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The 2012 Golden Globes: The Taming of Ricky Gervais

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For the past two years I've written reviews of The Golden Globes excoriating Ricky Gervais for mostly tedious humor and lapses in judgment that resulted in so-called jokes that were in severely bad taste.

I'm not a prude and have enjoyed Gervais in the past when he came forth on other awards shows for five minutes or so with often ingenious biting patter, but somehow, to me -- and quite a few others -- once he became the host he went bonkers and said things that weren't particularly creative or clever just to get a reaction with an outrageously bad pun at someone else's expense.

So, it was somewhat of a shock that the Golden Globes committee invited him back for another turn and even more of one to see that, in spite of Gervais' "warnings" in the Golden Globes promos the past few weeks to prepare us for upcoming shocks, that in reality he must have made a deal with the devil to get the national exposure afforded on the highly rated show.

From the outset when he first appeared to a polite round of applause of quite short duration, he seemed very uneasy in spite of his previously announced bravado. Even the audience had muted expressions on their faces from nothing at all to forced smiles, and responded with only limited displays of laughter.

So, I can't damn Ricky Gervais this year, except to say that for the most part he wasn't all that funny. Occasionally, he was on target and had a few pungent moments that hit their mark in a mildly savage way. But while I don't have the minute by minute tally of his prior performances, it appeared that he was offstage much more than in the past. When he did reemerge he often did so holding a glass of booze in an act that was more pretense of being cool while he delivered jokes that were often flat.

And there were rejoinders from the presenters, even to a relatively slight off-color mocking reference to Madonna as "like a virgin." When the singer came on stage she rebutted Gervais' comment with a zinger that, regarding a tryst with him, she "hadn't kissed a girl in awhile."

It was becoming painful to watch him, even if one wasn't at all offended, because his performance was so emasculated, though in his introduction to Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek whatever he said was bleeped with lightning action.

As for the awards, they were evenly divided and there were no films or TV shows that absolutely dominated. PBS' Downton Abbey won for best mini-series, but none of its brilliant actors took home a trophy. The film awards were divided as well, with writing going to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris and direction to Martin Scorsese for Hugo. Similarly, the acting awards were evenly distributed, as dramatic lead actress went to Meryl Streep, who appeared very surprised to win for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. George Clooney won for The Descendants, which also took Best Dramatic feature. Michelle Williams came to the stage for My Week With Marilyn, and Jean Dujardin, the Oscar favorite, was the winner for the best Comedy/Musical Feature, The Artist. Supporting honors went to two other films, Octavia Spencer's performance in The Help and Christopher Plummer's in Beginners.

In TV, there were also no sweeps, with ABC's Modern Family repeating as best comedy, though no acting wins and Showtime's Homeland taking honors for dramatic series and Claire Danes lead actress turn. Comedy series lead acting went to Matt Le Blanc for Showtime's Episodes and comedy actress went to Laura Dern, who stars in HBO's Enlightened. Dramatic series acting went to Kelsey Grammer for Boss, which appears on Starz. Supporting honors, which for some reason cover the breadth of comedy, drama and mini-series/movies of the week went to Jessica Lange for FX' American Horror Story and Peter Dinklage for HBO's Game of Thrones. Lead actor and actress in mini-series and movies for television went to Idris Elba for BBC America's Luther and Kate Winslet for HBO's Mildred Pierce.

Are you sensing a pattern in that not one of the TV acting awards went to a broadcast network show.

The Animated Film honors went to The Adventures of Tintin, which everyone mispronounced as in Rin Tin Tin, instead of Tan Tan, the correct way to do so. And the producer of Best Foreign Language Film, A Separation from Iran told us all Iranians "are a loving people." Hopefully they'll overthrow their fundamentalist government.

All in all it was a routine show, with scant entertainment. The highlight for me was when presenters William H. Macy and his wife Felicity Huffman sang a funny song just prior to giving an award.

And thank God for Jane Fonda, the only presenter gutsy enough to get back to basics as she gave the Golden Globe to The Artist, saying "And the winner is." The Golden Globes used to do that, but succumbed to the other awards show habit in recent years with the so-called politically correct "And the Golden Globes goes to."

All in all it was fun to see how many big stars will come to a show that is more style than critical substance, and other than providing the opportunity to see them and hear an occasional acceptance speech of note, the program was lackluster in the main. Yet it was oddly intriguing that lackluster and a diluted dose of Ricky Gervais appeals to me greater than his shockmeister two prior appearances.

Michael Russnow's website is ramproductionsinternational.com