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TV review: Golden Globes - bring us the head of Ricky Gervais

The celebrities were out in full force to celebrate the best in television and film at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif.

At least give the Golden Globes credit for a brutal adherence to momentum. The only slow spots are when they stop to "introduce" clips for all the nominees for the best film categories (drama, as well as comedy or musical), which not only seems unnecessary, it also serves to emphasize how the Golden Globes nominations seem to exist in a parallel reality ("Burlesque"? Hey, it took best song. But "The Tourist"? "Red"? "Alice in Wonderland"? And not a single speck of "True Grit"?).

The question we must ask every Golden Globes show: What are these lucky stars winning exactly? Answer: an ephemeral triumph at best, their photos on fashion and gossip Web sites for a news cycle, and barely anything for the trivia books.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association - made up of between 80 and 90 men and women with press credentials who cover, or perhaps sort of cover, the film industry for a variety of overseas news outlets - has been doling out Golden Globe awards since 1944. The awards come with but one true intent: publicity. (The HFPA also says that advertising and network proceeds from its awards show has helped raise some $11 million for charity.)

People of award-show discernment, from actual journalists to the film aesthete who organizes your office Oscar pool, carped for years that the Globes were all but a sham event, rife with favors and payoffs.

Stirring that sentiment late last week, the Globes' former head publicist sued the HFPA for $2 million for terminating his contract in 2010. In his suit, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, the longtime publicist, Michael Russell, calls some of the group's award-show practices "unethical and potentially unlawful." The suit claims that HFPA members accept trips and gifts from studios in exchange for nominating films, while others accept payment to lobby other members' votes.

"That's rubbish," Gervais cracked, as he made a joke about how HFPA were influenced by quality time with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. "That is rubbish. They also accepted bribes." (A joke! Right?)

"Some of them were taken to a Cher concert," Gervais went on, referencing the sexagenarian star of "Burlesque." "How is that a bribe? 'Do you want to go see Cher?' 'No.' 'Why not?' 'Because it's not 1975.' "

Later in the broadcast, Philip Berk, president of the HFPA and correspondent for an Australian film magazine, seemed to dodder out and jab back at Gervais, warning the comedian not to get his hopes up about ever having any movies nominated for a Golden Globe. The whole thing has always had an unseemly feel to it, even if it's just the booze talking. (Why else does anyone watch the Golden Globes but to witness all these famous people drink like fish? Or Paul Giamatti, who won best actor in a comedy film for "Barney's Version," wig out on five boxes - ?! - of complimentary Godiva chocolates?)

Here in the supercelebrity age of four-hour red-carpet pre-shows and cutthroat fashion commentary, criticism of the Globes has dissipated. In the last decade or so, the show found its identity as a piece of junk for junky times - a kickoff to an awards-show season that will culminate with the Academy Awards on Feb. 27.

Some regard the show as the Iowa caucus in a Hollywood campaign for ticket sales and marketing, but it's more like the White House Correspondents' Association dinner - no one can quite tell you why it even exists, nor is anyone willing to put a stop to it.

For television fans, the Globes are a good way to acknowledge some of the better new shows and performances in the midseason, instead of waiting for the Emmys in late August.

Also, the Globes acknowledge that the barriers between TV and film are more porous than ever - the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton was packed with actors who happily flit between the forms, and categories are crammed with film stars now doing their best work in boutique cable offerings, such as Al Pacino's win for HBO's "You Don't Know Jack" and Laura Linney's win for Showtime's "The Big C."

In happy news, Katey Sagal won best actress in a TV drama for her consistently good (and underappreciated) role as the motorcycle gang matriarch on FX's "Sons of Anarchy," which is the best movie that's actually a sprawling TV series. And "Carlos," the meticulously long (51/2 hours, for those of us who still can't believe we ate the whole thing) movie about the nefarious life of terrorist Carlos the Jackal, won for best TV miniseries or movie.

Chris Colfer, one of the "Glee" kids (Kurt, the gay one who fled the bullies of fictional McKinley High to join a private school's glee club), won best supporting actor in a TV series, and spoke out against bullies everywhere.

But who wouldn't be surprised if someone didn't bully Gervais the moment school lets out tomorrow?

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