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Golden Globes Return to Agent Provocateur Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais hosting Golden Globes
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX Shutterstock

When it came to finding a new host for the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. went back to the future. After three successful years with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as emcees, the 2016 ceremony will mark a return engagement for their predecessor, Ricky Gervais.

“Once we knew Tina and Amy weren’t coming back, you look over the landscape and think about, ‘Who is going to give the show the kind of boost that both Ricky and Tina and Amy did for six years in a row?,’” says kudoscast exec producer Barry Adelman, exec VP of Dick Clark Productions.

“Neither left because they were disgruntled, they left because they thought three years was enough,” Adelman adds. “We thought, ‘Why not ask Ricky again?’ We kind of suspected he had an itch to come back. He loves it, he loves stirring the pot.”

Italian journo Lorenzo Soria, who was elected HFPA prez earlier this year, says the org was firmly behind the idea. “Ricky was always at the top of our list and our thoughts,” Soria says. “The only debate was whether it felt like moving backward than forward. Once we talked with Ricky, we were very excited.”

That excitement was shared by NBC, longtime home of the Globes. The Peacock’s prexy of late night and alternative programming Paul Telegdy says Gervais fits perfectly with both the industry and public perception of the Globes.

“They enjoy the Golden Globes’ status as a looser room than other award shows,” Telegdy says of the HFPA. “It’s got a little bit of a maverick personality. It’s one of the reasons I think it’s preferred to many other award shows, whether you’re lucky enough to attend or to watch, it’s got a very different feel. That maverick status blends nicely with Ricky’s own approach to the evening.”

Happily, despite swearing off the gig after his third year, Gervais was game for a comeback. He brings with him a reputation for poking fun at nominees, presenters and the HFPA itself.

After critically reviled flop “The Tourist” earned three nominations in the comedy feature categories, Gervais cracked at the 2012 ceremony: “I’d like to quash this ridiculous rumor that the only reason ‘The Tourist’ was nominated was so the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That is rubbish, that is not the only reason: they also accepted bribes.”

He’s been having fun with it on Twitter, asking his followers who or what he should poke fun at and retweeting the news about his hosting gig.

Soria says the HFPA learned long ago how to take a joke from Gervais, and his no-holds-barred hosting style is exactly what it’s looking for. “When you deal with Ricky you deal with the unpredictable,” he says. “We know what we’re buying into and we’re happy to do that. He’s a good addition to a show that has the strength of being unpredictable. You can’t plan those (unexpected) moments but you need to have a framework to make that possible.”

And while everyone acknowledges the awards still come first, Adelman plans to keep Gervais involved with the ceremony as much as possible. “The first year he did the joke and walked off, like dropping a grenade,” Adelman says. “As we got into the second and third year of his hosting I loved when he got to interact with some of the presenters who came out. The third year Johnny Depp opened the show, and they did a little ad lib together.”

NBC is already touting Gervais’ return — “‘He’s back’ is a pretty simple marketing hook,” Telegdy acknowledges — and auds can expect a full-court press of “What’s Ricky gonna say?” hype leading up to the Jan. 10 ceremony.

“He can make fun of people sitting in the very room,” Soria says of Gervais. “Does that make him controversial? It makes people talk about him and what he says. I think he’s a good draw for the show.”