On Sunday (April 18), Nashville reminded us of something important: An award show — shown here with Carrie Underwood and CeCe Winans — can be very good.
A week later, Hollywood may remind us of the flip side: Awards can be truly, terribly awful.
These shows used to have celebrities being themselves (or, perhaps, prettier versions of themselves). They said things that were funny or fumbling or emotional or whatever.
But all of that has changed lately. They recite names; they thank managers and agents and, worse, “my team.” They are dull; the show can only be saved with humor and/or music. So what will the Oscars do, from 8-11 p.m. ET April 25? It is banishing humor — no host, no funny presenters (so far) — and music; the five nominated songs will be wedged into the preview at 6:30 p.m., lest entertainment take any time away from droning speeches.
By comparison, the Academy of Country Music awards kept entertaining us. Sure, that’s easy when you’re all about music; still, the ACM’s worked to get it right.
The 2020 awards (delayed five months) bounced between three locations, to keep up the social distancing. The 2021 awards (just seven months later) had even more locations.
Many of those seemed to encourage a more intimate, heartfelt performance. Guys like Luke Combs or Chris Stapleton don’t seem to fit a big, glitzy stage; here, we sometimes had the feeling of the best bar-room night ever.
But yes, the glitz was still there, peaking with a spectacular gospel medley by Carrie Underwood. She started all alone, singing “Amazing Grace” a cappella … and eventually was joined by CeCe Winans and a socially distanced choir. It was a soaring moment.
One other thing: Country music sometimes seemed to thing “diversity” meant having some guys from Texas and some from Tennessee. Not any more.
The night had lots of Black performers, starting with co-host Mickey Guyton (who also did a great song). It had a gay presenter (little Leslie Jordan, dressed in glittery gold and calling himself “Portable Wagoner”). And, for the first time, all five best-single nominees were women.
The acceptance speeches were bad, of course, but then the show would cut to another song. What, exactly, will the Oscars do?