervais! Keep it up!

  • Dex | January 17, 2011 9:43 AMReply

    Ricky was brilliant and his closing line "Thank you God for making me an atheist" capped off a hilariously irreverent night.

  • Deb | January 17, 2011 9:12 AMReply

    Disrespect in the name of humor crosses the line. Our country badly needs to learn respect between people who have differing views. I don't think a lot of people, including us Christians, liked the disrespectful remarks that Ricky made. I don't think Ricky has won friends or influenced enemies tonight. God Bless you Ricky. You see God loves people who don't even believe in him!

  • Natasha | January 17, 2011 8:53 AMReply

    Ricky was great! I could have done with out the boring speeches, next year lets just have Ricky speak. All those cardbored, botoxed, dull, rich, whiny celebs can stay home. Ricky, host the Oscars, pleeeeaaaase!!!!

  • Harrison | January 17, 2011 8:46 AMReply

    Props to Ricky. He said that the fact that he was invited back meant that he hadn't pushed too far last year, and he followed through. His performance was not even close to his best comedy...but it was refreshing to see someone intelligently-- if abrasively -- revealing the awards show for its self indulgence and aggrandizement.

  • Norma | January 17, 2011 8:35 AMReply

    Couple of notes to Alex:
    "what has Ricky Gervais ever done that made money" ... hmmm ... money-making isn't restricted to North America Alex. I'd love just a tiny fraction of the wealth Ricky has generated in the UK alone never his royalties from the inferior US version of The Office.
    "thanking God for making him an atheist ... insulting 95% of the world" ... insult Alex? I was in in hysterics laughing. Christians are so adamant in informing non-Christians know that God made this earth and everything in/on it, if this is right ... so must Ricky be ... God made atheists ...just a fact!

  • Ryan | January 17, 2011 8:29 AMReply

    What the hell were the HFPA expecting? Ricky was the best part of this show BY FAR and the fact of the matter is I guarantee you that their ratings went up. He's a true comic genius and the HFPA should be thanking their lucky stars they could get someone of his calibre.

  • CarlyWarly | January 17, 2011 8:11 AMReply

    This can be found on Youtube! Watched with much interest. Wonder if he will be back next year!

  • LibelFreeZone | January 17, 2011 8:00 AMReply

    Ricky Gervais sucks.

  • hackattack | January 17, 2011 7:53 AMReply

    Hollywood Foreign Press is a joke. The Golden Globes are a joke. Depp was bashed for both The Tourist and Alice in Wonderland and yet they nominated him.

    How many HFPA member written articles do people read a day ?

  • likedgg | January 17, 2011 7:20 AMReply

    Actually felt compelled to watch the whole show just becoz of the acerbic host

  • Maureen | January 17, 2011 7:19 AMReply

    Ricky said nothing at the Golden Globes that everyone in that audience hasn't already said behind each other's backs! They act all shocked just because someone had the nerve to say it out in the open.
    I guarantee you that when these same people saw that Sex and the City 2 movie poster Ricky made fun of, they all commented on the ridiculous air brush job. My friends and I laughed and commented on it when we saw it. And we just go to movies not make them!
    They are all hypocrites who act like they have never heard such talk before and they are offended by it.

  • that dude | January 17, 2011 5:56 AMReply

    He was hilarious. Anyone who is offended needs to get off their high horse and get a clue. It is comedy, on a stage, EVERYONE is open game. You, don't like it, don't watch, change the channel, that simple. People today are so sensitive to anythign that makes them upset, they forget that maybe, just maybe it was for the other 300 million people in this country. But nope, everyone is offended and needs to complain. Anyone who thinks people at the show were offended, well I doubt it they were all pretty drunk. Everyone was taking jabs at everyone. BRING BACK RICKY!!!!!

  • jen | January 17, 2011 5:54 AMReply

    I like Nicole Kidman & Angelina Jolie, but what is the big fuss about these ladies ( other than talent) . They became popular movie stars because of their associations with true male movie superstars - Tom Cruise & Brad Pitt. Without having Cruise & Pitt in their lives, they would never have reached the heights of stardom.

  • Alex | January 17, 2011 4:16 AMReply

    I am all for edgey humor that is funny, but it was mostly uncomfortable. I like Tim Allen and I think that basically telling the world that he is a nobody when compared to Tom Hanks is just an a'hole move. I mean what has Ricky Gervais ever done that made money? I think that the stiff arm from Steve Carrell was sincere when you compared it to his "it never gets old" comment with an irritated undertone. It comes down to this, when you see a shot of Ricky Gervais and then a shot of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks you quickly realize that Ricky is out of his league. Oh, and thanking God for making him an atheist was just the final straw. Nothing like insulting 95% of the world in one quick sentence. Maybe, he was trying to ostracize himself from everyone.

  • Cabber23 | January 17, 2011 4:00 AMReply

    Ricky Gervais was true to his word. He said in the weeks leading up to the show that he must not have done a proper job last year, if he was invited back to host this year. From that comment, I took it that we would see the Ricky that most of us are familiar with and he didn't disappoint! Too many Amercians don't get sarcastic humor that the Brits are famous for and people need to lighten up and not take themselves to seriously. If you removed Ricky Gervais and Robert Downey Jr.'s bits from the show, it was a real snoozer! I'm sure he won't be invited back but we will be talking about this one for years to come, Great job Ricky!!!

  • Claire Draper | January 17, 2011 3:02 AMReply

    Ricky Gervais is only taking the p*ss, Julie. People can take themselves way to seriously and he is just providing some comedy relief at a time when people are way too sanctamonious and self righteous. Doing the whole predictable 'mothers of America' speech just shows you are totally missing the point. We're all flawed human beings and sometimes its good to have a laugh at yourself. He has a knack of saying what we're all thinking, I love this sort of humour and I personally think God does too. Nice one Gervais, what a legend!!!

  • Julie | January 17, 2011 2:45 AMReply

    Shame - Shame on you Golden Globes. What about the actors, actresses, producers, directors, etc. who came before all of you. Look what you have brought to this wonderful art . I feel bad for the good people in hollywood that work hard and were at the Golden Globes to celebrate the honor of being nominated. To have to endure the slander that the host doled out was unacceptable. I am a mother, like many mothers in America, trying to raise RESPECTFUL teenagers and we wonder why our young adults are acting the way they act. This is a perfect example of why. You put garbage get garbage out. As for Ricky Gervais.....may God have mercy on your soul.

  • mb | January 17, 2011 2:21 AMReply

    I only watched BECAUSE Ricky Gervais was hosting. These Hollywood buffoons need to get over themselves and realize that the public is on to them. And yes Ricky.. Thank god for atheists!!

  • Lucy Egerton | January 17, 2011 2:13 AMReply

    Ricky Gervais is a hero!

  • J | January 17, 2011 12:56 AMReply

    Hey Deb. Ask God for a sense of humour. You might be waiting for some time...

  • Mick | January 17, 2011 12:26 AMReply

    Bloody fantastic, you could see people in the crowd wanting to laugh but were afraid to. Normally so scripted and false, it was great to see. Doing what a comedian should.

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