Why Ricky Gervais Is Returning to the Globes: It's All About Ratings, Baby
For once, the rule of ratings has worked out in our favor as NBC managed to convince the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to invite Ricky Gervais back to host the Golden Globes in 2012, for what will be his third and -- he says final -- time. Last year, Gervais ridiculed Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and the then-president of the HFPA. But he also managed to improve the ratings over the previous year by 2 million viewers, for a total of 16.9 million viewers. The controversial show also made a huge impact on Twitter, where for 34 hours Golden-Globes-related hash tags were in the top 10.
While viewers were still catching their breath after the show, the backlash began, with celebs and commentators complaining that Gervais has crossed the line; there were implications that he would be banned from the show forevermore. Hollywood claimed to be deeply offended.
"You think these people, who operate in a town where casting couching and backstabbing and fake imaging and bearding and cover-upping, you think these people were actually offended by Ricky Gervais?" wrote Elaine Lui of LaineyGossip.com, an eTalk contributor and blogger.
Johnny Depp was one of the targets Gervais hit repeatedly last year, going so far as to joke that the only way the movie got nominated was through bribery. And guess what? Depp is working with Gervais, guesting in a key role in BBC's 'Life's Too Short' (which, incidentally, will launch state-side just around Globes time). Johnny Depp is not offended by Ricky Gervais. Or if he is, he knows his carefully constructed persona as an arty, anti-establishment type can't withstand any actual grumbling. After the 'Pirates' franchise, he needs to keep his cool factor up.
Gervais acknowledges the same thing on his blog, where he wrote about the decision to return to the awards show. "Now here's the thing. The outrage I caused was of course, as usual, totally out of proportion to the things I said. I don't think anyone had any right to be offended but they were."
Of the 62 HFPA members who voted, only 16 voted against Gervais. How offended can they really be?
One of those 16 people, presumably, was Israel-based reviewer Judy Solomon (and the woman in charge of seating at the Globes). She's quoted as saying, "My worry was that he was insulting, and when I invite someone to my house, they don't insult me." But here's the thing -- the Globes don't happen at Judy's house or Hollywood's house, they happen on TV, which has long been called the nation's living room. And it turns out, insults are exactly what we want in our living rooms.
I'm amazed that someone who writes about show business could be surprised by this. What else can we make of the emergence of entire genres dedicated to humiliating washed-up celebs in reality competitions? Or the rise of comedians like Gervais, but also Chelsea Handler, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, who make a living cutting big shots down to size? Or the Comedy Central Roast as reputation rehab?
It's actually sort of delicious to imagine what Gervais will cook up for his next monologue. So many of his targets from last year have only dug themselves into deeper holes. Charlie Sheen was only beginning his downward spiral then, and the May-December romance of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore came in for a few pokes. Can you imagine what Gervais will have to say about George Clooney's latest maybe-fake girlfriend, former pro-wrestler Stacy Keibler? And once again, they'll probably say they're are offended and insulted by the jabs, but seriously? These are all people engaged in some pretty deep lying, betrayal, secret-keeping and destructive behavior. What's more offensive? That Clooney calls his various girlfriends 'the girl' or that Gervais may make fun of him for it on national television?
And how are we supposed to respect these supposedly offended reviewers and stars? Last year they said Gervais would never work in this town again. Now -- for the sake of ratings -- they've not only lifted the ban, they're paying his salary. And then they wonder why viewers aren't adverse to seeing them torn to shreds.