Virtual Award Shows: Are they worth it?
Screen editor Olivia Garrett shares her views on virtual award shows after the recent BAFTAs ceremony.
It’s not quite award season but we’ve reached that other slice of the year where the TV stars come out of their caves and get their chance to shine (they’re usually so hard done by). With the BAFTAs ceremony last Friday night and the Emmy’s coming up in September, we are getting the chance to see how award shows and live TV gatherings commence during these socially distanced times. As more and more events get cancelled, like a line of dominoes falling, the BBC and other channels are doing their best to keep us tuned in and in-sync with the yearly TV calendar. However, as we get ever closer to Strictly season, their attempts at keeping calm and carrying on so far have left us wondering if these live shows are worth it. Spoiler alert: they’re not.
The Oscars, BAFTAs and Emmys, though important to filmmakers and fans, are already a test on how much cringe one can take. Whether it’s their inability to find a host who doesn’t cause either blazing outrage or cricket sounds, or the endless tirade of thank you’s and preaches from the latest celebrity convert, these shows often cause more scandal and upset than genuine gratification. However, these hours of blubbering and nepotism are far preferable to the alternative.
Award shows are an exercise in narcissism where the famous get to pat each other on the back… The flashing lights and gaudy costumes and even the virtue-signalling speeches are all a part of this.
The TV BAFTAs on the 31st of July was a virtual event with no audience and minimal presenters in the studio. All acceptance speeches were given via Zoom and some went out of their way to make theirs interesting like Romesh Ranganathan who made his own replica award, and the Best Comedy Actress nominees who plucked their eyebrows whilst on camera. However, the lag and forced fun of Zoom calls (which we have all come to know this year), combined with the pitiful sound of two people clapping made for an excruciating ninety minutes. Host Richard Ayoade along with presenters such as Greg Davies and Adrian Lester did their best to keep the flow going, but the deafening silence at the end of each sentence would make anyone miss 90s sitcom canned laughter. What’s more the peppy montages and video tributes did little to alleviate the awkward tension. In the end there were two saving graces to the show, one being Tim Minchin’s brilliant yet dark musical number on the vanity of actors, and the other being that it was shorter than the usual ceremony.
The ultimate problem with these programmes is that they serve no purpose. Award shows are an exercise in narcissism where the famous get to pat each other on the back because a small panel of judges have picked them. The flashing lights and gaudy costumes and even the virtue-signalling speeches are all a part of this. When you take away that essential element you are left with something very flat that the everyday viewer doesn’t really care about. No one wants to hear a famous people thanking un-famous people for an hour and a half; the viewers want scandal, surprise and spectacle, it’s why, despite the toxicity, the Oscars will always attract an audience. A simple list of winners released online would probably have garnered the same level of attention as the actual show, and that would have been far less cringey.
With the Emmys next I’m sure we can expect the same amount of awkward silence and muted clapping, let us hope that they at least have Tim Minchin on the payroll.