If it wasn’t for host Martin Short, the Canadian Screen Awards last night would have been a real dud.
This first year of the awards, aired on CBC, was partly a grand experiment. The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television combined the bereft-of-an-audience Genies and Geminis — separate awards for film and television — to see if Canadians might watch a combined version.
“If, for both award shows, the ratings had gone through the roof [in previous years], there would still be two award shows,” Short said before the big night.
But while the numbers are yet to be tabulated, two major elements were missing over the course of the evening that would certainly have helped to boost the ratings, not to mention viewer interest. Those were spectacle, and a celebratory air.
Short was the brightest star and served as the perfect host: a little zany, lots of theatricality, and plenty of bravado. He didn’t pull any punches, ensuring this wasn’t some polite Canadian affair, where everyone’s egos were sufficiently stroked. His jokes were fresh and biting – even the obligatory, quintessentially Canadian bits had a new twist, e.g. the bagpipes, a fixture at every Canadian celebration, became “Short”-pipes .
Take away his glittering performance, however, and the awards were tepid. Let’s just sidestep the painful pre-taped red carpet arrival with the techno music as the stars posed for cameras, as if it was a segment from Fashion Television. Again, Short’s Jiminy Glick was charming and amusing as the celebrity interviewer, and Shaun Majumder did a commendable job as his sidekick, but it would have been better live.
The awards show itself was disjointed and felt as if the producers were thinking, “Let’s just get this over with.” The repeating shot of the trophy table as winners exited the stage, the number of statues dwindling as the night wore on, as if to signal to people that it was finally almost over, didn’t exactly scream Canadian pride. (On a side note, the statue kind of looks like the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada logo.)
Canadians are not good at bragging, unless it’s about hockey, which, of course, was somehow squeezed into Short’s monologue. Why hockey must be inserted into every aspect of Canadian life, I’ll never understand, but, hey, this is an awards show: we expect some predictable gags.
But while nobody wants a five-hour gong show like the Oscars, what was sorely missing was the celebratory year-in-review component that most awards shows also have. A simple clip montage would have sufficed – one for film and one for television. Not only would that have helped set the tone for the evening, it would have given viewers an idea of what the hell was being celebrated.
The reality is that not a lot of Canadians watch Canadian scripted television (as is apparent from the weekly top 30 program ratings) or see Canadian films (it doesn’t help that the latter rarely get decent distribution). A 15-second clip of each nominated work might actually have created some new viewers. As I understand it, that was another part of the reason for the awards revamp and big, primetime broadcast.
Given it was the CSA’s inaugural year, the Academy is no doubt still learning what does and doesn’t work. I expect next year’s show to be a better production overall, but who can they find to top, or even equal, Martin Short as a host? Maybe they should rename the awards again, to Marty’s Party, as the song number Short performed at the awards went, and have him host every year.
One last note: While there were statues awarded for behind-the-camera categories, the only one to reach the broadcast was Best Director, with not even a mention that honours had been handed out earlier in the week for music, cinematography, screenplay, editing, and costume design. Not only is that a slap in the face to all the hard-working and talented individuals who work in our film and television industry, it doesn’t help elevate public understanding of the grand scale of the industry in this country, how many people it supports, and its economic impact.
Is there an award for missed opportunities?