How does the ethics-challenged Golden Globes survive?

Host Ricky Gervais, who bit the hand that hired him.
Host Ricky Gervais, who bit the hand that hired him.
Posted: January 18, 2011

There's tarnish on them thar Globes.

In the run-up to the show, a lawsuit filed by two disgruntled employees alleged that the group awarding the Golden Globes had received kickbacks from broadcast advertisers.

Then, at its 68th annual awards ceremony Sunday night, Ricky Gervais, snarkmaster of ceremonies, joked that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, those 82 journalists of questionable repute who confer the honors, accept bribes in exchange for nominations.

Is this just the latest embarrassment for the much-maligned outfit? Or is it a sign that the sweetheart relationship between the Globes and the entertainment industry has soured?

Already, wags are dubbing the awards "The Golden Bribes."

On Sunday, when The Social Network took home four Globes, Glee three, and The Fighter and Boardwalk Empire two apiece, Gervais wasn't the only one who made fun of the evening's host organization.

Robert De Niro, the Oscar-winning actor of The Godfather: Part II and Raging Bull, accepted the Globes' Cecil B. De Mille honors by biting the hand that awarded him.

"The important thing is we're all in this together," he said, "both the filmmakers who make the movies, and the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press who, in turn, pose for pictures with the movie stars."

Gervais' cracks elicited more gasps than giggles, especially when he slammed a movie that received two Globe nominations. Referring to the glut of 3-D films released in 2010, Gervais mocked, "Everything last year was in three dimensions - except for the characters in The Tourist."

Unless it's a roast, typically the host does not demean the host organization as Gervais did Sunday night. Proceeding from outrageously funny at the top of the show to merely outrageous for the rest, Gervais seemed to be feeding off unease about the value of the Globes themselves.

But he was single-minded in puncturing the pomp and hypocrisy of the event that one veteran industry analyst pooh-poohed as "the last high-profile award you can buy a nomination for." From Gervais to De Niro to supporting-actor winner Christian Bale (The Fighter), those at the lectern abetted this hypocrisy by mocking the Globes while accepting its gifts.

The Globes have had a Technicolorful history, replete with ethical lapses and federal investigations.

In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission, finding that the Globes voting procedures were "highly irregular," reprimanded NBC for broadcasting the event.

In 1981, after millionaire Meshulam Riklis flew Globes members to Las Vegas to preview Butterfly, starring his starlet wife, Pia Zadora, the group voted her "most promising actress." This gave rise to speculation that a Globe could be bought for the price of a plane ticket and a platter of cold cuts.

The ensuing scandal did not permanently taint the Globes. Nor did the Los Angeles Times' 1981 investigation that reported that some association members did not represent the publications they claimed to write for. And nor did the 1992 stink about Scent of a Woman, when the membership was flown to New York to screen the film, which went on to win two Globes, for the film and its star, Al Pacino.

What explains the durability of this much-maligned awards show? It is mutually beneficial for studios, networks, and stars.

The studios use the Globes as free advertising for their movies. The network uses the Globes as a star-studded ratings magnet. Sunday night's telecast drew about 17 million viewers - the same as last year, when Gervais also hosted. (NBC still lost the night to CBS, which got a major boost from the NFL playoff game between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots). The stars use the Globes to advance their visibility, bankability, and Oscar campaigns. The beauty and fashion industries use the stars as a free promotion for their new colors, labels, and products.

That's advertainment!


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.

Read her blog, "Flickgrrl,"

at http://www.philly.com/

philly/blogs/flickgrrl/

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