Hollywood ready for a red carpet with SAG Awards


UPDATED 10:14 p.m. PT Jan. 24

Sunday's SAG Awards will be the industry's first red-carpet event in this strike-fractured awards season, and even the prospect of heavy rain hasn't dampened the enthusiasm.

"Considering we don't know what's going on with the Oscars and the fact that there wasn't a red carpet at the Globes, we're pulling out all the stops," "Access Hollywood" executive producer Rob Silverstein said.

The entertainment magazines and cable outlets are ready to throw more weight behind their coverage of this year's carpet and ceremony, following the WGA strike-ravaged Golden Globes on Jan. 13 and given the Oscar uncertainty. That means the SAG Awards -- which received a waiver from the WGA -- likely will attract more hoopla than ever in their 14th year.

Among those beefing up their presence on the red carpet or increasing the amount of time they are planning to devote to the SAG Awards are syndicated TV magazines "Access Hollywood," "Entertainment Tonight," "Inside Edition" and "Extra" and cable channels E! Entertainment and TV Guide.

Said "Inside Edition" exec producer Charles Lachman: "We're definitely covering the SAG Awards more than usual. We're always interested in the event, but obviously it will have more news value this go-round because of the strike and the possibility that it might be the only big red-carpet event of the awards season. So we're going all out on it."

Both "Access" and "Inside" are increasing their presence on the red carpet with additional camera positions. "Access" also is shooting in high-definition at the SAG ceremony for the first time and is planning "stunts" backstage and on the red carpet that it normally reserves for the bigger awards shows.

Silverstein said that three-quarters of Monday's TV show likely will be devoted to the SAG Awards, depending on other breaking news. "Access" also will be streaming interviews live from the red carpet on its Web site, marking the first time it will have done so at any awards show.

Lachman said "Inside" is "doubling its resources" for its SAG Awards coverage and also will be backstage in a one-on-one room, though he said it's hard to say how much of Monday's show will be devoted to the ceremony at this point.

"Entertainment Tonight" also is ramping up its presence. Mary Hart will be hosting Monday's show for the first time from the Shrine rather than throwing to Jann Carl from the studio. Both Hart and Mark Steines will be on a platform at the red carpet; Hart also will be backstage talking to the winners.

"Extra" co-executive producer Jeremy Spiegel, whose show is incorporating a fashion-related "twist" this year and also will have an interview position backstage, said "Extra's" Monday coverage of the SAG Awards will depend on what happens that night as well as what other entertainment news breaks. But he noted that viewers are probably eager for red-carpet coverage following the lackluster Globes.

"It's safe to say that people are craving a glitzy, star-powered event," he said. "And this could turn out to be the most star-packed awards show of the season."

Ross Crystal, entertainment editor at KFWB-AM Los Angeles and host of the syndicated entertainment report "Showbiz Express," predicts viewership could be up for the TNT/TBS simulcast of the ceremony, following last year's record-breaking telecast. He said that his listeners and stations around the country that air his syndicated show seem more aware of the SAG Awards this go-round than in years past.

"This particular awards show is really going to have a big focus from both people in the industry and viewers, and I really think it's because, in a way, of the washout that happened with the Globes," he said. "People want to see those actors and actresses on the red carpet, and they want to know what they are going to say about the strike."

As for the cable networks covering the event, E! Entertainment has added a SAG Awards "Fashion Police" special to its schedule at 8 p.m. Monday -- which it generally produces for the bigger awards shows but not for SAG's -- and is presenting its live red-carpet coverage with a Spanish-language SAP simulcast for the first time. TV Guide has added an hour to its live red-carpet programming, which now kicks off at 4 p.m. Sunday.

In terms of the number of media outlets covering the event, SAG Awards spokeswoman Rosalind Jarrett said that this year saw an increased number of credentials -- all of the red-carpet spots are filled -- but pointed out that has been the trend year after year, not just for the 2008 ceremony.

"Requests for credentials last year were greater than capacity," she said. "Last summer (before the writers walked out Nov. 5), the SAG Awards redesigned the red carpet to accommodate as many media as possible."

This year, the carpet area is 1,833 square feet larger -- or about 20 feet longer.

But it's unclear at this point what the mood on the red carpet will be.

"I think a lot of that hinges on where the (WGA-AMPTP) negotiations stand on Sunday," Lachman said. "But I expect there to be both a sense of excitement among the celebrities and a lot more glamour. But there also could be a sense of sadness because of what's going on with the strike and what would happen if the Oscars don't take place."

It should be noted that Oscar officials have said that the ceremony is scheduled to take place as planned, though the WGA has not yet granted a waiver in the event that the strike has not been resolved by Feb. 24.

Meanwhile, Silverstein is predicting a less mixed mood on the SAG Awards red carpet.

"Somber is too strong a word, but I think it will be a little low-key based on (the recent death of) Heath Ledger, a fellow actor, and considering what the strike has done to people who have lost a lot of money, are out of work, are losing their homes," he said.

But another big reason that the mood on the red carpet could be glum has nothing to do with Ledger or striking writers: The Weather Channel is predicting a 40% chance of rain showers and a high temperature of 56 degrees for Sunday in Los Angeles.

As a result, organizers decided late Thursday to tent the entire carpeted walkway, a move that, rain or shine, they will not be able to go back on.

No matter what happens on the red carpet, inside the Shrine or at the afterparties, Silverstein, Lachman and Spiegel said their shows will reflect the overall tone and events of the night.

"Our coverage will appropriately reflect what happens from the news to the awards to the winners to the parties and the fashion and whatever headlines are breaking in Hollywood," Spiegel said.

The 14th annual SAG Awards are set to air live on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. EST/PST on Sunday.