Sunday, December 7, 2003

Documentary explores award shows

By Frazier Moore
The Associated Press

The Award Show Awards Show, which isn't an awards show but a documentary, wants you to know there are 565 show-biz awards competitions each year, of which 100 are televised. That's more than one broadcast every four days for the entire year.

Consider: On the heels of The First Annual Spike TV Video Game Awards, which aired Thursday, the coming week brings The 14th Annual Billboard Music Awards on Fox, The Third Annual DVD Exclusive Awards (whatever that is) on FX, and the inaugural Commie awards on Comedy Central going head-to-head with The Award Show Awards Show (9 p.m. today, Trio).

Wide-ranging and snarky, the documentary expands on Andy Warhol's prediction: Not only are you destined to be famous for 15 minutes, at this rate you're also practically a shoo-in for a televised award.

But as Tatum O'Neal, the film's award-winning narrator, points out, "Conflicts are endless when awards shows outnumber the works of art they are trying to honor." Witness the juxtaposed clips of a program that wins both a Prism (for accurately portraying the dangers of drug abuse) and a Stony (for promoting the pot-smoking culture).

The Award Show Awards Show explores many facets of the media-celebrity complex.

It examines the monetary blessings realized from a top-drawer award like the Oscar or Grammy, and the fierce campaigning mounted by would-be nominees.

It exposes the driving force behind the awards-show pandemic, which mainly reflects outstanding achievement by the industry in ginning up ever more shows for viewers to watch - and thus ever more outlets for promoting entertainment product to the public.

It proposes ways to ensure yourself a prize. (If you're Susan Lucci, just keep showing up.)

From the lectern of a decades-old Oscar broadcast, Jimmy Stewart remarks on how seemingly "us folks out here in Hollywood spend most of our time just givin' awards to each other. It's amazing how any work gets done."

"Awards shows," says Alan Alda in a long-ago interview, "mainly publicize the people giving the awards."

Not to be outdone, The Award Show Awards Show institutes its own mock prizes in such categories as Most Meaningless Awards Shows (a leading contender is the award show for infomercials) and Most Inexplicable Snubs: There was never an Emmy for Jackie Gleason, never so much as a Grammy nomination for the Who.

"The more awards shows, with their red carpets and glitz, the more chances for ordinary people to get out of themselves," O'Neal said. "It's a sort of celebrity royalty that we love and hate. We can feel happy when they win, and when they lose we can put them down and feel better being average people.

"We love to see them dress up - but what we really want is to see them (screw) up."

The hucksterism underlying every awards show is just the viewer's price of admission.

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