Sunday, January 2, 2011

'It's been quite a night'

The 2011 People’s Choice Awards will be presented next Wednesday on CBS.

I won’t be watching.

There are several reasons why I won’t be watching.

1. Although I used to watch award shows, particularly the Emmys and the Oscars, I now find them particularly tedious, although I might tune in for a bit if someone who is receiving a special award is someone who I think should be receiving a special award.

2. In my former life as a newspaper copy editor, I was sometimes in charge of handling these awards – Emmys, Oscars and Grammys, too – on deadline for the next day’s paper. We had several editions, and I was supposed to get as many of the awards in each edition as possible.

This meant monitoring the wire service and the wirephoto machines while keeping an eye on the ceremonies as they unfolded on a newsroom TV. It meant impatiently waiting for some musical number to finish, or for someone to get an already announced special award and finish the obligatory acceptance speech, so that I could (I hoped) get one or two of the next awards into the next edition before the production folks began breathing down my neck.

(Which is why, as peaceable as I like to think I am most of the time, even now, years later, you might be risking considerable bodily harm by even whispering the words “Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award” in my presence. Mr. Hersholt himself is lucky to be dead because, were he still alive, I fear I might do him in. And don’t get me started on Irving Thalberg.)

3. But the reason I won’t be watching the next People’s Choice ceremony is that I remember the first one, back in 1975, and to my mind there’s no way the People’s Choice folks could top it.

The hosts were actor Richard Crenna and Variety columnist Army Archerd, and for the most part the telecast went well if unspectacularly. But after Bob Hope got up to receive his all-time award, I got a hint that all was not well.

I remember the exact moment when I realized this – when Hope, thinking he was finished, was asked (much to his consternation) to “stretch.”

The show was running short.

Yes, you read that right: A major, televised entertainment awards ceremony was running short. To say this was a freak of nature is an understatement; this was like seeing a square circle, or rain falling up.

Hope did his best, but his was the last award, and the hosts then had about three and a half minutes to fill.

Crenna and Archerd did their best. They basically recapped all the awards – in no particular hurry – and gamely ad libbed their way out of it otherwise. (You know for sure that an awards show is running short when one of the hosts mentions that one of the winners was “Mary … Tyler … Moore.”)

I suppose the two hosts deserved their own awards – Crenna, I suspect, would have been a shoo-in for Actor Mostly Likely to Kill His Agent, Right After He Disembowels the Producers.

You think I’m making all this up? You can watch the two of them here.

You might notice that the People’s Choice website lists the co-host’s name – twice – as Richard Brenna. Elsewhere on the site you might find a mention of actress Raquel Welsh. Then again, it isn’t the People’s Spelling Awards.

You’ll also notice one thing on the video that didn’t help the two co-hosts: The director positioned them in front of the table occupied by the folks from Carol Burnett’s show, who are merrily chatting, which is at least a little distracting.*

But I must admit that in once case my memory was faulty: I thought I remembered Tim Conway, grinning at the camera in the background during Crenna and Archerd’s ordeal. Which, of course, makes me wonder what else I’ve misremembered through the years….

*In all fairness, this wasn’t the Worst TV Camera Setup of All Time. That honor belongs to one of the stations in my town, which back in the 1970s aired a Christmas special, which featured the local Roman Catholic bishop and the monsignor who was the diocese’s PR guy sitting and talking in front of a fireplace. Unfortunately for the good monsignor, the doodads on the mantel included a white, cone-shaped ornament, and the shot of the monsignor was framed so that he seemed to be wearing a miniature dunce cap. (Or auditioning for the "Saturday Night Live" Coneheads.)

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