On Tuesday, Jan. 8, CBS will air the 34th Annual People's Choice Awards. It's the only award show besides MTV's where America gets to decide the winners. It's supposed to be the most democratic trophy service on television. Yet, I don't all together understand or agree with a lot of the show's choices this year.
The People's Choice Awards, dubbed PCA, hands out statuettes in the fields of movies, TV and music. Each field has its own categories, and there are a total of 40 categories, two of which are brand new this year. A web-based research group using samples from national ratings averages, the best in box office grosses and top album sales determines the nominees that go into the PCA categories.
For example, one category in the field of TV is Favorite Competition / Reality Show. The nominees in that category are American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Now, this is fine because all three of those programs were the highest rated of that type, and when it comes to the nominees in the TV field, one would think all the nominees would be the three shows that got the highest Nielsen ratings, since that is the industry standard for judging what the American people are and aren't choosing, but no.
In the category of Favorite TV Comedy, the nominees are The King of Queens, My Name is Earl, and Two and a Half Men. Now, all those shows are certainly popular and quite funny, but if the PCA wanted to go by what the highest rated comedy programs are, what people were truly choosing, then one show that should have been included here but wasn't is Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives averaged over 18 million viewers both this season, and last, significantly more than all those other three comedies. Yet, it was omitted from all the PCA categories. Why?
In the category of Favorite TV Drama, the nominees are CSI, House, and Law and Order: SVU. Again, all those shows are popular and very successful, but all three aren't as successful as one show that should have been on this shortlist but wasn't. According to Nielsen ratings, if you wanted to go by what people were choosing, the PCA would have had Grey's Anatomy as a nominee. The show averages nearly 19 million viewers per week. The show's stars, Katherine Heigl and Patrick Dempsey were both nominated. Both stars have been on more magazine covers than you can count that have sold like crazy. Yet, their show was omitted. Why?
All the nominees in the field of music seem to be in line with what topped the charts, according to Soundscan and Billboard magazine, the arbiters of what the people's choice is in the recording industry. The categories include nominees like Beyonce, Fergie, Tim McGraw, Maroon 5, Rascal Flatts and Justin Timberlake. The only oddity is in the category of Favorite Song from a Soundtrack. The glaring omission here is the blockbuster sales brought by the soundtrack to High School Musical 2. Why no mention of it here?
In the field of movies, a film is considered a hit if it raises over $100 million in the box office. A film is in the least considered successful if it can bring back a return of investment. If a movie cost $10 million to produce, if that's its budget, then it's successful if it makes one dollar over that budget. The majority of movies struggle to do that, but every year, usually during the summer, there's a slew of hits because teens and college kids with nothing more productive to do frequent the theater, but there's also a handful of movies that gross $300 million or more. These are the films that everybody likes, that represent the true people's choice. I doubt the studios put a gun to people's heads and force them to give up their $300 million. Rightfully, the PCA has nominated this handful of films.
However, I must point out that in the category of Favorite Movie Star, the nominees are Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon. All three of these superstars are highly paid, but in 2007 they appeared in films that failed in the box office. So, why is the PCA rewarding three actresses whose movies flopped, actresses who clearly weren't the people's choice this year?
As one of their nominees, they should have had Nicole Kidman. The three movies Kidman released in 2007 weren't smashes, but Kidman's The Golden Compass did make more money in three weeks than Sandra Bullock's movie Premonition did in the two months or so it had in the theaters. As one of their nominees, they also could have had Michelle Pfieffer who returned to the movie business after a considerable absence to be featured in two hit movies this year.
There were even some questionable men as PCA movie nominees. Joaquin Phoenix was nominated in the Favorite Leading Man category. Phoenix was in two films this year. One had moderate success. The other was a total failure, while ignored was Shia LaBeouff who was in two of the biggest movies of the year. More people uttered Shia's name than Joaquin's. Yet, the PCA did not nominate Shia. Again, why?
On the PCA Web site, you can vote online on the actual awards, as well as on Buzz Polls. The Buzz Polls go all the way back to September 2007 on all kinds of opinion questions involving the entertainment business. This is meant to be a part of what PCA touts as their manifesto, "We the People," claiming that they care about the business and want to make it better, so they rely on input from the masses.
Except, I've noted here at least a half dozen examples of how PCA has ignored the masses. This idea that the PCA promotes is ridiculous. It promotes being a champion for the people against the big entertainment companies like John Edwards or somthing, but let's be real. The entertainment companies are very much Democratic in that people vote with their wallets and purses, and the big companies follow.
The biggest grossing movies this year were all sequels. The highest selling artists were all already-established singers. The top TV shows were shows that have been on the air for a few years now. Why? Because Hollywood listened to how people were spending their money and decided to give them more of what they wanted, and people again ate it up, just like they've done year after year.
So, not only is the People's Choice Awards so absurdly unnecessary, but in fact, it's flawed as being able to truly identify what the choice of the people is. I've cited its mistakes. The PCA since 1982 has also been owned by Procter & Gamble, one of CBS' largest advertisers, and one of the new categories on the show is the Crest & Scope award. Coincidence? The show is clearly nothing but a big marketing vehicle, cloaked in the ideal of Democracy.
By contrast, on Monday, Jan. 7, VH-1 aired the 13th Annual Critics' Choice Awards. The Critics' Choice is based on the opinion of about 200 film critics, writers and journalists, who decided which movies are of top quality. Quantity has nothing to do with it. These critics like Patrick Stoner of WHYY, Max Weiss of WBAL, and Kyle Osbourne of WJLA don't care about sales figures. Non-surprising, their nominees for best movies at the Critics' Choice Awards in no way match the nominees at the PCA.Therefore, the problem with the PCA is that it doesn't care about giving America quality options, or changing Hollywood, as it professes to want on its Web site. No, the PCA is not the people's choice. It's the advertiser's choice.