The 34th Annual People's Choice Awards



9-11 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8

By sheer accident of timing, the People's Choice Awards became the first to test the possibility of staging an awards telecast in the face of the writers' strike. By any standard, it was an enormous flop.

CBS and producer Procter & Gamble scrapped the live awards telecast -- celebrities, red carpet and all. Instead host Queen Latifah gamely announced nominees and then the winner. Then the show cut to taped acceptance speeches which had all the spontaneity of a New Year's Eve countdown.

To break up the monotony of Latifah's announcements (and feigned surprise at the winner), the show mixed in a never-ending supply of clips from previous telecasts. It also followed up a few of the acceptance speeches with some of the dumbest questions this side of a post-football game interview.

At the outset, Latifah acknowledged the telecast would be a "little different" from those of the past, though the show lacked the candor to level with viewers about the real reason for the change. No matter, she said, "you know what this show is all about. It's always been about the power of the people."

Wrong. This year's show was about the power of the writers and, more importantly, the power of the stars who followed SAG recommendations and let it be known they would not cross a picket line. "The People's Choice" and virtually any awards show could carry on without writers and scarcely miss a beat. But without celebrities and their jewels, gowns and entourage, the award shows become a pale reflection of what viewers expect from them.

Not surprisingly, several People's Choice winners expressed support for the writers during their taped comments. Joaquin Phoenix, winner for leading man, held up cue cards that read, in part, "I'm speechless without the writers." Hugh Laurie, favorite TV drama winner, didn't even bother making a videotape.

"The People's Choice Awards," quite literally nothing more than a popularity contest, is arguably the most meaningless of all the award shows. In addition to that dubious distinction, it has just become the silliest.