Review: Why SAG Awards are an ideal model for all awards telecasts

If I ran award shows, they’d go like the SAG Awards: quick, efficient, to the point, without a host or any filler.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good host when the job is done well – see folks like Neil Patrick Harris, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for some of the best examples in recent years – but it’s usually a thankless job, and a hostless show is always preferable to watching an ill-fitting emcee struggle for laughs. (Sorry Michael Strahan, but as hard as you tried, you hosting the Critics’ Choice Awards a couple of weeks ago looked uncomfortable for you and the audience.)

SAG Awards LIVE blog: Let’s dish the best, worst and craziest moments

But most of the big awards shows still try to jam in as much “content” and “entertainment value” as possible, as if to apologize for making us sit through the reading of names and the opening of envelopes. The Grammys get a pass: music awards naturally lend themselves to putting on a glorified concert. But what’s the excuse for everyone else?

Here’s one thing no one has ever, ever said after watching an awards show: “Man, I wish there had been more interpretive dance.”

And no one hopes for emotional speeches to be played off in favor of a third production number. No one asks for fewer clips of the nominated performances to accommodate comedy hijinks. And no one thinks your intro monologue would be better if only it were 10 minutes longer.

Now here’s what the SAG Awards do. The awful, fawning red-carpet intro notwithstanding (“We’d go into the woods with Meryl Streep!” – cringe), we enter an event in which actors honor other actors, and we get to hear a few of them tell stories about being actors – a diverse set that includes a newcomer (Uzo Aduba), an A-list star (Jennifer Aniston), a lesser-known character actor (Mahershala Ali from “House of Cards“), a living legend (Robert Duvall), and a popular comedian (Zach Galifianakis).

Then, instead of a host’s monologue or musical number, we get right to the awards, presented in a straightforward manner – generally speaking, don’t ask presenters to be funny unless it’s their day job to be funny, which is why the one presenting pair that went for laughs (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg) actually got them.

SAG Awards reactions: A play-by-play from our bitchy forums

Since there’s no filler, there’s time to show clips of every nominee in every category. Frances McDormand said when she won Best Movie/Miniseries Actress for “Olive Kitteridge,” “I wish we could get some really cozy slippers, a box of seeds, nuts, and shoes. Hang out and watch more of our work, because every little snippet that I see, I want to watch more and more.” That should be the whole point of such an event: to make us enthusiastic about the material being honored.

And sure, it’s apples-and-oranges to watch a scene from “Orphan Black” alongside a clip of “The Good Wife,” but that’s also part of the appeal: to see and appreciate the creative diversity of what gets put on screen, from the subtle (Patricia Arquette explaining her marriage to her child in “Boyhood“), to the bombastic (Viola Davis delivering one of her thrilling tirades in “How to Get Away with Murder“), to the wacky (Aduba making suggestive gestures in “Orange is the New Black“). Watching the SAG Awards made me want to watch more TV and movies.

And not just TV and movies from this era. Even with 13 awards to hand out in two hours, the efficient approach means there’s plenty of time to honor a veteran like Debbie Reynolds, whose Lifetime Achievement Award presentation made me want to go back and watch “Singin’ in the Rain” again.

That also puts the current awards derby in perspective. We could argue for days about the relative virtues of “Boyhood” and “Birdman” – and I have, and I will – but whichever wins, they’d likely trade all their hardware to be remembered as fondly as “Singin’ in the Rain” 60 years from now.

“Singin'” only got two Oscar nominations, by the way, and it lost them both. But I digress.

Birdman’ wins top SAG Award, but Eddie Redmayne upsets for Best Actor

There was also time for acceptance speeches, none of which were abruptly cut off, allowing time for Aduba’s graciousness, Davis’s important discussion of what it means to be a dark-skinned woman cast in a complex showcase role, and McDormand’s endearing act of self-promotion (she’d like you to know you can stream “Olive Kitteridge” whenever you like).

At the end of the night, when “Birdman” won Best Film Ensemble, every member of its cast got a turn at the microphone. The music played before Andrea Riseborough had a chance to speak, but when she started talking, the music was cut off, not her.

I imagine someone cueing the music looked at their watch at the end of the night and shrugged – “What’s the hurry? We’ve got time.”

5 thoughts on “Review: Why SAG Awards are an ideal model for all awards telecasts

  1. Actually, Frances McDormand said ” a box of See’s Nuts and Chews” referring to the candy company and their box of mixed chocolates.

  2. I love the little edits or snippets. Goldderby should do a review and ranking of the top ten from the show (and just cause.. the five worst). Whoever does Modern Family is usually on point (but Julie Bowen just seemed weird). My favorite would maybe be… Eddie Raymayne… that small scene makes me wanna see the movie. The worse was the too dramatic for comedy, William H Macey (loved his speech, but his small scene clip was not the best… for a comedy category anyway).

  3. I’ve been wanting every award show to show clips of each nominee since I have been watching The EMMYs the shots to the nominee in the audience need to stop!! I would so much rather see a clip of their work than a short clip of their face.

  4. SAG is the ideal awards show to prove how hypocritical SAG and the actors in attendance are. WGA and DGA have categories for Daytime. Since the SAG-Aftra merger all daytime series are SAG. SAG dues are high and as a union they generate several million dollars a year in revenue for the hard working actors on daytime series Y&R, B&B, GH, and Days. For the last 3 years SAG and TNT have refused to address the question, where are the 3 new categories for Daytime Actor, Actress, and Cast? Then actors had the nerve to make fun of As The World Turns. It is disgusting and low rent. Furthermore SAG just the OSCARS doesn’t require voters to watch making it a popularity high school contest. SAG threatened to sue the PGA and turn them into to the FTC for FALSE ADVERTISING unless actors started to get paid for product placement and subliminal advertising in film and television. Actors who take money for promoting products that contain round up ready weed killer Corn, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Soy, and Cotton Seed Oil, aren’t humanitarians and lack integrity. Round Up exposure can cause infertility in men and women, chronic illness (driving up health care costs), environmental damage to soil, lakes, rivers, the ocean, and animals. There wasn’t any social or moral responsibility going on at the SAG Awards, it is just sheer entertainment from a bunch of “Actors” people who need to pretend to be someone else and play make believe and have fans. They are controlled by power agencies WME, CAA, APA, UTA, who are allowed to make deals with advertisers to own part of the agencies, thanks to SAG corruption. Which continues the promotional use of Big Pharma and how many times does it take for people to develop and illness when they are being bombarded with advertisements about drugs to treat the illness? They don’t allow this type of conduct in Europe for good reason. It is harmful to public interest, safety, and well being.

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