Rumors of Ricky Gervais hosting this year's Golden Globes had been circulating for a few weeks, but it seemed too good to be a true. One of the funniest men on television or in the movies emceeing Hollywood's biggest awards show "party"? And a Brit who plays to audiences in America to boot? Considering the Globes haven't had a host in eons it seemed like wishful thinking. So, today's news that Gervais is on board is nothing but a tremendous coup for an awards show hoping to get back on track.
Between 1999 and 2004, the Golden Globes became a major ratings player peaking with 26 million viewers in 2004. Comparatively, that was a pretty big year for the Oscars as well with the Granddaddy of all award shows finding 43 million viewers, but overall the last decade found the Globes audience increasing and Oscars dwindling until a rebound this past February. This meant everyone in the Globes game including NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were reaping the rewards with higher revenue and rights fees. The show, which had always just been a popular spot on the awards season trail ramping up to Oscar, actually became a serious marketing platform for January and February releases (or expansions of previously limited runs). And suddenly, networks started taking wins in the television categories seriously as they became barometers for possible Emmy nods the following September (although I'll let my colleague Mr. Fienberg wax more on that if he'd like). And then suddenly, it all came to a disastrous halt with the Writer's Guild strike two years ago.
With the show reduced to a bizarre 30 minute press conference due to possible protests by the striking writers and boycotts from supporting actors (and let me tell you it was stranger in person than on TV), the ratings crashed. When the show returned strike-free last year it found its lowest ratings in over a decade with only 14.6 million viewers. Bringing in a host may be one new element that could help turn the tide.
For anyone who has watched the show regularly its obvious why they have never had a host let alone musical performances on a regular basis before. There are so many awards to give out they show could go on for hours if it was as elaborately staged as the Oscars or even the Emmys. Plus, the Globes have made a name for themselves by letting the winners speak their mind -- many times intoxicated minds -- for some of the most off the cuff acceptance speeches this side of the Independent Spirit Awards. Truly, half the fun is watching the telecast is checking out the audience and figuring out which of your favorite stars is more buzzed than the other. And that's why Gervais is such a great selection as host. Not only is he a marvel at improvising and working a room (as his appearances as a presenter on the Emmys and Oscars have shown in the past), but he can really take down his peers without making them want to punch him afterward. Moreover, no one will expect Gervais to hold his tongue regarding the HFPA itself. This may be the true roast the organization has never had, which ironically may only serve to legitimize them even more. Thats a win for Gervais, win for the HFPA, win for TV viewers and a possible uptick in ratings for NBC.
Gervais noted in the NBC press release that he's turned down numerous offers to host before (although that rumored Oscar offer last year is completely untrue), but he couldn't have found a better event to debut with. His temperament may not be right for the Academy, but a Globes try out can only help his chances for landing the bigger gig down the road.
As for the Oscars, word is Mr. Sherak an Mr. Shankman are still searching for a host. Good luck gentleman, the clock is ticking.
The Golden Globes will air live on NBC on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010 at 8 PM EST/ 5 PM PST.
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