At MTV award shows, party matters more than prizes
LOS ANGELES (AP) - June 4, 2010 -- Katy Perry dripping with green slime. Jack Black, in his underpants, shooting fireworks from his crotch. Sacha Baron Cohen's alter-ego, Bruno, landing his bare backside on Eminem's face.
These sure aren't Oscar moments.
MTV Networks - which include Nickelodeon, Spike, Comedy Central and VH1 - specialize in irreverent awards shows, and they're serving up a double dose this weekend with Spike's Guys Choice on Saturday and the MTV Movie Awards Sunday.
At these shows, fans pick the winners, so popular fare almost always trumps critical favorites. The categories, which change year to year, honor such achievements as Top Fantasy Leaguer and Holy Grail of Hot at Guys Choice, and the best kiss, fight and "scared-as-s--t moment" of the year at the movie awards.
The network's award shows, which also include Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards and Spike's Scream awards (where Johnny Depp presented Keith Richards with the Rock Immortal award last year), are unapologetically more about the party than the prizes.
"We try to keep it fresh," says MTV Networks Chief Judy McGrath. "Let's not get too serious about this and think about what our audience really, really loves."
The shows consistently draw big ratings and big stars - George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Charlize Theron and Robert DeNiro are among those expected at Guys Choice, while Tom Cruise, Sandra Bullock, Adam Sandler and Cameron Diaz are set to join dozens more stars at the MTV Movie Awards.
It's a fan-centered approach, McGrath says, and the combination of top talent, quirky categories and zany antics is a winning one for all involved.
"People appreciate the twist on the traditional awards show and they can have some fun. It doesn't have that high-level-of-anxiety feel," she says, recalling last year's Guys Choice presentation of the Brass Balls award to Clint Eastwood. "Part of you can't believe Clint is coming to get this."
They come, says MTV general manager Stephen Friedman, because they know they're speaking directly to their fans.
"That's why we get the phenomenal caliber of talent that we get," he says. "It's piped straight into the people who adore them and live for them."
Publicist Alan Nierob, who represents A-listers including Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, says the awards hit the right demographic for movies, music and TV.
"You know what you're getting into when you're going to these things," he says of the irreverent awards. "There's always a lot of color at their shows and they get a great audience."
Celebrities also appreciate that fans call the shots, McGrath says. Fans feel an ownership because they're picking the winners, casting unlimited votes for their favorites.
The award shows are also "really good business for us," she says. "They go up every year, in how much clients love them and clamor to be part of them and the revenue they create."
And more are coming. The Halo Awards, where celebrities recognize young people for serving their communities, premiered on Nickelodeon last year. And VH1 will broadcast the Do Something Awards for the first time, hosted by Jane Lynch, on July 19.
Guys Choice, taping Saturday at Sony Studios and airing on Spike June 20, is set to include a tribute to Sylvester Stallone. Sandra Bullock is being honored at the MTV Movie Awards, to be broadcast live on MTV Sunday from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif. The show, hosted by Aziz Ansari, is also set to feature performances by Perry, Snoop Dogg and Christina Aguilera, and footage from the forthcoming "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
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