Netflix Debuts a Bloated, Baffling Post-Strike SAG Awards Telecast

The 2024 SAG Awards allegedly only ran 10 minutes over its two-hour time slot on Saturday, but it felt a whole lot longer.

Unlike most awards shows, the SAG Awards and other guild ceremonies award winners only in their respective disciplines, but that didn’t make the telecast more efficient or memorable in any way. While the room full of nominees and winners were endlessly thankful to their union and outside solidarity during the strikes, the telecast failed to sufficiently honor the talent on display in a worthy manner — that, too, on the show’s 30th anniversary.

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And it was no ordinary SAG Awards year for another obvious reason: The telecast aired live on Netflix for the first time ever (including a pre-show hosted by Tan France and Elaine Welteroth). Netflix is one of the only streamers that doesn’t dabble in live TV, so teaming up with the SAG Awards was both surprising and smart. The world’s most ubiquitous streaming platform could prove that it does traditional TV as well, and that it could be a home for other awards shows looking to reach new audiences worldwide.

It also meant no commercial breaks, as Idris Elba pointed out at the top of show (he commended anyone smart enough to bring a flask, which led to a brilliant cutaway of Rhea Perlman offering hers to Lisa Ann Walter) — at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, France returned in between awards to interview previous winners backstage, starting with Jeremy Allen White after his win for “The Bear.” Despite being an inventive alternative to traditional commercial breaks, this creative decision killed the telecast’s momentum early in the night, and it never recovered.

The decision to include post-win interviews might stem from how such clips tend to perform on social media during or after other awards shows, but making viewers sit through the entirety of every interview is not the way. It places extra pressure on both interviewer and winner to perform — to deliver a winning interview that’s not being watched by its usual discerning audience, and further still to manufacture viral moments in the haze of earning an award (a height achieved only by Pedro Pascal’s drunk interview, where he flirted with France, declared his plans to make out with Kieran Culkin, and was finally interrupted by a hug from Steven Yeun, who came to return Pascal’s envelope from the stage). If nothing else, it was constant whiplash for viewers to essentially jump back several categories for an interview with a winner who already accepted their award.

It also didn’t happen for everyone! Netflix aired France’s interviews with White, Ayo Edebiri, Pascal, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and then a baffling interview with Walter — a fantastic actor and part of the exceptional “Abbott Elementary” ensemble, but neither actor nor show won during the show. It turned out to be part of an extended bit where Walter revealed that there was a camera following her all night, recording every conversation — a bit that yielded close to zero entertainment, despite Walter’s best efforts.

This was unfortunately a pattern throughout the telecast. SAG took a leaf from the 50th Emmys in January by uniting iconic casts on stage, including the winning TV ensembles of “Modern Family” and “Breaking Bad” and mini-reunions for “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Devil Wears Prada” (an easy high in the night that took place less than 10 minutes into the show). Elsewhere, paired presenters plowed through stilted, scripted banter, all of which could have been trimmed down or sped up in the best interest of everyone watching. White noted, “Wow, they give you a lot of time at this one,” during his acceptance speech before gracefully exiting the stage. Heck, even Barbra Streisand’s heartfelt and well-deserved tribute dragged — and clocked in at close to 20 minutes.

But as awards season ramps for its final act, the SAGs are the final tee-up for the Oscars, and Saturday’s winners certainly pointed the way of major predictions. The supporting actors awards went to Robert Downey Jr. (“Oppenheimer) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“The Holdovers”), and the lead actor awards to Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”) and Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”). The award for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture went to “Oppenheimer,” proving that all eyes will be on Christopher Nolan’s blockbusting drama come March 10.

Grade: C-

The 30th Annual SAG Awards are now streaming on Netflix. The 96th Annual Academy Awards will air Sunday, March 10 on ABC.

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