Sacha Baron Cohen's "anus" or a 24's mushroom cloud over Los Angeles?
TV viewers had divergent entertainment options Monday night, and, by a tidy margin, opted for Cohen's "anus," as featured on the 64th Annual Golden Globes.
Some 20 million star-gazers, on average, braved the Borat star's revealing acceptance speech and less-explicit Globe moments during the three-hour NBC awards-show telecast, overnight Nielsen Media Research estimates showed Tuesday. (Check out our complete Golden Globes coverage.)
Opposite the Globes, the second night of Fox's 24 premiere blowout—literally—held its own, averaging an estimated 15.7 million, approximately the same number of terror-attack voyeurs who caught Sunday's episodes.
Viewership for Monday's 24 peaked in the 9 p.m.-9:30 p.m. half-hour, with an estimated 16.5 million. The show lost about 300,000 presumably faint-of-heart fans during its final, nuclear-bomb-detonating 30 minutes.
Overall, the shocker of a storyline didn't really shake up 24's ratings. Its sixth-season openers ran about even with last year's fifth-season openers. The Sunday episodes were down (last year's doubleheader averaged 16.3 million), but the Monday episodes were up (from 14.9 million).
The Globes, meanwhile, appeared headed to cracking the 20-million viewer mark for the first time since the 2004 show, when box-office blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the King was in high season.
If the Globe estimates hold, Monday's show will be up about 7 percent from last year and about 20 percent from the disaster that was The Aviator-honoring 2005 telecast.
Globes viewership hit a high of 21.6 million viewers during the 10 p.m.-10:30 p.m. half-hour, around the time Cohen was picking up his award for Best Comedy/Musical Actor—Motion Picture, and paying tribute to the "two wrinkled Golden Globes" of costar Ken Davitian.
In Borat, Cohen's and Davitian's Kazakhstani alter egos share a tender, nude wrestling scene. At the Globes, Cohen described Davitian's "anus and testicles" as the dark side of America.
The Federal Communications Commission said it could not comment Tuesday on whether it had received complaints on Cohen's acceptance speech. But history suggests it probably has heard from somebody—even Chris Rock's reminder to Academy Award attendees to "sit their asses down" at the 2005 Oscars prompted "several" complaints, a 2006 FCC order said.
History also suggests that NBC won't be in hot water for Cohen's "anus." For one thing, the remark aired after 10 p.m., when indecency standards are more lax. And for another thing, per findings from the same 2006 FCC order, anus-related phrases such as "kiss my ass," "fire his ass" and "wiping his ass" are "coarse expressions," but "not sufficiently vulgar, graphic, or explicit to support a finding of patent offensiveness."
At least one group of viewers was fine with Cohen's performance: TV critics. The Orlando Sentinel's Hal Boedeker blogged that the speech was the night's "most memorable" and suggested that, in general, award shows "give as many prizes as possible to Britons."
In the Los Angeles Times, Paul Brownfield complained that the telecast, billed as a window to Hollywood's biggest party of the year, "didn't exactly feel like the Copa." The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley similarly noted that some winners, chiefly an "underwhelmed" Eddie Murphy, merely "aim[ed] for the unexciting middle."
"The unexciting middle" is likely one place Cohen's "anus" won't soon be accused of invading.