It’s a good thing relatively few cable systems carry Trio, or the channel actually might start to piss some people off — and more power to ’em. Exhibiting an inventiveness born of necessity, December’s “Awards Mania” theme month features a pair of noteworthy specials, including one that showers disdain on the Golden Globes — the annual kudocast that brings in a pretty penny for Trio’s new parent-to-be, NBC.
No wonder jaded critics keep writing about this little network dedicated to TV and pop culture, despite its current availability in less than a fifth of U.S. homes. Somehow, though, it seems likely the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. — the cosseted organization that keeps the Globes turning — won’t share that enthusiasm about a doc in which interview subjects dismiss most of its members as “bottom feeders,” “hangers-on” and “junketeers.”
Then again, it’s not like the association defended itself, preferring a head-in-the-sand approach. “Nobody, not even their publicist, would talk to us,” filmmaker-narrator Vikram Jayanti (“When We Were Kings”) notes dryly.
There are some interesting tidbits here, like the fact that 13 of the HFPA’s 96 members hail from Germany; still, for the most part, this is little more than an excuse to allow more reputable journos to bash the group at will — a reasonably good spectator sport as low-budget specials go.
The high dudgeon does get a bit tiresome, such as Washington Post-turned-New York Times correspondent Sharon Waxman comparing the Golden Globes to Halliburton (puh-leeze), proceeding to gripe regarding the group’s dubious credibility, “People know, and they don’t care.”
Precisely. The Globes serve a purpose so long as they remain a viable marketing vehicle and “foreplay for the Oscars,” as Robin Williams puts it, a point Jayanti hits repeatedly. More entertaining is some of the Globes’ freewheeling history, peaking with Pia Zadora’s by-all-accounts purchased award for “Butterfly” in 1981. That affair prompted CBS to drop the telecast, which persevered in syndication and on cable before NBC stepped in.
A lighter touch applies to “The Award Show Awards Show,” a slightly bloated, at-times disjointed 90-minute spec that nevertheless features amusing observations about the insane proliferation of televised awards as well as the conventions of award-winning.
“Any time you play a retarded person, you have a good shot,” writer/joke machine Bruce Vilanch observes.
Narrated by Tatum O’Neal, spec does a nice job conveying the explosion of awards in the last half-dozen years, with 22 new variations on TV back-patting sprouting up like weeds. There’s also a funny bit on red-carpet strategies, down to slow-motion demonstrations of how publicists maneuver stars to the proper media outlets.
On the downside, writer-producer-director David Story has to make do with a modest arsenal of clips and a sometimes-questionable cadre of experts (Sam Rubin? Haven’t KTLA viewers suffered enough?). He also devotes about 10 minutes to Susan Lucci’s nearly two decades of futility at the Daytime Emmys, which is probably about seven minutes too many.
Acquired specials and movies — including all three versions of “A Star is Born” — augment these original docus under the “Awards Mania” umbrella. It’s a good example of how Trio manages to mine a limited budget to come up with media-friendly packages, such as its “Brilliant but Canceled” initiative, which recycles passed-on pilots and short-lived series gems.
Where Trio fits in the broader picture of NBC-Universal remains a bit of a mystery, especially given its similarities to Bravo. Yet in the category of most imaginative little-seen channel with only about 20 million subscribers, so far, it takes the prize.