Ricky Gervais achieved infamy in 2010 as one of the awards season’s most caustic hosts, leveling his savage wit at all manner of Hollywood royalty during the Golden Globes broadcast. The following year, countless pieces were written in anticipation of his return engagement, speculating as to whether or not Gervais would again be so ruthless and biting. He was.
In fact, he was so brutal that president Philip Berk of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the folks behind the Golden Globes) said Gervais "definitely crossed the line... some of the things were totally unacceptable." And yet, somehow, against all odds, Gervais is coming back for a third stint as the show’s MC.
So now the question is, will Gervais again go for broke or will he play nice? I think the smart money says Gervais, who’s vowed this is his last time doing the gig, goes out in a blaze of glory, skewering everyone in the room.
But our PopcornBiz contributor Sasha Perl-Raver doesn't see it that way. Here's our dueling predictions:
Sasha Perl-Raver: Gervais is back for one reason only: Publicity. The HFPA have long been accused/criticized of making choices based on keeping a high profile rather than merit or even desire. (Hello, last year's multiple nods for "The Tourist"?) All the attention Gervais earned them is undoubtedly the reason he's been invited back. They want ratings and people will be fascinated to see if he has another flame-fest or plays nicey-nice. But Gervais is equally on the hunt for attention and an American film career. Sure, thanks to "The Office," he's made unimaginable, Scrooge McDuck-style stacks of cheddar, but all his self-deprecating quips about not being as famous as Steve Carell are just pointed enough to reveal some angst lurking beneath the funny. He may need to tone it down to earn some old-fashioned American love.
Scott Ross: I couldn't agree more on the desire for attention—which is exactly why Gervais will come out guns a-blazing. Pain and cruelty are the very essence of humor, and being funny has always been priority #1 for Gervais. It’s also how he made himself all those ka-jillions of dollars. And who gets publicity for being nice? Can you imagine this news coming out if the Globes?
During last night’s Golden Globes broadcast a stunned room full of celebrities sat in stony silence as emcee Ricky Gervais showered the assembled stars with hosannas and air-kisses. ‘I honestly don’t know what came over me the previous two years. The simple fact is, my love for each of you is dwarfed only by my envy of your universal adoration,’ gushed a teary Gervais. Reports are that at some point between the show’s closing credits and the first after-party, a bidding war broke out, one that ended with Gervais inking a six-picture deal with Universal Studios.
Not happening, right?
SPR: I'm not so sure, buddy. There was a good 30-minute section of last year's awards where the host was conspicuously absent, no doubt getting a mighty spanking from the higher-ups, only to return to the stage looking browbeaten and drawn. As much as I hope you're right and Ricky does what Ricky does, I think outside of a few, "Hey, remember how out of control I was last year?" tongue-in-apologetic-cheek jokes at the start of the show, I think Gervais will be on good (read: boooooring) behavior.
SR: I just see zero upside for Gervais if he plays it straight. The HFPA clearly has no real problem with his behavior, stars like Mel Gibson and Johnny Depp have taken some of the funnyman's sharpest barbs in stride, and as Gervais told our colleague Matt Lauer earlier this week, "I deal in taboo subjects... I like to take the audience to places that it hasn't been before. Otherwise, what's the point?”