Ricky Gervais Keeps It Tame At Golden Globes: A Look Back At The Most Controversial Awards Hosts

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Last night, it would appear that Ricky Gervais redeemed himself as a suitable host for the Golden Globes. After the furore surrounding his controversial routine last year, he had evidently opted to tone things down a little. But after the public (as well as the celebrities in attendance at the awards) had braced themselves for an even more spiteful display from the British comedian, many were left disappointed that he decided to play it safe. Last year, he mocked Charlie Sheen, whose apparent mental health problems were already being exploited by more unsympathetic media and Gervais found himself criticised for picking on vulnerable targets.

Last night, though, the closest that he got to such cruelty was joking about the paternity suit that was temporarily plaguing Justin Bieber last year. Gervais joked "What a waste of a (paternity) test that would have been. No, he's not the father. The only way he could have impregnated the girl was if he borrowed one of Martha Stewart's old turkey basters. Open wide." There's something rather unbecoming about a 50 year old man publicly mocking a teenage boy but even so, by Gervais' standards, even Bieber's Beliebers will probably let that one slide. If he'd been arguing that Justin was the father, that may have upset the applecart somewhat more.

Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon. The 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards (Golden Globes 2012) held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel - Outside Arrivals. Los Angeles, California - 15.01.12
The broadcasters of the ceremony, NBC seemed anxious to censor anything too outlandish that Gervais may have slipped back into the script that they had screened prior to the event but in booking Gervais for another year, they knew that they were guaranteeing themselves a huge and curious TV audience. He has said himself that this will most likely be the last time that he presents the awards but after the lacklustre ceremony last night, they will probably feel that he has served his purpose. Is it time for the Hollywood Free Press Association to move on and search for another host? At least they can rest easy in the knowledge that Ricky didn't savage the awards' reputation, as he came close to doing in 2011. There have, after all, been far, far worse moments in the history of the awards ceremony.

From the moment that Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood took to the stage for the BRIT awards in 1989, viewers would have been able to sense that this was far from a match made in heaven. With the lanky, well-spoken Fleetwood Mac founder towering over the pint-sized glamour girl with her pink hair, they made an unusual pair, even with their curiously matching outfits. A balding, straggly haired blues drummer and a busty pin-up girl turned pop star struggling through a poorly organised show with broken autocues did not make for comfortable viewing.

As they worked their way, very very slowly, through what was an excruciatingly awkward script anyway, the frequent periods of dead air, missed cues and missing video links, the newly-branded wards ceremony became a laughing stock. It took the UK's television broadcasters 17 years to get over the trauma - the BRITS were not broadcast live again until 2007.

Ricky Gervais . The 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards (Golden Globes 2012) held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel - Outside Arrivals. Los Angeles, California - 15.01.12
Even that was a risk, though, as they had selected the fast-tongued live-wire that is Russell Brand to host the event, on ITV (perhaps the BBC needed more than 17 years to recover and passed on the offer?) In a similar vein to Ricky Gervais' humour, Brand's unruly hosting style prompted over 300 complaints, as he referred to ROBBIE WILLIAM's recent venture into rehab, as well as referring to a British soldier being killed in a 'friendly fire' incident in Iraq.

Perhaps the news of his performance didn't make it over to the United States because the following year he was asked to host the 2008 MTV Music Video awards, which was celebrating its 25th year with a Hollywood ceremony. Suffering the same response to British humour that Gervais has done, his decision to refer to George Bush as a "retarded cowboy fella" did not go down well with his American audience. The self-confessed sex addict also spent a large portion of the night mocking the concept of the 'purity' ring - such as those worn by the clean-living Jonas Brothers and found himself criticised onstage by the R&B singer Jordin Sparks, who defended the wearing of the rings.

With the Golden Globes considered by many as the little-sister ceremony to the Oscars, heads are now turning expectantly to this year's hosts of that most celebrated of awards ceremonies. With last year's presenters, Anne Hathaway and James Franco condemned for their wooden performances last year, the Academy were almost certainly keen to seek approval with their choices for the 2012 ceremony. No doubt they thought they had struck gold when they signed up the comedian Eddie Murphy and the film director Brett Ratner to do the job.

Their heads must surely have been firmly in their palms then, when Ratner was caught on tape, promoting a new film and joking with a squirming interviewer that "rehearsal is for 'fags'." The homophobic slur landed him in seriously hot water with the Academy and he was promptly given the boot from presenting duties. It didn't take long for Eddie Murphy to follow suit. Without his creative partner by his side, it would seem, Murphy no longer wanted the job either.

Possibly having run out of viable options or possibly deciding to play it safe, the awards' organisers returned to one of their stalwart presenters to take the reigns. Billy Crystal, who has presented the Oscars eight times previously, has always been well-received in the role. Acknowledging the fact that Billy Crystal's relevance may be called into question, the first trailer for the 2012 Oscars pokes fun at the fact that Billy hasn't been seen in the presenting role since 2004.

In 1992, Billy arrived onstage dressed as Hannibal Lecter, entered the audience and said to Anthony Hopkins (who played the role of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs) "I've invited some of the Academy over for dinner - want to come?" The joke was met with smiles and laughter all 'round and perhaps it's this tasteful brand of humour that is required at an awards night like the Oscars. Cruel jibes, slander and gossip can be found almost anywhere in the tabloid press and on the Internet. It seems that the Academy have opted for a more sophisticated approach and are taking steps to steer the attention of the lead-up to their ceremony away from any potential dramas and towards the quality of the films being considered for the prestigious awards. When Ricky Gervais said last night that the Golden Globes are "just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem" he wasn't far off the mark. For years, the Academy Awards have been the highlight of the movie industry's calendar. Revered and watched by millions, there's no need for the Academy to resort to generating empty hype about what their presenters may or may not do. They'll let the movies speak for themselves.

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Tags: Ricky Gervais - Charlie Sheen - Justin Bieber - Martha Stewart - NBC - Sam Fox - Mick Fleetwood - Fleetwood Mac - Russell Brand - George W Bush - Jonas Brothers - Jordin Sparks - Anne Hathaway - James Franco - Eddie Murphy - Brett Ratner - Billy Crystal - Anthony Hopkins

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