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The Globe and Mail

The importance of the Oscars starts and ends with TV

The Academy Awards? Don't get me started. It's Ash Wednesday. Indulge my rant.

As usual, I began my Oscar preparations, such as they are, by reading the "Hollywood Issue" of Vanity Fair. By "read" I mean paging through hundreds of pages of pictures of skeletal models wearing risible clothes. And then skimming ridiculous articles about people who are alleged to be Hollywood royalty. Movies are great and glamorous. Blah, blah. All that glossy paper in an attempt to glamorize this Sunday's Academy Awards.

It's a TV show. Television is the reason movies get made and watched, and TV is the only reason anybody cares about them. Why was the awards show moved from its traditional March date to February? To put it into the February TV sweeps period. That's why.

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Listen to me here – from seed money that comes from television to actor nominees who would still be toiling in obscurity if it weren't for television, the whole darn thing is rooted in the TV racket. Don't get me started.

Forget the fuss about the grandeur of making movies and all the blather which will be doled out by the bucket on Sunday. Everything involved in the Oscars is made to feed the insatiable appetite of television. In countless categories, the evidence is overwhelming – television is at the root of it.

Of the movies nominated for best picture, a bunch were really made for television. Including The Artist, which is, ironically about moviemaking. If a bunch of European broadcasters had not fronted money for the thing, it would never have existed.

Then there are the so-called movie stars. Don't get me started. Gaze, if you will, at the list of people hoping to take home a 34-centimetre statue and most of them would still be toiling in obscurity if it weren't for television.

Brad Pitt – first real acting job was as Walker Lovejoy, an idealistic newspaper journalist, no less, in Glory Days, one of the very first Fox TV dramas. Before that he had bit parts on Dallas (yes, Dallas!) and 21 Jump Street, a show that also gave one Johnny Depp a first real acting job.

Gary Oldman? Those devoted to Brit TV – and a lot of people still are – will remember his standout work in a grim British TV movie called Meantime, written and directed by Mike Leigh. Decades ago, that was. Most of George Clooney's body of acting work has been done on TV, on everything from ER to Roseanne. Michelle Williams started on Baywatch and would be nothing if she hadn't been cast on Dawson's Creek. Rooney Mara arrived in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and everybody was all, "Who's this totally amazing new star?" but anyone who watches TV probably remembers her as a victim on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and a hospital patient on ER. I could go on. Don't get me started.

There is a notion out there that movies and television exist on different planets. It's true to some extent – television has become the greater art form.

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Bring on Sunday and as you're watching Billy Crystal suck up to has-been actors in the audience, remember that the Academy Awards isn't even the biggest show on TV any more, it's just another TV variety program. Besides, movies are no longer the reason for fair-to-middling viewing numbers. It's the frock opera before the show that matters.

And while you watch, if you must, know you are taking part in the last step of a process that started with TV. Don't get me started.

Ash Wednesday. The start of Lent. If you think the Academy Awards are a big deal, repent.

Airing Tonight

Republic of Doyle (CBC, 9 p.m.) is especially fine tomfoolery tonight. The gist is this: "High school comes back to haunt Jake when his former nemesis, all-star athlete and first-class jerk Clyde Cowley (Luke Kirby), swings back into his life. Turns out Clyde's misplaced some money – a cool hundred grand – and needs Jake's assistance to get it back. Jake's reluctant to help until he lays eyes on Clyde's ex, Jessica (Natalie Brown), Jake's crush from high school." A highly pleasant way to spend an hour. High-school crush. Fist fights. St. John's in the sunshine. And nice to see Luke Kirby on TV, he being fondly remembered as Jimmy Burn from the short-lived but excellent series Cra$h & Burn.

All times Eastern. Check local listings.

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