NEW YORK (AP) -- Were they watering down the drinks at the Golden Globes awardscast?
The stellar party that is supposed to be the Globes turned out to be something of a dud. Instead, it was much like any tightly choreographed, well-behaved awards show. There were glamorous presenters, winners announced, awards received graciously, and then on to the next category.
Husband-and-wife presenters Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy sang a comic little ditty before announcing their winner. It was a startling departure from the pro forma style that governed the evening.
Maybe the night's highlight: Best dramatic actress winner Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") erupted with a bleeped s-word as she realized she had left her glasses at her table and would have to rely on memory to make her acceptance remarks, which she struggled awkwardly to get through.
Mostly, the show was on automatic pilot. It was a crushing disappointment for anyone eagerly awaiting what naughtiness Ricky Gervais would have up his sleeve on this, his third consecutive year hosting the show.
"The Golden Globes are to the Oscars," he had cracked in his monologue, "what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton -- a bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker. ..."
But Sunday's Globescast, aired on NBC, wasn't trashy or drunken, even if Gervais always had what appeared to be a glass of beer within reach. It was three hours of sleek monotony.
His monologue had its share of barbs, but it fell short of the standard for which Gervais is known, and came nowhere close to last year's acerbic tone that had everyone debating his performance afterward: Had he crossed the line or just broken new ground?
This year, he played it safe.
"Nervous? Don't be," he grinned at the room-full of glitterati at the top of the show. "Tonight you get Britain's biggest comedian, hosting the world's second-biggest awards show, on America's third-biggest network." He corrected himself: "Its fourth."
After last year's shindig, when Gervais insulted nearly everyone in sight, including the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association ("I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in," cracked Gervais), an invitation back for the British wag seemed doubtful.
But the Globes loves to court outrageous behavior. That meant another turn for Gervais as host. In fact, as he explained in his monologue, he had been warned by the HFPA that were he to insult anyone on hand, or "offend any viewers, or cause any controversy whatsoever -- they'll definitely invite me back next year, as well."
Then Gervais went on to praise a nominated HBO series, "Boardwalk Empire."
"I love that show," he said. "It's about a load of immigrants who came to America about a hundred years ago, and they got involved in bribery and corruption and worked their way up into high society. But enough about the Hollywood Foreign Press."
And he didn't pass up the chance to make gratuitous fun of the title of Jodie Foster's 2011 film, "The Beaver." In the audience, Foster seemed amused.
Unlike last year, few rose to his bait and challenged his mouthiness.
An exception was Madonna, whom Gervais brought on as a presenter. He introduced her as "just like a virgin," then erupted with a theatrical cough.
Madonna fired back: "If I'm still just like a virgin, Ricky, then why don't you come over here and do something about it?" She paused. "I haven't kissed a girl in a few years. ..."
A camera caught Gervais comedically dashing off stage.
When Gervais dropped an f-bomb, the censors were ready and the moment came and went.
"They're ridiculously gorgeous specimens, they're extremely talented, and probably very interesting," Gervais had declared as he introduced presenters Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek late in the show. "I'm not sure," he went on, as censors instantly zapped the rest of his quip that went something like, "I couldn't understand a (expletive) word they said."
A few minutes later, Gervais boasted, "It's so good having a job where you can get drunk and say what you want, and they still pay you."
But maybe he wasn't drunk enough, or on the air enough, to keep the Globes lively. He seemed to be mostly drinking alone.