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NBC's Globes: When It Rains, It Pours

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You had to figure that NBC, the Sanjaya of broadcast TV networks, would not emerge un-roasted from its own presentation of the Golden Globes last night. But you might not have expected that the roughest stretch of the broadcast would come not during the monologue or the acceptance speeches, but on the pre-show red carpet.

First the network took a tag-team hit from showbiz royalty Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, being interviewed jointly. Roberts remarked that NBC was “in the toilet,” while Hanks joked that the rain was going to start at 10 but NBC moved it to 11:30. The rain itself seemed like an editorial comment; many of the stars seemed a touch cranky to begin with from trudging down the soaked carpet. Later, NBC star Tina Fey quipped: “It’s not rain. It’s just God crying for NBC.”

After that, even Ricky Gervais’ mockery from the podium had to come as a relief.

For all the buildup, it was only an OK night for Gervais, considering what he’s capable of. He kicked off with a short monologue, featuring a joke about getting a penis reduction (“Just got the one now, that’s enough”), showbiz cracks about plastic surgery and Angelina Jolie’s serial adoption, and finished with a generic NBC crack: “Let’s get going, before they replace me with Jay Leno.”

Gervais did have some cheeky and funny moments as the night went on. He came on stage drinking a beer, on which he blamed any remarks that might have offended anyone, then said that he enjoyed a drink as much as the next man: “unless the next man is—Mel Gibson!,”who was presenting next.

It may partly be that Gervais works better as a counterprogrammer than a programmer—the guy who presents on someone else’s show, goes off on a could-you-believe-he-said-that tear, and makes you wish he’d get his own awards show. I suspect another problem is that Gervais’ comedy is as much about his delivery as his jokes: his adopting a cluelessly self-centered persona, his spinning out a bawdy or awkwardly hilarious riff until you’re gasping.

Awards hosting doesn’t allow that kind of running room, and having to stand up delivering the typical Vilanchian one-liners about celebs seemed to work against him. He did get off one nice Gervaisian run, though, in introducing the screenplay award; inverting the usual homilies about how it’s the unsung writers who make the magic possible, he said, “This category is a bit of a downer, to be honest. It’s about writing. … I don’t want to keep on about actors, but they’re the most important ones.”

As for the awards, I’ll leave it to the film critics to argue the deservingness of Sandra Bullock, or of James Cameron and his giant army of graphics-processing computers. And the TV Globes aren’t worth getting worked up about, pro or con. The Globes are, after all, the idiosyncratic decision of a small foreign-press group, and are much less predictive of the Emmys than even for the Oscars. (For starters, they’re much farther separated on the calendar and cover a different time frame.)

That said, it was a strong night for Showtime, which picked up acting awards for Dexter’s Michael C. Hall (rocking a hat for his cancer treatment) and John Lithgow, as well as Toni Collette for United States of Tara. I was delighted to see Chloe Sevigny pick up a well-deserved award for Big Love, and Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife (getting another Leno dig at NBC by praising CBS for “believing in the 10 p.m. drama”). Mad Men was no surprise for best drama, and Glee really not so much so for the “musical” part of “comedy or musical”; the Globes tend to dig musicals and are quick to reward quirky shows that take chances with clashing tones. (Like Glee creator Ryan Murphy’s earlier Nip/Tuck.)

As for NBC, it’s wait ’til next year. I don’t know if it has any better chance at the podium next time out. But maybe it will at least do better on the red carpet.