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Doyle: Canadian Screen Awards: A nice but hopeless, unfunny event

You know what's nice? I'll tell you what's nice: The Canadian Screen Awards. That's what's nice. Very nice, very smug and boring, long-winded and hopeless.

At the tail end of an awards season that was fraught with meaning thanks to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, along came the local Canadian awards show honouring the best in film and television. So it's not like there aren't awards shows already, ones that can stand as examples of how these things should be done. It's not like the genre was invented the other day and Canada is just quickly trying to catch up.

No, it's just a matter of doing it badly. A matter of being unfunny, insipid and hopelessly earnest and amateurish because, based on what CBC aired live on Sunday night, that's the best we can do.

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Seriously, is it so hard to even find an outfit that fits the co-host of the big gala? Is it? Jonny Harris of Murdoch Mysteries and Still Standing (co-hosting with Emma Hunter of The Beaverton and Mr. D) spent the night in an ill-fitting, over-large white dinner jacket that looked like something he'd grabbed quickly at Value Village to wear to a cousin's wedding at some banquet hall out on the highway.

That was distracting from the get-go. It's not easy to spin earnest endeavour into showbiz glam, but effort is required. Some effort beyond the co-hosts mentioning the name of a TV show and then pausing to wait for the posse from that show to applaud and holler from the audience. Nuanced analysis or scathing wit is not called for. Just be funny, a bit breezy and aim at the audience watching on TV, not the Canadian TV establishment sitting in the room.

"What do you say we get this thing moving and give out some awards?" asked Harris of Hunter after an interminable, unfunny introduction. Well, yes please, please, please, muttered the baffled viewer. Anyone who stuck with it to the end might reasonably expect an Order of Canada for sheer endurance of a sincere Canadian attempt at an entertaining awards show.

No such luck. The awards and honours went to the predicted and predictable. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee won an award for his performance on CBC's Kim's Convenience, which is great. He won last year too and made a great speech. Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly shrewdly got on stage early on, before most of the watching viewers had switched over to another channel.

Actress Sally Hawkins won for her role in the movie Maudie. Also deserved, but she wasn't there. Later, there was a bit of peculiar business when the movie's director, Aisling Walsh, who was actually there, didn't step up to accept her award. Turned out she was in the bathroom! This was explained much later, when only those paid to watch were actually still paying attention. You don't get drama like that in your fancy awards shows with Hollywood celebrities. Said nobody.

There was also a technical glitch, which prompted Emma Hunter to say, "Well it's all going to hell now." It went to hell much earlier, though. That's the problem.

Margaret Atwood got an award "in recognition of her commitment to the growth of Canadian media," according to the CBC web site. That's a puzzler. Anyway, Atwood read the room well and was her usual ray-of-sunshine self in her speech.

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Rick Mercer got an award, and Jann Arden tried to crack funny about him. It would have been better if Mercer was allowed to be the one to crack wise, as that's his job and why he got an award. Instead, it was sincerity all the way. Clark Johnson got the Earle Grey Award, a kind-of lifetime achievement thing, and it was presented by his sisters. That was cool and he was very droll, but it's doubtful many in the audience understood who he is and what he's achieved.

Peter Mansbridge's award for lifetime achievement, or whatever they call it, was the climax of the night. He was gracious, wry and made a fine speech about the importance of truth.

The truth about the Canadian Screen Awards is this: It's important to honour excellence, and excellence was indeed honoured when CTV's Cardinal and the CBC/Netflix adaptation of Atwood's Alias Grace got those odd-looking statuettes, but a TV awards show is meant to entertain. This one dragged on and on, into territory that resembled an insider-awards night at an industry you don't care about. It's nice they have these awards, you're left thinking, but why should I care? It's not entertaining for anyone outside the industry celebrating itself. They seem nice, mind you.

Attendees at the Canadian Screen Awards Sunday wore pins to support Canada’s #AfterMeToo movement. Author Margaret Atwood says she's supporting #AfterMeToo by donating the proceeds from events she's doing in April. The Canadian Press
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