Award Shows Mean Nothing–And We Can’t Get Enough

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Let’s say you go to work, like me, and at the end of the year you get an award for doing your job. Silly, right? Wrong. That is what the “self-servicing” entertainment industries do: give awards for best film, music, TV, book, magazine, and hairstyle (well, not that).

Hello, and welcome to the world of award shows, one that will go away when TV becomes interactive and people vote for what they want. This year awards are being brought to you by–well, everyone! It normally happens in January, when entertainment groups consisting of no more than 200 people who were appointed by a politically inept process randomly select the best of last year’s crop. Strangely, it’s usually the same overhyped products that get all the groups’ awards. Funny.

And it’s a big moneymaking enterprise, involving sponsorship and hype and a lot of people paying (and thus begging) to be part of the process.

The awards biz has grown by leaps and bounds by every network on earth. Neil Patrick Harris is rich due to our insistence on a host who sings for his supper. The trend is that every organization wants to, or must, be the first to handicap the best film–or predict which blasé song or actor or drapemaker on a TV set is going to be the one that [fill in the year] will be forever remembered by.

So while televised award shows are tremendous opportunities to see our favorite singers and actors pimp their best in lights and colors and smoke (note recent Grammys), doesn’t it seem that every time a performer is on TV, you just saw him telling the same joke or singing the same product? Worse is when they go on a talk show and talk about the product. Each one is always the best experience with the best crew, script, team, director, hairstylist.

A few years back I was shocked–not Casablanca shocked–to see Chris Rock appear on two award shows in the sam week making the same lame joke about former Giuliani: “Rudy in a crisis is perfect–he’s like a pit bull. It’s great if somebody’s breaking in your house. But if they’re not, then, you know, the pit bull might eat your kids.” Even the cool are swept up in awards mania. It’s like a disease and an eye roll intertwined.

Could it be that the people who appear on those shows actually have an album or movie or book or surfboard line that was just released? Let’s pause to see how much of a wink rather than a contest these programs have become. Otherwise, you’d still hear “The winner is” instead of a wince-inducing “The Oscar goes to . . .”

I have nothing against good works of people who sing for their supper, but I never got an award for being best CEO of a veteran public relations company. (RLMpr turns 20 on March 1; cards and gifts are welcomed but keep the tributes silent.) I think that most entrepreneurs and people who work for a living would find an over-the-top acknowledgment embarrassing and a waste of time.

In the near future, as everyone on earth begins to get their due for being astutely funny or formerly fat or finding a new career (thanks, Bravo and VH1 for resurrecting dead celebs), good folks who work hard to enliven the world will get deserved pats on the back and the award show business will start to seem as silly and pointless as–an award show.

So we could make a pact: we decide right here and now that all writers and all filmmakers and kazoo players did their job really well and we thank them. By law, each will receive a letter from whoever pays them that merely say: “Hey, good job!”

Entertainment is a business that sells in a Darwinian fashion. What does the best mean now? Just what’s hot.

Talent matters little while shocking matters most. The most forgettable part of our culture always seems to win out. But we can change that.

That said, I’ll be tweeting the Oscars Sunday the 27th. I hope I win something for my efforts! Join me, yeah?

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