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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC saw its telecast of the Golden Globe Awards draw nearly 17 million viewers on Sunday, a 14 percent jump from 2009 and a victory for the troubled network, despite a poorly reviewed performance by host Ricky Gervais.
The three-hour film and television awards show was No. 1 during its 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday night time slot for NBC, which is in last place in ratings among the four major U.S. networks.
NBC said on Monday that early figures indicate the telecast drew 16.9 million U.S. viewers compared to 14.9 million last year.
The Golden Globes, organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, also saw a 10-percent ratings increase in the 18- to 49-year-old age group, which is coveted by advertisers because of its spending power.
Gervais, an edgy British comedian best known as co-creator of television's "The Office," generated excitement when he was named host of the Golden Globes in October. His off-the-cuff humor was seen as a good fit for the Golden Globes audience.
But he received mixed reviews, with some critics saying his ribald jokes were ill-timed in the aftermath of last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti.
At one point, Gervais joked that inhabitants of the "Third World" feel better when they glimpse a Hollywood star, and that a poor Asian child is prone to think "Mummy!" after seeing a picture of actress Angelina Jolie, who has adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam.
In response, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Given the tragedy that befell Haiti this past week, Gervais' joke about Angelina Jolie and Third World children was (a) bad stumble."
The Los Angeles Times also said some of Gervais' zingers fell flat, but noted that winners urged viewers to donate to Haiti quake victims, and that the show was a success overall.
With "regular but understated reminders of how important it is to aid and support the people of Haiti, this year's Golden Globes actually didn't need Gervais to make it a good show," the Times wrote.
The show was NBC's top-rated prime-time entertainment telecast in the 18-49 age group since its April 2009 broadcast of the finale of hospital drama "ER."
It was a bright spot for a network that has this month fought a damaging battle over the fate of its "The Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien. He suffered poor ratings after taking over last year and is expected to soon cede his time slot to Jay Leno, the previous host of the show.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Xavier Briand