Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The show must go on ... sort of

In these troubled times, as our nation moves toward war, as some of our young men and women put themselves in peril overseas and others put themselves on picket lines at home, as our leaders put aside diplomacy and push for battle and the world waits for the fallout, I know the question most of us are asking is: How will all this war stuff affect the Academy Awards? Thankfully, answers are starting to emerge from show producer Gil Cates, who has announced that in keeping with the somber times, the show that celebrates entertainment will try hard to be a little less entertaining.

That means no red-carpet entrances with pre-show hosts babbling ineptly at celebrities. No paparazzi snapping up all the ostentatious, ugly, and ostentatiously ugly gowns being flagrantly displayed. No fans in the bleachers screaming out the names of their favorite stars. No guarantee that ABC won't cut away from the proceedings for war coverage, or cancel the show altogether. Stars are toning down their wardrobes and the show's script writers are toning down their jokes and activist actors are toning down their unscripted comments for the cause. And we, as good Americans, should tone down our expectations for an evening of fun picking apart the rich and famous, criticizing their taste and their speechmaking abilities and their voting choices. These are desperate times, ladies and gentlemen. No singing along to "All That Jazz."

And I guess it's a good time to be serious. Never mind that it's the one night a year I make my husband put the kids to bed so that I can devote myself solely to watching a TV show. Never mind that my friends are coming over to watch the show after surviving two children's birthday parties in as many days, and will need something to smile about. Never mind that giving awards to people who work in show business has an inherent frivolity that no amount of modest black gowns and thoughtful film montages can erase. We all, every one of us, must, if we cannot avoid being self-serving, at least avoid the appearance of being so. And if nothing else, we will have this one tiny triumph to celebrate: We may not be able to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but we can get rid of Joan Rivers.

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