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The decline and fall of the People's Choice Awards

January 7, 2009 |  8:21 am

Although the People's Choice Awards commemorate its 35th anniversary tonight on CBS, there is little to celebrate about the tarnishing of these once-important kudos. Adding the new category of Favorite Scene-Stealing Guest Star may bring boffo ratings — as it did when nominee Britney Spears guested on "How I Met Your Mother" — but it won't earn these prizes any new respect. She competes against Luke Perry and Robin Williams, both nominated for appearing on "Law & Order: SVU."

Although Williams will be appearing on the kudocast as a presenter, it is unclear whether Spears will be at the Shrine Auditorium this evening. And Marc Malkin of E News reports that the buzzed-about appearance of Brad Pitt may just be "in a pre-taped segment. He was offered but apparently turned down the chance to be beamed in live via satellite, according to a source. As for Angelina Jolie, I’m told she declined both a taped and satellite segment." The PCAs are hosted once again by leading lady nominee Queen Latifah.


The reduced wattage of star power in contention and in attendance is attributable to the overall decline in these kudos in recent years. Yes, they added a new, sensational race for TV Drama Diva, but then failed to nominate Emmy winner Glenn Close ("Damages"). As Bob Sassone wrote about the TV contenders over on TV Squad: "The list of nominees is the very definition of unexciting." He cited the exclusion of such buzzed-about shows as Emmy champ "Mad Men" and "Dexter" for the likes of "CSI."

And the movie contenders are not much better. Although "The Dark Knight" competes in several races, as do "The Secret Life of Bees", "Iron Man," and "Mamma Mia!" there is little else in the way of serious awards fare. That shift in focus for these kudos began five years ago. Until 2004, winners were determined by a Gallup poll of everyday Americans. Not surprisingly, over those first three decades of the PCAs, the people often went with populist choices like "E.T." for best picture. However, many Oscarologists consider that film's loss to "Gandhi" at the 1982 awardsfest as one of the academy's biggest goofs.

And there were years when the People's Choice for a best picture prize (they have two or three in some years, just one in others) coincided with those of Oscar voters. Indeed, "The Sting" was picked as the very first People's Choice weeks before its upset win at the 1974 Oscars. Since then, the two kudos lined up for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1976); "Rain Man" (1988); "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991); "Forrest Gump" (1994); and "Titanic" (1997). And when they disagreed, it was over equally worthy movies — such as "Star Wars" versus "Annie Hall" in 1977 — and the alternative points of view were refreshing.

In 2005, PCA voting was changed to a much less expensive — and far less scientific — means of opinion-gathering. An Internet research company taps a sample number of pop culture fans to choose the nominees, then voting is thrown open to all Internet users who wish to register their opinions online at Under this new and unimproved system, the first winner for best picture was "Fahrenheit 9/11." Although it was arguably a worthy contender, such a polarizing pic never would have won using the old Gallup Poll method. Which raises the question: Was it really the people's choice? No. It was the choice of the people who dominate cyberspace: young men, who, biologically speaking, have a hormonal need to rebel against authority.

Producers of the kudocast loved that result because it made for great TV, especially when they had the trophy bestowed on Michael Moore by TV's liberal president, Martin Sheen of "The West Wing." Moore was so excited about receiving the honor that, when producers tipped him off ahead of time, he ditched plans to attend the award gala of the New York Film Critics Circle, which was held the same weekend on a different coast. After all, the critics only planned to give him a trophy for best nonfiction film. Moore ended up sending a stand-in who's never been shy about accepting awards: Harvey Weinstein.

Photo credit: CBS

The comments to this entry are closed.


I can not believe they took "Raising the bar " off the air it was the best show on TV. Also why haven't they mentioned "The Middle" a very funny show. They keep giving the same people the awards and they aren't worthy . I hope another network picks up "Raising the bar". and I wish people would watch "The Middle" .

It's sad to see the People's Choice Awards has turned into a near duplicate of the Teen Choice Awards or the MTV Movie Awards. The voting audience appears to have diminished form a decent cross section of the country to a much younger demographic, based on the winners in most categories. The invevitable result will be the reduction of star power who attend the show as the awards lose their legitimacy. Granted, the young demographic likely is more interested in pop icons and fad movies and shows, and will vote voraciously for their favorites, skewing any result they are participating in. But, it's the 18-49 demogrpahic that spends the most money over time across all categories affected by music and video entertainment - consider who spends the most on movies, rental movies, video on demand, cable, satellite, Audio visual equipment, music, concerts, MP3s, plays, etc. It seems odd that all the businesses that are affected by this monetary tidal wave would sit idly by as the people's choice awards become yet another teenage popularity contest...duplicating those (mentioned before) that already exist for this purpose.

I actually enjoyed the People's Choice awards this year. I thought Queen Latifah did a decent job hosting.. and the performances were great. Carrie Underwood gave a show stopping AMAZING performance that kind of made the whole night worth while. Then, Seal did an impromptu partial performance just before handing out the Favorite Female singer award to Carrie, who deserved it. Seal and Carrie were highlights for me, as well as the always adorable Reese Witherspoon and Kate Hudson. I was dissapointed that Angeline and Brit, Will Smith, etc- did not attend. I know Will Smith was in Germany promoting a movie, but he should have done a satelittle thank you. Angelina and Brad lost some respect in my eyes, for snubbing the fans that voted for them.

Call it what you will, but we the fans make these a-holes famous and pay their bills by going to their stupid movies... so to snub us, by failing to show up, is a stuppid move. I love angelina/brad, etc- but they showed their true colors last night by snubbing this Award ceremony as if they are too good for it. We surely won't vote for you next year.

Personally, I think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were idiots not to attend the PCAs. It is true that WE the FANS are what made them who they are, by going to their movies, etc. For them to snub us after we worked hard to vote for them to receive this stupid award, is a big diss to their own fans. It shows them as snobs and elitists, too good to acknowledge their own fans.

I don't care what the snarky critics have to say about the importance or relevance of the People's Choice Awards. The point is, it is for the Fans that you attend, because we voted for them.

I applaud Reese witherspoon, Robin Williams, Hugh Laurie, Carrie Underwood, etc., for taking the time to show their fans they appreciate the award, and they appreciate their fans by attending.

Trust me, I will not be supporting Brad or Angelina after this snub. They could have appeared via satellite like chris Brown did... that was a classy thing to do. But they refused to do even that, so they are toast in my book.

Peers juding their peers is one thing. Non-Industry people belching anf farting in the privacy of their own home while casting their multiple votes on the internet.
Given that fact, it is not surprising that the "professionals" in the Movie/Recording/TV industry think that the People's Choice Awards is a joke.
The only people that get a hard-on for the PCA any more are a particular show's or recording artist's publicist (and perhaps the production company that put the project together0.

This was never a respectable awards show. Duh! Just a way to make money.

these awards have always been irrelevant crap.

I don't get these celebrities...Carrie Underwood sang an incredible song, with control, consistency, power,and with a great voice and feeling and they don't stand up. What is that??? What is wrong with these people?

I did not vote, but am still appalled that NCIS was not nominated for anything. Where are the people that watch these shows? NCIS is great. It is about our country and who has to take care of it, never missing a beat. Mark Harmon is so real.

who are the people that chose?
and why do they bother

I think it is crazy that what was once an honorable award, has come to this. Britney Spears was "given" her MTV awards in exchange for an exclusive documentary that left people feeling as though she is unable to make any personal choices. To put her up against the great Robin Williams is recognition enough! I truly hope she is not "given" another award!

In the Gallup days, were the votes for "best picture" solicited via a pre-coded list of movies that people could choose from, or were they asked an unaided question such as "what was the best picture of 2008?"

Internet based surveys can have as much validity as phone based surveys (consider how many households no longer have a traditional landline phone) and there are a variety of trade-offs that have to be weighed when selecting a method and collecting/working with the data.

People's Choice was/is/always will be a popularity contest. Better it should be among people who actively consume current pop culture (i.e., heavy internet users) instead of those who just have a telephone and are around to answer it and do a survey (my grandma).

This is an excellent article that I hope will spark a lot more discussion and debate about revamping and revitalizing the once fun experience of watching the People's Choice Awards.

it is a shame such a beautiful statuette is wasted. With the new breed of categories, they have become the MTV Movie Awards of network TV. The only difference is that the MTV Movie Awards knew what they were going in. The People's Choice Awards are pandering and it is sad and insulting to those who have won the award in the past, those who will win tonight and those who will win in the future.

They should consider this when they wonder why Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will show up at the Golden Globes but not at the People's Choice Awards.

They should consider this when wondering why they have to let people know they have won the award in order to get them to show up to the ceremony.

They should consider this when wondering why viewers and award show junkies such as myself shift their attention to SAG.

"In 2005, PCA voting was changed to a much less expensive — and far less scientific — means of opinion-gathering. An Internet research company taps a sample number of pop culture fans to choose the nominees, then voting is thrown open to all Internet users who wish to register their opinions online at "

"Less scientific" are the words that really caught my attention.

You see — I dismissed years ago The People's Choice Awards because it was just a number of flavors of popcorn tastebuds, one year after another. But for there to be a less scientific measure in operating these awards — well, imagine if Election 2008 had seen "less scientific" methadologies from pollings that "reported" on whom The People would vote.

Thanks, again, Tom — this is very enlightening.

LOL. Why would Mad Men be nominated for a People's Choice Award? No one watches it. Yes it makes tons of sense to nominate a show that gets 1 million viewers a week as opposed to CSI's 20. Yes the Peoples Choice is obviously Mad Men and that would get people excited and they would tune in! I mean you have a better point with Dexter but only because of the ratings it got when it was aired on CBS. Made Men. LOL again. Thank You!!



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