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The 2024 Screen Actors’ Guild Awards were hostless – and pointless, too

Emily Blunt, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Street at the SAG Awards
Luvvie fest: Emily Blunt, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Street at the SAG Awards - Reuters

An awards show without any hosts? It sounded heavenly, especially after Jo Koy’s disastrous night at the Golden Globes – never mind those of us still suffering flashbacks to James Corden at the Brit Awards from a decade ago. Alas, the hostless format was the only truly distinguishing feature of Saturday night’s thumpingly inessential Screen Actors Guild Awards, which arrived crowbarred into a crowded calendar a week after the Baftas and a fortnight ahead of the Oscars. The threat posed to the thespian profession by artificial intelligence was one of the motivating factors for last year’s actors strike: ironically this punishingly generic ceremony felt like the ChatGPT of gong-givings.

Lack of presenters aside, the big novelty was that the SAG Awards were airing live on Netflix. The streamer has been dipping its digital digits into live broadcasts for several years: 12 months ago it broke new ground with a live Chris Rock comedy special (in which he flubbed his big joke about Will Smith slapping him at the Oscars).

With live broadcasts, of course, comes the headache of time-zones. In the UK, the SAG Awards kicked off at midnight – with the first 60 minutes consisting of yawn-inducing red carpet interviews by Tan France before the ceremony finally began.

What followed was strictly for awards season diehards. It was predictable (Oppenheimer swept the board) and self-congratulatory. Above all, it was dull. Viewers may have experienced the disorientating sensation of thinking back fondly on the car-crash Golden Globes and Koy’s dreadful jokes about Taylor Swift. He was at least memorable.

The SAG Awards are organised by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and are thus a fountain of luvvydom. The 2024 event began with a trio of actors – Michael Cera, Colman Domingo and the ubiquitous Hannah Waddingham – walking through the crowd, explaining how and why they joined the profession.

They were followed by Idris Elba, the closest the night came to an actual host (he was back later with further jokes). He delivered a few playful quips and then got on to the meaty business of commending his colleagues for holding firm in their industrial dispute with the big Hollywood studios (and the streamers – including Netflix).

Infectious joy: Pedro Pascal picked up a trophy for his role in The Last of Us
Infectious joy: Pedro Pascal picked up a trophy for his role in The Last of Us - Reuters

Winning a SAG Award clearly means a lot to the actors. Pedro Pascal revealed he was both drunk and astonished when collecting the accolade for Best Male Actor in a Drama Series for The Last Of Us – and was still agog in an awkward backstage interview/ambush by Tan France. Pascal’s joy was infectious – as was his tipsiness. Alas, it wasn’t enough to paper over the cracks in a ceremony lacking the gonzo absurdity of the Golden Globes or the blockbuster heft of the Oscars.

One SAG Award speciality is hosting on-stage reunions by the cast of beloved shows and movies. True to that tradition, the 2024 edition welcomed the stars of Modern Family and Breaking Bad – during the latter Jonathan Banks dropped one of several F-bombs sprinkled throughout the evening. “It’s an award show, for God’s sake, they can’t fire us. F--- ‘em,” he declared. Elsewhere, Barbra Streisand accepted a lifetime achievement award with charm and dignity – revealing a teenage crush on Marlon Brando was her portal into acting.

In the main, though, the event was an Oppenheimer victory lap. Robert Downey Jr collected his Best Supporting Actor statuette with a quirky speech in which he thanked everyone he has ever worked with (including the cancelled Mel Gibson). The Oppenheimer cast subsequently won an ensemble award. It was an opportunity for Kenneth Branagh – apparently he was in Oppenheimer – to debut his alarming new beard and again reference the actors’ strike. He seemed excited. The rest of us will wonder when the awards season phoney wars will finally end and we can proceed to the serious business of the actual Oscars. At the end of a long night, the real prize at the SAG Awards should surely go to viewers who stayed up for this snoozy extravaganza.