Conventional wisdom says the movies honored at Monday's Golden Globes are out of the mainstream. The TV ratings suggest otherwise.

The three-hour NBC telecast dominated the second half of Fox's 24 season premiere and CBS' usual blend of comedies and CSI: Miami. It averaged an estimated 18.7 million viewers, reports said--up about 10 percent from last year's Nielsen disaster.

Even more impressive, or inexplicable, is the box-office math showing more people watched the Globes than have paid to see top winners Brokeback Mountain and Walk the Line in theaters. (Dividing each film's gross by the 2005 average ticket price, Brokeback has attracted about 4.9 million bodies, Walk the Line, 15.5 million.)

Last year's show, lorded over by Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, also lacked for blockbusters. But NBC viewed ABC's Desperate Housewives as the real ratings sapper, and responded by airing the Globes on a night other than Sunday for the first time in 11 years.

If the tinkering improved the ratings, it didn't improve the reviews. More than one critic complained that the awards show that bills itself as a party could have used more pop.

"This is a sales meeting, really," the Los Angeles Times judged.

Observed the New York Daily News: "The show was a reliable meal at a reliable restaurant. It's perfectly satisfying, but when you wake up the next morning, darned if you can remember whether you had the chicken picata or the shrimp scampi."

There was no discussion as to whether Brokeback Mountain, winner of four Globes, was the chicken picata, or if Walk the Line, winner of three Globes, was the shrimp scampi.

There was discussion among critics, however, as to how movies about gay cowboys (Brokeback), a country singer with drug and drink trouble (Walk the Line), a transsexual (Transamerica), U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East (Syriana) and a John Le Carré thriller for the art-house set (The Constant Gardener), could generate so few notable quotables from their honorees.

"For the second consecutive year, everyone has been on their best behavior," a disappointed Hollywood Reporter said. "That, in turn, translated into mostly tepid acceptance speeches, with practically no references to the powerful themes of nominated TV or theatrical films."

George Clooney, the Best Supporting Actor winner for Syriana, got credit for making the night's semi-statement, a jab at disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But backstage, Clooney seemed to speak for all the winners when he said it was "not [his] style" to mix politics and awards shows.

The only acceptance speech that seemed to create any sort of buzz wasn't even real. That would be TV winner Geena Davis' tall tale about the girl who tugged on her gown and confessed that Commander in Chief had inspired her to aspire to the White House. Davis' admission that the story wasn't true provided "the biggest laugh of the night," the Chicago Tribune said.

The best notices of the night were reserved for Isaac Mizrahi, who wasn't even nominated. Making his debut on E!'s Live from the Red Carpet, the fashion guru was lauded by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as "the best red carpet host ever--or, at the very least, in a very long time." (E! and E! Online are divisions of E! Networks.)

Mizrahi distinguished himself by quizzing red carpet walkers on the state of their underwear, taking a look-see down Teri Hatcher's dress, getting to the bottom of Eva Longoria's waxing preferences, and performing a "not-so-covert Charmin-squeeze of one of Scarlett Johansson's breasts," as the Boston Globe put it.

Time voiced a dissenting opinion, saying it was unmoved by the preshow coverage on either E! or TV Guide Channel. Although, it too gave Mizrahi points for inspecting Johannson's "built-in [dress] support."

The Globes marked the first broadcast for the reconfigured E! red carpet team, consisting of Mizrahi, Giuliana DePandi and recent hire Ryan Seacrest. Per the Post-Intelligencer, Seacrest's "much-ballyhooed red carpet debut was fine."

With the Globes down, the next big date in movie awards season is Jan. 31, when nominations for the 78th Annual Academy Awards are announced.

If Brokeback Mountain's four Globe wins weren't a big enough hint, Forbes weighed in Tuesday with the news that "analysts" now view the stark western as the Best Picture candidate to beat at the Oscars.

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