Let’s say your goofy-looking, street-balling friend who bears a striking similarity to Cindy Brady made a hook shot from halfcourt to get you a spot on Jeopardy!. And let’s say, after thoroughly destroying the competition with your knowledge of foods that start with the letter “Q”, your confidence allows you to bet all your winnings on the Final Jeopardy category: February Television.
You’re smiling and brimming with confidence until you finally hear our favourite Canadian Alex Trebek read the answer: This Sunday in February used to be highly regarded as must-see television, but has been on a steady decline and has finally reached the point that it is so predictable that it is nearly unwatchable.
Uh oh, here comes the music. What’s the response?
The truth is it could be either NBA All-Star Weekend or the Academy Awards. The similarities were never clearer than this year when, due to the lockout, they actually fell on the same day. I watched both (Oscars live and taped the All-Star Game), and I found myself retreading familiar territory.
That’s because both All-Star Weekend and the Oscars have been following the exact same tired format for years and years. Both start out slow, with events and awards we don’t care about in the least. The Oscars bore us with awards for minutia most of us are not familiar with (which always end up going to the winners of the bigger awards, anyway), while the first half of the All-Star Game looks more like an And-1 Mixtape, only with more turnovers.
The progression of the All-Star Game looks something like this:
- A lengthy and unnecessary player introduction.
- An exciting start, filled with dunks and behind-the-back passes, while the announcers revel about “how athletic these guys are!”
- A deterioration in play that leads to turnovers, players clearing out to let opposing players dunk, and alley-oops that land in the third row of the seats.
- A halftime performance by whatever hip-hop artist has the most popular, least offensive song on the charts.
- A third quarter where the players start to buckle down and take the game slightly more seriously.
- In the fourth quarter, the losing team makes a run and the last two minutes turn into something that resembles basketball, leading us to remember why these guys are All-Stars in the first place.
It’s literally the exact same thing every year.
If you’ve ever watched the Oscars, I don’t need to tell you that it follows a similar trajectory, complete with the initial awe of seeing all your favorite stars in the same building. Just like the All-Star game, however, it quickly devolves, but instead of bad basketball you’re inundated with irrelevant awards. Instead of Flo Rida, you get Cirque Du Soleil. And just like the All-Star Game, the last half hour is all you really care about.
While the Oscars had been moving in a different direction, adding new and interesting themes to the production, last year’s two-headed monster of James Franco and Anne Hathaway brought that to a screeching halt. Therefore this year we were treated with a return to normalcy, with tried-and-true Billy Crystal delivering a safe, mildly humorous performance that was quite self-aware about losing the interest of the 18-24 demographic (or even the 18-72 demographic).
The All-Star game was just as predictable, with the same old faces putting on the same old show. Kobe Bryant came out hot early, while Kevin Durant did what Kevin Durant does. LeBron James was his normal energetic, talkative self, and he predictably led the East comeback in the second half. He also predictably turned the ball over in the final seconds…
The only thing that didn’t go as planned was when Dwyane Wade broke Kobe’s nose with a surprisingly hard foul, but I guess we can’t expect that every year.
So what can we do to fix this? The answer is pretty clear.
Both the All-Star Game and the Oscars need to be shorter. If nobody plays hard during the first half of the game and it always deteriorates, why not just shorten it to a single half? Two twelve minute halves with a Pitbull performance sandwiched in between is all we really need to see. It would increase the intensity and everyone would only end up playing about five minutes each, which is all they want to play anyway.
Same goes for the Oscars, which could do away with all the lesser categories like sound mixing, costume design, and film editing. Throw those in with the technical awards on the day before the Oscars and only televise the categories we care about: writer, director, supporting actor, supporting actress, actor, actress, best picture. You shorten the broadcast from three hours to two and everyone gets to sleep before midnight.
Shortening the NBA All-Star Game and the Oscars might not stop them from being predictable, but at least we’ll be able to watch the whole thing without getting bored, looking through the guide, and saying, “ooh, Pawn Stars. I hear that’s supposed to be good.”