TV Awards: You Wouldn’t Even Want to Visit

One of the most interminable awards ceremonies I ever had to sit (slump, lie down) through and trust me, this is saying something was the Writers Guild Awards, which is curious, since youd think a group of writers just might be able to cook up a clever evening of breezy repartee and bon mots. What was most astounding about this event was its sheer, exhausting length, longer than any Oscar show (at the time, anyway) and they didnt even give out that many awards.

Part of the problem, as I recall, is that they, wishing to give as many otherwise uncelebrated folks a moment in the sun as possible, read the names of everyone nominated in every category, and in the case of afternoon soap operas (yeah, they actually reward that kind of writing; I think the actual category title is Best of the Worst), that number can run into the hundreds. Well, dozens. (Maybe they didnt literally read every name. But all 30 winners gave acceptance speeches, or thats the way it seemed.)

At any rate, you get the idea: An evening waaay too long for what it accomplishes. So imagine my delight to hear that the WGA has actually added three more categories.

The new categories honor individual episodes in the drama and comedy genres, as well as the best new series, comedy or drama, to have debuted in the past year (this is a great category, because it pits the sweet bumpkin antics of My Name is Earl? against the chilly, decadent hauteur of Rome? thats not just apples and oranges, thats apples and Buicks).
Earl? helped NBC as poorly as its doing in the ratings this year to an impressive showing in the WGA Awards. Both it and NBCs The Office? will compete against one another in the the Comedy Series, New Series and Episodic Comedy categories. No other shows earned as many nominations. Greys Anatomy,? the dearly departed Six Feet Under? and the likely-to-soon-depart West Wing? all received two nominations.

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In a general sense, the nominees list is a staid, usual-suspects assortment, a group you might expect out of really hip grandparents. West Wing? still? Really? Theres not much cutting-edge TV being honored here, which is odd, because the writing categories at the Oscars or Emmys are generally the ones acknowledging the most progressive work.

Theres a vague sense that the voters watch nothing but the broadcast networks and HBO theres only an occasional bone tossed to Showtime or FX, the latter of which is criminally underrepresented here (as, it must be pointed out, it was at the Emmys and the Golden Globes, as well, but then, it took HBO years to earn trophy love from the assorted groups, too). Comedy Central is completely snubbed.

Nominee laziness reaches its apotheosis in the animation category, where apparently voters only watch Simpsons? episodes (six nominations, zilch for everything else). And if you have a category where the only nominees are other awards shows and even then, there are only two perhaps you neednt be giving out that award in the first place. (Im looking at you, Comedy/Variety Music, Awards, Tributes Specials, a category so lame even its name is clunkily awkward.)

The other thing I remember about the WGA ceremony is the faint undercurrent of self-pity in the jokes and short films these guys may be fabulously well-paid, but they just cant get over the fact that they dont get the respect they think they merit from the rest of the industry. But if this is how they opt to honor themselves, feting a bland hodgepodge shows ranging from inspired to merely competent and ignoring more deserving work, perhaps they get all the respect they deserve.

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