Review: A Subdued Gervais Equals a Forgettable Globes

The first-time host did fine, but couldn’t live up to high expectations. Plus: Enough NBC bashing!

Headed into tonight’s Golden Globes, there were two big unanswered questions about the broadcast.

First, would host Ricky Gervais go totally rogue and completely skewer Hollywood? And second, just how many shots would everyone take NBC, which, per Jeff Zucker, has become the Tiger Woods of broadcast networks?

The answer: Not enough and too many, respectively.

The pre-show hype on Gervais was that his status as something less than a full Hollywood insider would give him permission to just blast through all the awards show cliches and completely take the piss out of the room (as they might say across the Pond).

That was never going to be the case. While Gervais may not be a product of this town, he’s no shock comic, either.

Still, despite getting off some good zingers — his introduction of Mel Gibson was beyond brilliant — Gervais seemed a bit off his game. Perhaps it was because he never appeared on stage for more than five minutes (including his opening), he never built much momentum.

It’s almost as if someone at NBC decided that viewers didn’t know Gervais and might get bored or antsy if this unfamiliar dude with the British accent was on stage by himself for too long.

It’s also a shame producers didn’t figure out more ways for Gervais to interact with the other stars in the room. His brief bit with U.S. "Office" star Steve Carell — continuing schtick that started on the 2008 Emmys — was well-played, and it would’ve been fun to see Gervais chat up some other stars.

The good news is that Gervais never brought down the show (despite one too many penis jokes at the top of the awards). He delivered some great lines, kept things moving and didn’t try to piss anyone off just to get an easy laugh.

Less successful were the seemingly endless jokes and jabs at the expense of NBC. Jeff Zucker wasn’t kidding when he compared his network to the disgraced golf legend Tiger Woods.

Starting with the red carpet pre-show (Julia Roberts: "You’re in the toilet now, NBC." Tom Hanks: "It was going to rain at 10 but NBC moved it to 11:30"), it was as if the entire room got the memo that it was OK to bag on the host network.

Even Tina Fey, who’s made millions from the Peacock under Jeff Zucker, couldn’t resist. The rain, she said to Billy Bush, was simply "God crying for NBC."

OK, Fey’s quip was inspired. But most — including the Governator’s predictable tweaking — weren’t particularly funny and felt tired about five minutes into the show. Some, like Juliana Margulies’ reference to 10 p.m. dramas, felt as if they were scripted in advance by publicists.

There’s no doubt that NBC’s travails have gone viral into the pop culture, moving from an industry story to a tabloid-friendly disaster. But couldn’t somebody have told a few Sarah Palin or Obama jokes to break things up?

Likewise, what was with the massive "Shutter Island" promo sandwiched into the middle of the Marty S. homage? One word: Tacky. Two more: Product placement?

Overall, this year’s Globes offered plenty of star wattage but not enough sizzle. Voters’ decision to think even more mainstream than usual for the Globes (Sandra Bullock for best actress!) ensured middle America likely remained engaged throughout the night.

Also, Robert Downey Jr. should teach a course in how to deliver an acceptance speech.

But unlike Globes of the past — which, yes, often felt like a big ol’ Hollywood party — the 2010 show will probably be forgotten faster than the 200,000 tweets it spawned.

It’s up to the new Oscar production team to show ’em how it’s done. Hopefully.