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Brit Awards or Oscars, the winner certainly isn't the audience

Even the unpredictability of live TV can’t make awards shows anything more than a parade of penguin-suited backslappers collecting gongs so they can make more money

Harry Styles enjoys his awards at the 43rd BRIT Awards 2023. Image: Anthony Harvey/ Shutterstock

Harry Styles enjoys his awards at the 43rd BRIT Awards 2023. Image: Anthony Harvey/ Shutterstock

Imagine if the UK Workplace Health and Safety Awards were televised. Hosted by Sue Crispbread, BBC Hereford and Worcester’s third most popular presenter, it begins with the Most Days Without a Reportable Accident category. The nominees are Heattech International (Grimsby), Knaresborough Fasteners and Elastics, Stevenage Stone Cladding Solutions and WTF Joinery of East Grinstead. And the award goes to… KNARESBOROUGH FASTENERS AND ELASTICS! [Repeat for two and a half interminable hours.]

Sounds boring, doesn’t it? But I would argue that it’s really not that much of a leap from there to the Brits, the Grammys, the Baftas or the Oscars. Yes, the red carpet might feature Sam Smith in an alarming bin bag full of polyps, Dame Judi Dench might be sitting in the audience trying to find a tissue in her handbag, and there may be behind-the-scenes gossip galore. But when you watch awards shows on TV they’re always about as eventful as a 10-hour YouTube video of a roaring fire.

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At least when you actually attend the Oscars or the Baftas you get a goody bag – whose contents range from Fabergé eggs and holidays in the Maldives to bottles of gin and champagne truffles, depending on how important you are. You might even be invited to an afterparty or meet someone influential who can further your career.

But what do we, the audience, get from awards shows? Awkward jokes, technical issues, tedious red carpet interactions and a bunch of faceless people picking up awards for Best Key Grip for 14 hours – followed by two weeks of ‘cultural discourse’ about the one thing that actually happened (Kim Kardashian wore a dress). 

Or, if it’s the Brits, you get the bonus of deep embarrassment and shame at how terrible we are at live events, which usually lasts until the following year’s awards.

Of course, occasionally there will be ‘moments’. Lizzo will wear a large pink fluffy shelf on her head. Will Smith will slap Chris Rock. Ellen will take a selfie. The Daily Mail sidebar will show a variety of women flaunting their curves (walking) and Twitter will be on fire with disgruntled people with flags in their bios shouting ‘Attention seeker!’ at people whose very jobs are to seek attention. 

These celebrity titbits are about as nourishing for the body and soul as eating a Jammie Dodger on the toilet, but every year during awards season we hoover them up, discussing necklines and hemlines and trying to detect icy body language between celebrities, based on a photo of them staring into the middle distance while they wait for the damn thing to be over.

But asking the average person to sit through the entirety of a boring industry awards event is becoming a step too far. As we transform into a society that is increasingly used to digesting information in 30-second bursts, usually involving lip syncing, dancing or a kid talking about how much they love corn, televised awards are starting to look very creaky indeed. They’re like telethons, or a Reith lecture – long, slow and stilted. Even the unpredictability of live TV can’t make awards ceremonies anything more than a parade of penguin-suited backslappers collecting gongs so they can make more money. It’s work. It’s just WORK.

So, from now on we need to start treating these awards shows like mid-table football matches and only show the highlights. That way we can just turn the very few interesting moments into memes and get on with our lives quickly, rather than sitting through hours of people opening envelopes. 

Alternatively we go the other way and open up the floor to other industries, like construction, marketing or tech. We could have a 24-hour channel just for workplace awards shows to soothe insomniacs and crying babies: an interminable stream of table shots, droning speeches and people trying not to get lukewarm daube of beef on their ties.

I mean, what’s the difference? Knaresborough Fasteners and Elastics… it’s your time to shine.

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist @lucytweet1

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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