Let’s be honest: Few in the music industry tuned into the 2023 MTV Movie & TV Awards to see who won this year’s Golden Popcorn Awards. The big question was: Would the producers be able to put on a fun and entertaining show with so much working against them – losing their popular host and their red-carpet pre-show and ultimately not even going live – all in reaction to a strike by members of the Writers Guild of America.
The answer: Depending on your level of interest in old clips from past shows, the show was surprisingly watchable. As it turns out, the people who most deserve a Golden Popcorn this year may be MTV’s Bruce Gillmer, Wendy Plaut and Vanessa Whitewolf, who executive produced the show along with Den of Thieves’ Jesse Ignjatovic and Barb Bialkowski just for getting a show on the air in difficult circumstances.
The show, now in its 31st year, had seemed to headed for a big night when it booked Drew Barrymore as host and corralled the red-hot Jennifer Coolidge to receive its Comedic Genius Award. They even came up with a clever tag line for the show: “Party more! Fan more! BARRYMORE!” But when members of the WGA went on strike on May 2, the show was thrown into chaos.
The first setback came on Thursday when Barrymore pulled out as host in solidarity with the striking writers. Also on Thursday, MTV called off the red carpet for the event. WGA said on Friday that it was planning to picket the show, which made holding a live show increasingly problematic.
So, the production team behind the2023 MTV Movie & TV Awards had just a few days to scramble and get a show on the air that would be worth watching. The two-hour show aired Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV with simulcasts on BET, BET Her, Comedy Central, CMT, Logo, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land, VH1.
Producers of live television live for moments that test their mettle, though it’s probably safe to say that they would have preferred a drama-free roll-out of the show they originally envisioned, with their popular host and their red-hot Comedic Genius recipient both live at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif.
Here’s a complete list of winners from the 2023 MTV Movie & TV Awards. And here are six memorable moments from the show.
Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Coolidge were both in the show – on video.
Barrymore had pre-taped a few comedy bits, which were front-loaded into the show. And she was the winner of best host for The Drew Barrymore Show (beating Emmy rival Kelly Clarkson for The Kelly Clarkson Show, among others). Coolidge accepted her Comedic Genius Award by video and also a second, competitive award – most frightened performance for The White Lotus. So at least they were in the show.
Music clips worth seeing again.
The show did not have a live musical performance, which was the plan as recently as a few days ago, but it was a treat to see the music clips from past shows, especially Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (featuring Jay-Z), both from the 2007 show. Other clips that were well worth seeing again included Whitney Houston’s “Why Does It Hurt So Bad” (1996), N Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” (2000), Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya and Pink’s “Lady Marmalade” (2001), TLC’s “Waterfalls” (2005), Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” (featuring Snoop Dogg, 2010), Selena Gomez’s “Come and Get It” (2013) and Lizzo’s “Juice” (2019). Even a minor, mostly-forgotten song, such as Pink’s “Feel Good Time” (2003), from Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, was good to see again.
Tom Cruise, professional as ever.
Tom Cruise is one of the biggest movie stars of the past four decades, but he genuinely seems to care, even after all this time, even about awards that, let’s face it, are not the Oscars or even the Golden Globes. Cruise not only submitted a video for his win for best performance in a movie for Top Gun: Maverick, but it was an elaborate clip of him giving his acceptance speech while flying a plane. And his words were heartfelt: “I make these films for you…Thank you again for letting me entertain you. It’s an absolute privilege.”
Three acceptance speeches by Pedro Pascal.
The show was lucky that the buzzy Pedro Pascal gave three videotaped acceptance speeches, all for The Last of Us – best hero, best duo (with Bella Ramsey) and best show. They were sprinkled throughout the program.
Well-produced clip packages.
The program had a seemingly endless supply of clip packages to fill time (and at that, the show was about six minutes short of filling its two-hour time-slot). There was a package devoted to “jaw-dropping moments,” including at least two that lived up to that breathless billing – a bare-bottomed Sacha Baron Cohen landing on Eminem; and Jim Carrey, deep in character, saying “There’s some fine-looking pu**y in this room.” MTV didn’t bleep it, but we have to.
There were also packages devoted to fashion from 20 years ago (including Beyoncé, just beginning her solo career, saying she wanted to wear something sexy and flirty), host entrances, previous breakthrough performance presentations, and previous Comedic Genius presentations.
(Hey MTV, a suggestion: The name “Comedic Genius” couldn’t be stiffer or more pretentious, especially for your target audience. How about “Comedy Icon”?)
Support for the striking writers, but it wasn’t a main focus of the show.
The show elected not to have someone say “Here’s why the show is going to look a little different tonight.” The producers probably figured “why call attention to it? Let’s hope we hook them as viewers before they catch on.” But some winners did salute their writers. Accepting her Comedic Genius award, Coolidge said “As a proud member of SAG [Screen Actors Guild], I stand here before you tonight side-by-side with my sisters and brothers from the WGA that are fighting right now, fighting for the rights of artists everywhere. And I think of the words of Shakespeare where he once said ‘The play is the thing.’ Well, I don’t want to put words in his mouth or anything, but I think what he really meant was ‘it’s everything.’” (I’m sure The Bard would appreciate that note.)
Accepting best show for The Last of Us, Pascal said they were “standing in solidarity with the WGA that is fighting for fair wages. Accepting best breakthrough performance, Joseph Quinn of Stranger Things said ‘writers deserve respect.” And accepting for best host, Barrymore gave a name-check to three writers from her daytime talk show. “I want to thank our amazing team of writers. This is definitely for them and every single person who makes this show.”