Awards show stays with what works despite lawsuit

As HFPA prexy Philip Berk put it only a week ago, “We thought, ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ “

Well, maybe something was just a little bit cracked, after all. On Nov. 18, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. filed a lawsuit against Dick Clark Prods., claiming trademark infringement, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty — among a few other things — against the longtime producer of its Golden Globes telecast.

In a statement, a DCP spokeswoman dismissed the lawsuit: “Our respective rights under the contract are clear. The HFPA cannot unilaterally change the basis on which DCP and the HFPA have done business for almost three decades.”

Berk wasn’t commenting further on the matter.

Nor was the exec producer of the telecast for DCP, Barry Adelman, who let stands statements he made to Variety before the lawsuit blew.

Ricky Gervais, again, will host the 68th annual Golden Globes Awards. And one can only imagine the lawsuit gags that will dominate the conversation on the dais of the Beverly Hilton Hotel come Jan. 16.

With 2 million more viewers last year (a ratings increase from 14.9 million to 16.9 million), the telecast certainly recovered nicely from the Writer’s Guild strike debacle of 2008. But is still struggling to approach its heyday in 2004, when it drew 26.8 million viewers.

Adelman says he believes Gervais will help to continue that upward trend in viewership.

“Ricky was the right fit,” Adelman says. “We would not have gone to a host in the first place, just to go to a host. He had that sense of irreverence that fits the Globes. He’s a little bit of a bad boy, you’re not sure what he is going to say. He’s unpredictable — just like the show has always been.”

More important, the show will again air live across the country.

“It was a big boon to us last year when NBC decided to let us go live coast to coast. That’s really important in this day of instant information, because the Globes is all about who won and what happened, and if you get that information before it airs in the later time zones, it’s not as much fun,” Adelman says. “So I think that everybody shares the moment at the same time, and that immediacy really helped the ratings.”

But there will be a few changes this year.

“We have a new director this year, Louis J. Horvitz,” Adelman announces. “Plus, we are planning some very interesting approaches to the set this year. I can’t be any more explicit than that, but we are hoping to inject something in a visual way that we have never done before.”

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