Idris Elba arrives at the 2013 BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
by Sandy Cohen
AP Entertainment Writer
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Now that the Britannia Awards are televised, viewers can see Sacha Baron Cohen knock an 87-year-old woman out of her wheelchair.
Cohen “accidentally” pushed the woman’s wheelchair off a stage as he accepted an award for excellence in comedy during Saturday’s ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The stunt played perfectly into the newly televised show, which is set to air Sunday on BBC America.
The Britannia Awards come just two weeks after the refurbished Hollywood Film Awards drew some of the same celebrities, but there can never be enough Hollywood awards shows. Networks love the star power, stars adore the accolades and fans delight in the spectacle.
From left, honorees Benedict Cumberbatch, Sacha Baron Cohen, Kathryn Bigelow, Sir Ben Kingsley, George Clooney, and Idris Elba are seen onstage during the 2013 BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
“There are more than 35 Hollywood awards shows on prime-time TV,” said Tom O’Neil, founder and editor of awards website GoldDerby.com. “They’re the ultimate reality show because we get to witness our cultural gods be winners and losers just like the rest of us.”
The Britannia winners were announced in advance, but who doesn’t want to see a barefoot Julia Roberts present an award to George Clooney, or watch filmmaker Judd Apatow playfully pick a fight with Sean Penn?
Besides Cohen and Clooney, Kathryn Bigelow, Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ben Kingsley accepted awards from the Los Angeles branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Networks like awards shows for the star-power they bring, and stars themselves love the accolades.
“They have money, power, good looks and the worship of the world, but deep down inside they crave a fake gold statuette that validates their work, gives them the approval of their peers and a place in the history books,” O’Neil said.
Networks also like award shows because like most reality shows, they’re relatively inexpensive to produce.
Handed out by the Los Angeles branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Britannia Awards promise an all-star cast. Presenters including Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Sigourney Weaver and Chiwetel Ejiofor will honor recipients such as Ben Kingsley, Kathryn Bigelow, George Clooney and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Lupita Nyong’o arrives at the 2013 BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
The awards were established in 1989 but the ceremony didn’t make its TV debut until last year.
“One of my goals was to increase the talent profile of the channel, and awards shows are a natural way to do that,” said BBC America general manager Perry Simon, who joined the network three years ago.
The night’s party vibe also helps the show, he said: “These are entertainers who want to have fun and audiences want to see them have fun.”
The ceremony has been modified to make it more TV-friendly, he said: “We’re adding more spontaneity to it, giving it a pace that’s more appropriate for a TV program and adding a red carpet pre-show.”
But at this award show, spontaneity has its limits — the honorees already know they’ve won. Yet that’s a good thing, Simon says: “They can just reach for the Champagne and have a good night.”
As we’ve learned from the lively Golden Globe Awards over the years, that Champagne helps add to the audience appeal of such starry events.
“When the setting is a banquet and liquor is being served, often the festivities get a little juiced up,” O’Neil said. “The superstars … are goofing off and goofing up and being chummy with each other.”
Connecting with BAFTA members is another bonus, O’Neil said: Many are also members of the motion picture academy, which hands out Hollywood’s most coveted award, the Oscar.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy.
Sacha Baron Cohen spices up newly televised awards