A Highly Scientific Ranking of American Awards Shows

Do the Oscars suck?

January 24, 2017 9:00 am

You probably haven’t seen 90% of the movies nominated for this year’s Oscars.

And that’s OK.

As far as the big award ceremonies go, the Oscars actually do a decent job of promoting real art … with a slightly annoying emphasis on favoring movies about Hollywood and turning their noses up at films people actually see.

But looking at the Big Four (Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Grammys), the Oscars telecast is the best you’re going to get as far as entertainment, enlightenment (“Hey, maybe we should go see Manchester by the Sea”) and actual poignancy during the ceremony. Not a bad trifecta.

With Ryan Gosling on our minds, our award-show rankings, below:

Feb. 6
Why it sucks: Not a single film nominated this year made over $100 million, echoing the common complaint that Hollywood is out of touch … and speaking of out of touch, La La Land is yet another film made by Hollywood about Hollywood (it’s even in the title!). Oh, and someone fix the Best Original Song/Score categories — there hasn’t been a memorable movie tune in years.
Redeemable qualities: After two years of #OscarsSoWhite, we got six (worthy) African-American nominees. Plus, that aforementioned Academy preference for quality over box office. Oh, and the love for Arrival? Cheers to smart sci-fi continuing to make inroads.
Wild card that can make it great: A single Deadpool nomination would have nice, considering they ran the greatest Best Picture campaign ever (while, somehow, the unworthy Passengers nabbed a couple of noms). But if Wade Wilson can get an in-costume awards show appearance, we’ll take it.
Watchability: 8. The lack of big pictures means smaller names and fewer headlines. But expect a lot of fiery political speeches. And follow the show on Twitter … it’s the best night for a dual-screen experience.

Feb. 12
Why it sucks: What world are we in where Justin Bieber, Drake and Adele are fighting for the same award? If the Oscars err on obscurity, the Grammys put too much emphasis on pop and Soundscan … with a token critic’s choice (Sturgill Simpson) there strictly for appearance. Also, every year we still have to look up the difference between Record and Song of the Year.
Redeemable qualities: Dig into the smaller genre categories, and you’ll find true diversity: Bob Dylan, Underworld, Herb Alpert, David Bowie, Solange and Baroness are equals. Shame they pass over these awards for the televised portion.
Wild card that can make it great: The best/worst thing about the live Grammys show is its emphasis on unnecessary but fun collaborations (Eminen/Elton John, Foo Fighters/Skrillex, etc.). So maybe this year we’ll get (*pulls random nominees out of a hat*) that Radiohead/Chance the Rapper mashup you never thought of (though someone got close).
Watchability: 5. Unless you “love all music,” you’re stuck with a three-plus hour show that somehow drags and has serious ADD.

Sept. 17
Why it sucks: Can’t quantify 2017’s nominations until they’re announced in July, but looking at past years, there are way too many shows (Modern Family) and actors (Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus) that land automatic nominations. Yes, they’re worthy. Yes, they need term limits.
Redeemable qualities: That said, 2016 wins by Mr. Robot, Baskets and Orphan Black cast members, plus the committee’s willingness to recognize shows on premium cable (HBO, Showtime) and streaming services (Netflix, Amazon), shows a willingness to promote quality in any form. And it’s making the broadcast networks pick up their game.
Wild card that can make it great: Make quality, clever shows like Rick & Morty and BoJack Horseman more likely to earn a nomination in a major category outside of Best Animated Series. Remember to nominate Phoebe Waller-Bridge. And since the Emmys feel a little more grounded than the Oscars, maybe liquor the nominees up, a la the Golden Globes.
Watchability: 6. Stephen Colbert is hosting and all the big stars show up. At its best, the ceremony tends to be light and fun … if not particularly memorable.

June 11
Why it sucks: It’s an awards show based on expensive entertainment happening in one city. When a person can see all of the Academy Awards’ Best Picture nominees for less than the price of a good seat at one Broadway show, it’s hard for most people to care.
Redeemable qualities: The performances (obviously). This isn’t the schlocky lip-sync guessing game you get from other televised events. Most of these people sing, dance and act in eight shows a week, so they can (and do) rely on their talent instead of their popularity.
Wild card that can make it great: A smash show. While theater geeks balk at the fair-weather Tony viewers who only care about the Lin-Manuel Mirandas and Andrew Lloyd Webbers, a hit like Hamilton ups the ante for everyone. Case in point, the most talked-about performances last year didn’t include the rapping founding fathers.
Watchability: This year? TBD. The host hasn’t been announced and Hamilton isn’t up again, but with a theater season featuring big stars (Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Glenn Close, Josh Groban, Cate Blanchett and Robert De Niro) and household show names (Hello, Dolly!, Cats, Anastasia and Groundhog Day) there are more reasons for outsiders to tune in this year.

Additional reporting for this story was done by Alex Lauer

Photos: Main image (Dale Robinette); Grammys (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images); Emmys (Kevin Winter/Getty Images); Tonys (Shevett Studios)

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