by HFPA November 22, 2009

HFPA shakes up kudofest with a live show and host


STANDUP GUY: Ricky Gervais' selection as host of the upcoming Golden Globes ceremony was a 'collaborative' decision.

What's a venerable awards ceremony to do when ratings are down, other newbie awards shows are nipping at its heels and the world in general is moving at a much faster pace than when it began? Change things up, of course.

Which explains why the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (HFPA) along with NBC-TV and Dick Clark Prods. have decided to do things a bit differently for the 67th Annual Golden Globes Awards, due to air Jan. 17. They will start the shake-up by going with a nationwide live feed at 5 p.m. PST, when the show actually begins at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, rather than a delay to 9 p.m. PST.

"The core of the decision was that the Globes are unique," says Orly Adelson, president of Dick Clark Prods. "They are the first award show of the year, and, being so, the curiosity level is enormous. But today, with the information that comes through so quickly, there's no mystery anymore (after the fact). So the minute it is live, everybody has access to the information via the Internet."

On the subject of the plethora of awards shows, Globes exec producer Barry Adelman says: "We think there's room for everybody, we don't get into competition. We're just worried about our show."

The Globes' Nielsen ratings has plummeted from 26.8 million total viewers in 2004 to 2009's 14.9 million. That's partially a result of the Globes getting KO'd by the writers strike in 2008 (which led to actors refusing to attend the ceremony -- which became a press conference) and then feeling a bit weak in the legs in 2009.

"Two years ago we actually had the strike, and last year we had the same problem with the actors strike looming," Adelson points out. "So in neither case could we come full blown and do the marketing that normally is done for this show. So much energy went into 'will it or won't it' that it held us back in many ways."

So the "collaborative" decision to go live on the West Coast, emulating the Academy Awards, was one way to up the ratings ante. Another is to add a host, for the first time in 15 years.

"The idea of having a host emanated from DCP and Barry Adelman," says HFPA prexy Philip Berk. "He felt that it would certainly help the show if we had a host, in the sense that you can get a lot of pre-publicity over having a host.

"I told him that most of the awards shows are trying to emulate us, and the fact is that our show is driven by awards. We don't have musical numbers, we don't have standup routines, and this is what most of the critics, and we assume most of the public, find so attractive about the Golden Globes. So the idea of being regressive and going back and doing what the others are doing, and failing at doing, seemed completely a nonissue for us."

But the HFPA, DCP and NBC happily came to an agreement over one man, who said yes to their offer.
Berk recalls telling his cohorts, "The idea of a host is absolutely something that the Hollywood Foreign Press is not going to even entertain. The only person who I feel could possibly do anything for the show, who could really make a difference, and who I would accept as host would be Ricky Gervais. But he'll never do it!"

Gervais, who made his hosting announcement complete with a bottle of beer in his hand, is sure to keep up the tradition of the Golden Globes being a slightly tipsy affair, where anything can happen. Be it Jack Nicholson in a well-lubricated state (was it Valium as he claimed, or the Moet Champagne that is prominently displayed/advertised on every table every year?), Christine Lahti winning while in the john, Liz Taylor losing it while trying hard to present the best picture award or Ving Rhames giving his award away to competitor Jack Lemmon, the Globes are always what its promoters insist on calling "the party of the year."

No matter how the national live feed plays out this year, it really isn't the free-flowing booze that makes the HFPA's annual party such a laugh.

"The truth is that the party atmosphere is not based on the fact that there's booze up on the table or anything like that," Berk insists. "This party atmosphere is mainly because of what we have -- this fabulous pit, which no other awards show has -- in which you have, within arm's length of each other, the most important producers, studio executives, all the movers and shakers of Hollywood. That's where the party atmosphere comes from, the fact that we have this intimacy that no other awards show has. And then the booze on the table, well, we've never had people getting drunk, because all we serve is the Moet Champagne and the wine."

© Copyright 2009 , a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.