The vaunted return of Gervais is just another living landmark of how the entertainment industry has put civility through the shredder and embraced mean-spiritedness with gusto. You see it everywhere. The typical hit sitcom now has gone from being centered on a lovable character like Bill Cosby or Mary Tyler Moore to a focus on a hopelessly, debauched Charlie Sheen. Just look at the decline and fall of the kind-hearted celebrity roast. What Dean Martin offered was hilarity and class. Today? Comedy Central doesn't so much "roast" a celebrity as it drops them into a deep fryer.
It would be easy for critics of Hollywood's perversity to enjoy the notion of Hollywood eating itself on live television. It's also easy to imagine that there's an enormous amount of false flattery and pretension in Hollywood that would seem fun to skewer. But hosts such as Gervais teach that verbal cruelty is the path to fame and fortune. Step on everyone else's hands as you climb the ladder.
It's the car-wreck formula: NBC is banking on everyone tuning in to see who will get verbally abused. Gervais hit Twitter and warned Billy Crystal "He'd better not use any of my holocaust or pedophile material" on the Oscar broadcast. He also tweeted "Ha, ha, hello. Welcome to my world" accompanied by a picture of him lighting a cigar in front of a wall of flames.
There's no danger in being an atheist in Hollywood. It's an honor. But let's not award Gervais points for sincerity. In the last year, Gervais has sermonized in print about his atheism at both
Christmas and Easter. In each, he claimed he stood...for kindness. At Christmas he wrote, "(T) hat's where spirituality lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. 'Do this or you'll burn in hell.'" Then he proclaimed: "You won't burn in hell. But be nice anyway."
Then at Easter, he concluded, "God or not, if I could change one thing for a better world, it would be for all mankind to adhere to this little gem: 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.' I assure you, no more stones would ever be thrown."
Don't bet on Gervais playing nice and putting his bucket of rocks down. NBC is paying him for the privilege of casting the first stone and many more.