The MTV Movie & TV Awards were forced to morph into what largely amounted to a clip show on Sunday as host Drew Barrymore had pulled out in solidarity with the WGA, and MTV scuttled plans for red carpet interviews and an in-person ceremony in order to to avoid run-ins with picketers (and lack of talent willing to show up).
The show that aired was largely made up of clips of memorable moments from past MTV Movie Awards ceremonies — everything from Jim Carrey accepting his award as Jim Morrison to Sacha Baron Cohen landing crotch-first into Eminem’s face after a “stunt gone wrong.” They even played Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg’s performance of “California Girl” from the 2010 show in full, just to fill some time.
As for the awards themselves, nominees from each category were called and the winner then accepted in the form of a pre-recorded message. The multitude of Zoom-style footage of winners like Joseph Quinn and Jennifer Coolidge recalled TV from the early days of the pandemic to chilling effect.
This is not the show that MTV had planned.
When news of Barrymore dropping out broke (she said she’ll return to host in 2024), Bruce Gillmer, President of Music, Music Talent, Programming and Events at Paramount Global, and an executive producer of the MTV Movie & TV Awards said in a statement, “As we carefully navigate how best to deliver the fan first awards’ show we envisioned that our team has worked so hard to create, we’re pivoting away from a live event that still enables us to produce a memorable night full of exclusive sneak peeks, irreverent categories our audience has come to expect, and countless moments that will both surprise and delight as we honor the best of film and TV over the past year.”
The sneak peeks continued – the show dropped clips from “The Little Mermaid” and “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” – and Barrymore did appear in pre-recorded segments that dropped her into popular projects like “Wednesday” and “Barbie.” But this was far from business as usual, and the reworked plans could be a preview of what’s to come if the strike is still going later this year.
When the WGA went on strike in Nov. 2007, it wreaked havoc on the awards season calendar. In solidarity with the Screen Actors Guild, the SAG Awards were granted a waiver to allow writers to write material for that ceremony, and a waiver was extended for the Film Independent Spirit Awards. But the Golden Globes were denied a waiver, and that January 2008 ceremony amounted to Billy Bush and Nancy O’Dell merely reading winners off one-by-one in an hour-long results special with clips but no acceptance speeches or host.
Ceremonies that continued without writers, like the Globes and People’s Choice Awards, plummeted in the ratings compared to prior years, and while the strike ended 12 days before the 2008 Oscars, that ceremony also suffered from low viewership (yes, in that day and age 32 million viewers was considered low!).
The Tony Awards are due to take place on June 11, but it’s unclear if they’ll do so in an abbreviated or altered fashion (or if host Ariana DeBose is willing to cross the picket line). Ditto the BET Awards on June 23, and the Primetime Emmy Awards are scheduled for Sept. 18.
SAG-AFTRA begins its own negotiations with AMPTP on June 7, and SAG-AFTRA joined the DGA, IATSE, Teamsters and more at a solidarity rally with the WGA on May 3.
Plenty remains up in the air, and the MTV Movie & TV Awards of all things may have served as a harbinger of things to come.