People's Choice Awards: You showed up? Here's a trophy!

Queenlatifahawards_lThis is not the blog post my editors asked for. In this space, you are supposed to be reading a Best and Worst of last night’s People’s Choice Awards, one of those snarky little fiestas where I run down all the highlights of the ceremony, crack some jokes, get worked up when Sugarland doesn’t win, whatever. But PopWatchers, I can’t do it this time.

I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, it’s hard to make a list of  ‘bests’ when there weren’t any.” But even if I faked it by saluting Christina Applegate’s classy speech or the emotional fortitude it must take for Ellen DeGeneres to keep getting up there and smiling at the nice people who cheer for her when she dances her funny dance but refuse to give her the civil rights necessary to marry her “roommate,” I would be doing you, the intelligent and savvy readers of, a disservice. Because the People’s Choice Awards, by any reasonable standard, are the worst kind of pandering, artificial hooey. And we, the alleged people, deserve better.

I intend no disrespect to the winners of the “awards,” nor to enthusiastic hostess Queen Latifah (pictured), nor to the hardworking men and women who labored behind the scenes to produce these two hours of televised pap and circumstance. But with the exception of The Dark Knight — victorious in so many categories they had to shove them all into a montage at the end — do I think for a second that these “winners” are, indeed, the “people’s” choice? No. Let’s be honest: As the very clear post-show disclaimer explained, a complex system of “E-Polls” and market research and extravagant math went into choosing the nominees you saw upon your screen. And that system led to a telecast in which praise was lavished on a crassly commercial cross-section of demographically advantageous properties starring celebrities who were willing to show up.

Even as mindless distraction, this awards show was a failure. There was no suspense; every category could be easily predicted by remembering who you’d already spotted in the audience. Would the “Favorite Rock Song” be “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, or those other two thingies performed by people who were not currently located inside the Shrine Auditorium? To quote “winner” Rock: What a surprise. Chris Brown accepted his “Favorite Combined Forces” award (for “No Air” with Jordin Sparks) “live via satellite” from Dublin, Ireland — where by my calculations it would have been approximately 3:30 in the morning. Rascal Flatts were handed a statue immediately after completing their unconvincing Rascal Flatts impersonation, and, like, 200 people rose as one from the good seats to collect the “Favorite TV Drama” award for House. Yes, tipping the winners off ahead of time has become pretty much de rigeur at this sort of thing, but when those “winners” stretch the limits of plausibility or common sense, I start sawing at my wrists with Twizzlers.

Examples: We were told early in the broadcast that voting was still open in the “Favorite New TV Comedy/Drama” categories. And yet when the time came, the casts of Gary Unmarried and The Mentalist –which, oh wow, just happen to air on the network we’re watching! — were in the house and ready to go. The cast members of the losing shows? Conspicuously absent. (Okay, there were 90210 people milling about, but I’m willing to believe they, like Paris Hilton, have nothing better to do.) But wait, there’s more: Britney Spears losing to Robin Williams for “Favorite Scene Stealing Guest Star” — in an Internet-based voting competition? Kate Hudson (movie to promote) and Latifah (host) going head-to-head for “Favorite Leading Lady”? The Secret Life of Bees winning “Favorite Movie Drama”?? People. Bees made $37 million at the box office. That is just slightly more money than Marley and Me made opening weekend.

So what now? How to contend with the kinds of dark forces that would put Jewel outside the Shrine for the express purpose of pretending to randomly give out a CVS Pharmacy-sponsored makeover to some woman, then cut to a pre-taped segment featuring said woman’s makeover? Or somehow cajole my beloved Chandra Wilson into shilling for Downy fabric softener? PopWatchers, aside from saying “don’t watch the damn thing,” I am at a loss. For I know I am powerless, that the People’s Choice Awards are bigger than me, or you, or even Christian Bale, whose aggressive gravitas had absolutely no effect on the woooooo!-ing hordes in the balcony, desperate just to hear themselves scream.

The only thing I can hope for is this: When people like Kid Rock and Adam Sandler take to the microphone and crow ever so humbly about how their work is not “for the critics,” but “for the people,” all of us will take a second to remember that there is nothing wrong with a people who are also critical. Whether we use our mouses, our remotes, our blogs, or our hard-earned cash, it is up to us to decide what kind of culture we want to live in. And while it may be easy and indeed quite fun to stand in a metaphorical mosh pit and high-five every shiny famous person who comes down the pike, I happen to believe we as a people are capable of ever so much more. (Need proof? The Dark Knight.) To echo last night’s oft-repeated phrase, Yes we can demand excellence. Yes we can think analytically, write articulately, and speak passionately about art and artists in our society. I go so far as to say it is our responsibility. We cannot let crap like this win.

Did you watch last night? Agree/disagree? And even if you skipped the show, who or what would be your personal choice for the very best pop culture has to offer?

More awards-season buzz:
Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog

Comments (544 total) Add your comment
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  • NineDaves

    i did watch last night, and i can honestly say whitney, not only do i agree with you 100%, but this is the best article you have ever written. not to discredit your other posts (i’m a big fan), but it was summed up so beautifully, i simply have nothing to add by my applause. bravo! that was more enjoyable than the three hour broadcast i watched last night (which, to be honestly, only took me an hour to watch because i tivoed through the whole thing).

  • jaime

    “Um you knew who the winner was b4 they would announce it because only the winners of each cat. were in the audience. I thought it was stupid…but oh well!”

  • Tiffany

    Whitney, this is spot on and brilliant!

  • Jodyla

    I agree – I turned it off after Carrie Underwood sang, and did not miss it at all. It was trite, contrived and completely missed the mark as an awards show. It made me throw up a little when I saw my Hugh in the audience rolling his eyes and grinning at Latifah like a trained monkey. What’s the countdown to the Golden Globes?

  • Dennis N.

    Legally change your name to Butter, Ms. Pastorek. Because you have been on a blog-post roll for months now. I am infinitely impressed. Not one letter of this post is untrue. Way to single-handedly reestablish this blog’s credibility!

  • Jael

    I was working on a post about the red carpet looks for my fashion blog, and I kept thinking that the winners didn’t even try on that end either. Needless to say, I’m abandoning the post. Great post, Whitney!

  • AshleyBrooke

    I whole heartedly agree that this was a bunch of BS. How in God’s name did Heroes, which sucked beyond belief this season so far, beat out Supernatural who cannot seem to get the well deserved recognition?! WTF is that? I turned the damn thing off right after Heroes won. Never again am I watching that program.

  • BP

    Word on all Whitney. This was a terrible show and i actually feel bad for the stars who did show up. And come on, Katherine Heigl? Could you BE anymore unsincerely enthusiastic? You know as well as we do that 27 Dresses, while funny, was NOT the Funniest Movie of 2008.

  • Anna

    It was really bad. I couldn’t watch more than 20 minutes…. I even felt embarrassed for some of the celebrities. Some of the acceptance speeches I saw were REALLY awkward (Jordin Sparks anyone?)

  • jenn

    Im sorry but when a show like NCIS doesnt even have a nomination when its gets close to 20 million viewers each week it tells me this isnt “the peoples choice”…Kath and kim get a nomination with only 5 million who watch…Yet that is “the peoples choice” sorry but what a joke that was…

  • Al

    I agree wholeheartedly. I only watched bits of it but the Robin Williams over Britney Spears tipped me off that the voting was rigged. This is meant to reward the most popular but the most popular performers have better things to do so they go for whoever will show up.

  • Kim

    I was heavily disappointed that Tropic Thunder wasn’t even in the category of Favorite Comedy. D: I was also let down by knowing that Robert Downey, Jr. didn’t win anything. Excuse me but, he was a funner more family friendly even superhero compared to Christian Bale’s sad portrayal of Batman. That award show just pissed me off to no end. Ugh.
    The only thing I was happy about was: House and The Simpsons. That’s it, the rest can rot in hell for all I care.

  • Michael

    Unless we’re talkin’ the Razzies, any show that gives Kate Hudson an award doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

  • Bren

    peoples choice awards is a joke

  • Winona

    I agree 100% – I am a total awards-show junkie, yet I refuse to watch the People’s Choice Awards, mainly for the reasons Aunt Whittlz outlined. (Of course, I will still go to for post-show fashion snark.)
    As for my personal pop-culture choice? The people actually did get it right with The Dark Knight.

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