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The Insider: An Inconvenient Awards Truth

Jun 22, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Not all award winners are created equal.
Some give acceptance speeches that imprint themselves on the brain and the heart, that evoke a reaction, that underscore the award is going to someone(s) at the top of their game, someone(s) who produced a bit of journalistic, informational or entertainment Art with a capital A.
Then there are those who read a list of names that few others know and will never care about. They say nothing and they say it so banally that it’s hard to believe they are capable of rising to a moment that is truly award-worthy.
The Insider was reminded of that many, many, many, many, many times at last week’s annual Peabody Awards marathon, not to mention while watching the Tony Awards that were telecast on CBS the night before the Peabodys.
Really, screw the winners who want to thank their pre-K teacher’s aide who inspired them to try a brighter color of Crayon and draw outside the lines.
They’ve gotten their award, which they can point out on future tours of their house/office/company lobby.
Now they should really earn it with a few words that count and make proud the noncombatants being held hostage for the duration.
At the Peabodys, there were remarks that should and will be remembered, some because they were about striving for better, some because they were about the subjects of or issues raised by the honored works, and some because they provided a moment of comic relief.
Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central news spoof received a Peabody, managed to do all of the above so deftly, future award winners might do well to study his remarks.
He first thanked the judges for not giving the award to Barry Manilow, a jab at the insanity of forcing late-night shows to compete with musical specials for a Primetime Emmy. He lauded his “Colbert” team as “uncrushable.” He likened “The Colbert Report” to a barium enema—and made that palatable in a room in which the table tops were strewn with the crumbs of lunch.
And he remembered Tim Russert, who had invited Mr. Colbert on “Meet the Press” during his attempt to run for president in South Carolina, and “treated me with the dignity I deserved.”
The less said the better about Miramax biggie Harvey Weinstein, who commandeered the stage as a rogue and unruly second speaker for “Project Runway.”
To quote Brett Morgen, the director and one of the executive producers of “Nimrod Nation,” when he finally was able to accept a Peabody: “I am so glad they are not serving alcohol here.”
Hear, hear, says The Insider, who proposes these basic rules for awards shows.
— Recipients must prove they will say something that means something or promise they will simply say “thank you” for the award or be prohibited from receiving the award on the stage.
— If they feel they must thank a long list of politically correct names, arrange to put ‘em on a cue card and position it on the stage where the audience can see it while you say something everyone can get something out of. Producers of awards shows might also consider displaying lists of unuttered names on a screen behind the recipient.
— If anyone breaks the rules, rescind the award. Just flat take it away.
That ought to solve the problem and even breathe new life into the awards ceremony, which often seems like a dinosaur ignoring the warnings of a climate change that will whack it dead in its tracks if it continues to take up four hours of the work day or school night and cost the penny-pinching, body-cutting companies—whose presence keeps these ceremonies in business—a lot of money to attend.
When the crowd has thinned to about half its peak long before the ceremony is half over, it’s a sure sign that the proceedings need to be reinvented.
That may require the award-givers to stop talking about themselves. Or stop playing self-centered clips or opening with clips that will be seen throughout the show as the individual awards are presented.
It really is time for a change.

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