And just like that, the Golden Globes went back to being one more bloated, boring awards show. You could tell from the start when Ricky Gervais came out and began with a Kim Kardashian joke – really? so obvious? – and not even a funny one, counting off the ways she’s different from Kate Middleton. She’s louder, trashier, drunker … sigh. He took swipes at NBC’s fourth place status among networks, which is so tired and so true it doesn’t qualify as edgy even though he was on NBC. And he did all this wearing a maroon tieless tux from somebody’s long-ago prom. OK, maybe that was ironic. Ugly but ironic.
The first person he introduced was Johnny Depp, and was sure to mention that Depp was so not angry about last year he did a guest spot on Gervais’ new show HBO Life’s Too Short. (Watch the best and worst clips from the show here.) It’s hard to be genuinely risky after pointing out how last year’s riskiness vanished into nothing. He did have one good line for Depp: “Have you seen The Tourist yet?” (The answer: “No.”)
But he vanished for long stretches, didn’t tweet from backstage as he promised he would, seemed defeated from the start. He made a couple of desperate attempts late in the show, introducing Mr. Perfect Colin Firth and adding, “He’s very racist. I’ve seen him punch a little blind kitten.” If that had been his tone from the start, it would have matched last year’s, with everyone playing along with a wink this time. But more than two hours into the three hour show was much too late.
Some flashes of wit popped up from other people, and simply highlighted what was missing. Seth Rogen, presenting with Kate Beckinsale, introduced himself by saying, “I am currently trying to conceal a massive erection.” That was the kind or brash, crudely funny line we expected from Gervais and never got. Rogen went on to deliver the night’s best line while reading the nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, “Michelle Williams in the hysterical comedy My Week With Marilyn,” instantly calling attention to how inane the Golden Globes categories are. He caused a Twitter flurry that essentially called Rogen the new Gervais. But I’m afraid there is no new Gervais. There is just the awards-show aberration that was last year..
I still think Gervais is one of the funniest people alive. Honestly, I would love to know what went on backstage. What I do know is that before this year, Gervais could go on talk shows and make jokes about how outraged Hollywood was at his last Golden Globes hosting gig. Now, as David Letterman and Jon Stewart have done with their maligned Oscar gigs (neither as bad as they claim) he can build a mini-narrative about the time he flamed out.
(UPDATE: He has actually been doing talk shows saying this year was his favorite, the crowd was with him. Well, we all know he doesn’t think like the rest of the world.)