Golden Globes Got a Lot of it Right: Not so With Host Ricky Gervais

The Golden Globes awards show is reputed to be the most fun of all the industry events, because it mixes motion pictures and TV, focuses on glamour rather than technical categories and everyone is sitting at dinner tables, drinking and table hopping throughout the night.

The winners are often surprises, too, and many times, to my mind, get it right even when the organization differs from its more prestigious cousin, The Academy Awards. So, we won't know if Christian Bale will beat Geoffrey Rush at the Oscars, nor Melissa Leo over Mila Kunis. But I hope these wonderful actors from The Fighter prevail.

Indeed, I was pleased with most of the victors, but where the Hollywood Foreign Press Association failed was in its decision to invite Ricky Gervais back to host the show broadcast last night on NBC. Last year I thought he was bad, and this year he was God awful.

From his opening monologue and lame jokes about The Tourist and tasteless barbs aimed at Cher and Hugh Hefner, it was clear the man who often gave us side-splitting moments as a presenter at past awards shows can't seem to connect when he takes the helm of such a program.

I can't figure it out, because I like raunchy humor and was delighted in past occasions when he came forth with zingers that were spot-on, but there's something about hosting the show that makes him lose focus. It's almost as if he's trying too hard because he's now the center of our attention, and it was clear by the audience's reaction, which got more and more muted over the course of the evening, that his jokes were far from appreciated.

It even appeared the stage manager might have given him a signal to stop soon after a joke clearly aimed at Tom Cruise went literally nowhere, because he ended his routine much sooner than usually expected for the monologue. Look, Gervais is very clever, and it's shocking that he's descended to such a level two years in a row. I don't know why, but until he's back in form let's hope the Hollywood Foreign Press Association finds someone who might combine pointed comedy along with a little dignity. Someone like Ellen DeGeneres, who you might recall somehow managed to elicit hysterics from the Emmy audience even with a joke satirizing the perpetrators of the horrific 2001 events in New York and Washington only a month or so after the tragedy. She knew just how far to go and reaped peals of laughter.

I was also delighted when Katey Sagal won for Sons of Anarchy, a terrific drama in its fourth season on FX. Pity, they put her in the "cheap" seats on the second tier and it took forever for her to get to the stage.

Kudos also for Chris Colfer's win for Fox' Glee, and for his encouragement to kids confronted by mindless bullies.

But then we had to listen to Gervais again, this time putting down Robert Downey. Perhaps he thought it was funny juxtaposing the actor's tragic experiences leading to the Betty Ford Clinic and prison. There might have been a way to do so, but Gervais faltered in his attempt. Contrast that with Downey's clearly rehearsed routine wanting to sleep with the actresses who were nominated for Best Comedy. It was risque but hit the mark.

I was happy to see Robert De Niro get his lifetime achievement award, but after his initial remarks he, too, seemed to go on and on with what are by now standard put-downs of the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. One or two jokes might have been fun, but he didn't know when to stop and crossed the line -- in particular as the organization had just gifted him with their highest honor.

Plus, a pet peeve is that writer nominees were not shown, but the directors were, as if people really know who David Fincher and Tom Hooper are, as opposed to Aaron Sorkin and David Seidler. This happens at the Emmys and Oscars, too, and it's time the organizations gave parity. There are very few directors who are recognizable, such as Spielberg, Scorsese and the late Alfred Hitchcock, and, as there were no nominated directors whose faces are truly familiar to the public there was no reason to treat them like celebrities.

Another thing, strangely, was that True Grit wasn't nominated for anything, and while it wasn't my favorite film -- The Fighter and Black Swan were -- I was still surprised.

So, for me it was a mixed bag. Many of my preferences won and I'm hoping they repeat at the Oscars next month. But please, HFPA, do away with your Ricky Gervais fetish and get someone with a little more class combined with humor to handle the chore next year.

Michael Russnow's website is