Celebs? Check. Trophies? Check. Glitz? Suspense? Spirited acceptance speeches? All that too.
“Welcome to the most glamorous and exciting evening in the history of the world,” Steve Carell said early on at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
It wasn’t quite that good. But it was plenty good enough.
After the bare-bones telecast listing winners of the Golden Globes two weeks ago, the SAG Awards were a welcome throwback to the way awards shows are meant to be: a grand display of showbiz sheen. Not a black hole, which was the fate of the Globes, whose usual star-studded shindig was canceled because of the ongoing strike by TV and movie writers.
The SAG Awards, simulcast live from Los Angeles on TNT and TBS, had the blessing of the Writers Guild of America and heavy participation by showbiz glitterati. (Maybe they were grateful for a reason to get out of the house. Maybe they were mindful that, if the strike continues, they may be skipping the Feb. 24 Oscarcast with its likely picket lines.)
Sunday’s broadcast began with brief testimonials from several actors speaking from their seats in the Shrine Exposition Center.
Addressing the camera, Sally Field (“Brothers and Sisters”) offered her definition of acting: “informed falling.”
Doug Savant of “Desperate Housewives” expressed pride in being one among the acting community “alternately trying to impress and humiliate their parents.”
Ellen Burstyn (nominated for the TV film “Mitch Albom’s For One More Day”) fondly recalled her first job: “I pointed out the parts of the 1952 Ford” at an auto show.
Then it was down to business: Dispensing and receiving the awards — statuettes aptly dubbed “the Actor.”
With its mix of movie and TV categories, the SAGs could boast the star power of the Oscars, but, at a compact two hours, without the bloat and clutter.
It had favorite faces from the TV screen, but on an awardscast more elegant than the Emmys.
And, for viewers who care about such things, it provided frequent pointers about what SAG is: a labor union of actors, observing its 75th anniversary.
During brief remarks, SAG president Alan Rosenberg saluted several other entertainment-related unions, then added, “When the pioneers of our union were drawing up guidelines, they looked to the Writers Guild for inspiration. This began a treasured solidarity that continues today.” And he introduced from the audience WGA West president Patric Verrone.
You won’t see that on the Oscars.
A highlight for any fan was the tribute to Charles Durning, recipient of this year’s Life Achievement Award.
Denis Leary, star of “Rescue Me” (where Durning plays his father), and frequent film co-star Burt Reynolds heaped heartfelt praise upon Durning, and a six-minute profile took the time to do him justice. It was clear: His career represents a swath of entertainment history.
All in all, the SAG Awards got the trophies distributed with efficiency and class. But focusing only on actors, it fulfilled a larger mission: It reminded us how much we love the best of what they do.