LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Host Ricky Gervais may have turned off the audience members and critics at Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards, but viewers seemed turned on, watching the show in larger numbers than one year ago.
The Golden Globes, an annual film and TV awards show in Hollywood, drew just under 17 million total viewers to network NBC, which was up slightly from 2010 when British comedian Gervais, who is known for his acerbic sense of humor, hosted for the first time, according to audience figures released on Monday.
Last year's ceremony was up 14 percent from 2009's roughly 15 million viewers, and the upward trend shows the telecast is recovering somewhat from the 2008 Hollywood writers strike which reduced the Globes to a news conference.
Still, this year's viewership of 16.99 million show is down from 2007, when some 20 million viewers tuned in to watch Hollywood's A-list stars parade up the red carpet in their finest gowns and tuxedos and, for the lucky few, accept awards for movies, TV shows, performances and music.
Gervais' hosting duties on Sunday night brought some often harsh criticism from reviewers. During the show, the comedian took shots at Charlie Sheen's drinking and partying, Robert Downey, Jr.'s years-ago issues with drugs and alcohol, the critically panned movie "The Tourist" that was nominated for best comedy, and even the organizers of the show.
His sense of humor on the ceremony's center stage was so caustic that Downey, Jr., remarked on stage that Sunday's ceremony was "unusually mean-spirited."
Many critics seemed to agree. Los Angeles Times TV critic Mary McNamara wrote on Monday that "it quickly became clear that his material wasn't just falling flat, it was making many audience members and presenters uncomfortable and even angry."
Washington Post reviewer Hank Stuever wrote, "Somehow Gervais has lost some of his ability to be funny about being true."
Editing by Cynthia Osterman