Roush Review: Gervais the Golden Viper
Did everyone enjoy Sunday night's barbeque at the Beverly Hilton? By which of course I mean Ricky Gervais slaughtering any number of sacred cows while torching some of Hollywood's most prodigious egos. As host of the otherwise innocuous Golden Globe Awards for the second (and possibly last) time, he didn't just bite the proverbial hand, he spit it back out and mocked it again for good measure.
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On a night of glittery hype where so little feels authentic — although I do believe Glee's Chris Colfer was truly and wonderfully stunned by his win — the gasps in the ballroom at some of Gervais' most shockingly irreverent snarks were the real thing. In comedy terms, Gervais was The Fighter, much sharper and more fearless than a year ago. And most anyone who tried to fight back came away bloodied.
Like Bruce Willis, who Gervais brought on stage by reading a laundry list of his flops (an old joke) and adding a nasty skewer by introducing him as "Ashton Kutcher's dad" (a newer joke). Willis, seeming to be biting his tongue, fumbled as he attempted to quip, "Sometimes Hollywood does provide you with outrageous fortune. Ricky." Dude. Really. Don't even try.
Or when the obscure president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, about whom Gervais joked he "had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in," countered with, "Next time you want me to help you qualify your movies, go to another guy." What does that even mean? And: Shut up.
Gervais' first target in his opening monologue was an expected one. "It's gonna be a night of partying and heavy drinking — or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast." But then he moved on to the elite in the room. "Seems like everything this year was three-dimensional. Except the characters in The Tourist." (Groans and nervous laughter.) He said he hadn't seen the movie yet — "Who has?" — and then addressed the conventional wisdom that the critically despised film only got its nominations because the Foreign Press wanted to suck up to its stars, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. ("They also accepted bribes," he quipped.) The movie's an easy target, but its stars are Globes royalty, more accustomed to kid gloves than an open pummeling.
More greatest hits from his opening set: Taking on the "air-brushed" Sex and the City ladies: "Girls, we know how old you are. I saw one of you in an episode of Bonanza." Bazinga! And referring to the snub of I Love You, Phillip Morris, in which straight actors pretend to be gay: "So, the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then." A double whammy! Taking on allegedly closeted superstars and Scientology in one blow. Gervais For The Win!
"I warned 'em," Gervais shrugged, after finishing a bit about Hugh Hefner's new bride-to-be gagging and checking her watch while pleasuring the octogenarian playboy.
If this turns out to be Gervais' going-for-broke swan song as host — and it often felt that way, as he flipped the bird to the Almighty in his sign-off ("Thank you to God for making me an atheist") — might we suggest signing up Robert Downey, Jr. for the gig next year? After Gervais introduced him by saying, "Many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail," Downey took a bow and drolly shot back, "Aside from the fact that he has been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister overtones, I'd say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn't you?"
The audience ate that up — and roared at Downey's flirtatious innuendo to all of the movie-comedy actress nominees, including an age-inappropriate Emma Stone. "I'm just saying if I could, I'd give it to all five of you. At once." The award, that is.
Gervais was on such a roll of delicious rudeness that when he disappeared from view for a noticeably long time — not even emerging to tweak the appearance of Justin Bieber, for badness sake — Twitter nearly exploded as critics and other observers wondered if he'd already been shown the door. Fact: It's not uncommon for awards-show hosts to take a back seat as the show runs on and there's less time for their shenanigans. But you couldn't help wonder in some cases if they were playing favorites with certain presenters by not subjecting them to the Full Ricky.
Not to worry. Gervais came back late in the show to insult the presenting team of Tom Hanks (whose illustrious credits he read at length) and Tim Allen (not so lucky). Prompting Hanks to remark, "Like many of you, we recall back when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian." With Allen adding, rather bitterly (or was it an act), "Neither of which he is now."
In one of the night's weirder segments, Robert DeNiro accepted his lifetime achievement award by trying to ape Gervais' satirical style, with the results feeling less Raging Bull than rambling bull. He mocked the Foreign Press for their tendency to pose for pictures with the movie stars they cover (fair game), told a clumsy deportation joke that extended to the waiters in the room (no class) and attempted a Homeland Security gag that fell flat. His best line: "These movies, all of them are like my children. Except my children are more expensive, and you can't remake them in 3D to push up their grosses." This was easily the least sentimental Cecil B. DeMille award presentation I've ever seen, which seems appropriate given the ceremony's sardonic tone.
But what, you might ask, about the night's winners? From the movie side, the Globes sent a signal for Oscar handicappers that The Social Network is the movie to beat, that The Fighter is a major contender where supporting actors are concerned, and that Natalie Portman and Colin Firth are front-runners in their respective lead categories.
In TV, Glee continues to dominate in the music-comedy field, with wins for show, Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch, unfortunately shutting out the superior Modern Family. Jim Parsons' victory for The Big Bang Theory is a rare instance of a Globe win for terrific work in a traditional multi-camera sitcom.
Cable, expectedly, cleaned up elsewhere, with awards darling HBO trumping upstart AMC and longtime champ Mad Men with a strong showing for Boardwalk Empire (best drama and actor Steve Buscemi). Katey Sagal scored a satisfying underdog win for her best-of-show work in FX's Sons of Anarchy, while Laura Linney beat her Showtime rivals for best comedy actress in The Big C. Claire Danes (Temple Grandin) and Al Pacino (You Don't Know Jack) repeated their Emmy wins, but HBO's sweep of the movie/mini categories was stalled by Sundance Channel's sprawling crime epic Carlos upsetting The Pacific.
None of which we're likely to remember by the time the Emmys roll around this fall. We're left wondering whether the Emmys can find a host to top Gervais. Or if they'd even want to. This is scorched-earth hosting, and I'm pretty sure the Emmys wouldn't dream of risking it.
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