Golden Globes gets smallest TV audience in years

LOS ANGELES Mon Jan 12, 2009 7:24pm EST

People make their way down the red carpet at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills, California January 11, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

People make their way down the red carpet at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills, California January 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Golden Globes award ceremony reeled in the big stars, but not much of a television audience, viewership figures on Monday showed.

Sunday's awards ceremony on the NBC network, featuring teary acceptances speeches by Briton Kate Winslet and a rare posthumous honor for Heath Ledger, averaged 14.6 million viewers, the second-lowest TV audience since 1995, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Two years ago, the audience was 20 million and last year's ceremony was reduced to a star-free news conference because of the Hollywood screenwriters strike.

Sunday's show, seen as a run-up to the Oscar ceremony on February 22, had a full complement of red carpet stars, ranging from hot teens Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers to hot couples Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

"Slumdog Millionaire" ended the night as top dog with four Globes, but some TV reviewers took exception to producer Christian Colson's apparent use of an obscenity while music was cued in during his best movie acceptance speech.

Mickey Rourke, making a career comeback in "The Wrestler," accepted his best actor Globe with some salty language, while a joke by award presenter Sacha Baron Cohen about recession-hit Madonna laying off an assistant in the form of ex-husband Guy Ritchie was also declared a dud.

But the Hollywood Reporter said the slightly boozy celebrity love fest "delivered with heart, soul and even a little political incorrectitude, proving to be the rare kudofest that left viewers feeling almost satisfied."

The New York Times however disagreed, saying that "a ceremony usually known for high spirits (and lots of wine and spirits) had a brisk, workmanlike feel."

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Eric Walsh)