We open, as all award shows should, with John Cho and Issa Rae reading names. Monday’s Oscar nominations were a good start, with Rae and Cho announcing who the academy has chosen to recognize. (“Congratulations to those men,” indeed.) But this time, instead of saying names like “Saoirse Ronan” or “Scarlett Johansson” or “Scarlett Johansson” again, the pair is doing role call of the regular people tuning into the event. This will go quickly because there are only, like, nine people watching. We watch just for the opportunity to hear Cho say our name aloud and see Rae nod in response like, “Yep, I know she’s watching.”
There is an extended opening monologue from Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Their only guidelines are “award show monologue but make it bearable” and, by God, they deliver. They bring back classic bits. They create brilliant new ones. After each punchline, they stare down “Joker” director Todd Phillips for a good 10 seconds. Maya Rudolph sings the national anthem, and we all finally agree that this is the only version of the national anthem that can ever be played. Now, the real show begins.
The audience is a who’s who of all the biggest stars. Baby Yoda is there. Both Good and Bad Janet from “The Good Place” are there. Not only is Lizzo there, but Lizzo’s gigantic, inflatable butt from last year’s MTV Video Music Awards is front row, and there is a camera dedicated to capturing its reactions for the entirety of the show. Twitter agrees that the current Oscar statuette should be replaced with a gilded version of The Butt.
Similar to the Golden Globes, this Ultimate Award Show celebrates achievements across multiple entertainment categories: movies and television, but also music, Instagram filters, men who explain women’s jobs to them, and books you keep recommending to people even though you’re only a third of the way through. Unlike the Golden Globes, this award show does not give Ricky Gervais yet another platform.
Instead of clips from each nominated film or television show, Fey and Poehler come back out to do 15-second scenes for each nominee. Fey speaks flawless Korean in a monologue from “Parasite.” The pair bring the audience to tears while recreating the iconic living room fight from “Marriage Story.” While it’s questionable whether Al Pacino could have pulled off “Baby Mama,” Poehler would have been phenomenal in “The Irishman.”
As retribution for making Jennifer Lopez put on a concert in the middle of a football game, this award show also requires a halftime performance. The headliners are a multidisciplinary team of famous athletes playing a quick game of Every Sport All At Once. Serena Williams dunks on Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty. Gritty takes off his head to reveal he’s been Ryan Lochte all along. Steph Curry lands a gorgeous triple axel. We learn LeBron James is good at curling, but no one is really surprised. Halftime ends with Beyoncé dropping a surprise album and the power cutting out briefly (an homage to her 2013 Super Bowl halftime show). When the lights come back on, Bey reveals she’s doing a reboot of her 2001 movie “Carmen: A Hip Hopera.” Issa Rae fully passes out.
In lieu of commercial breaks, there are compilation reels of celebrities reacting to other celebrities. There’s 15 seconds of Richard E. Grant crying over Barbra Streisand. A 30-second loop of Olivia Colman saying “Lady Gaga!” An iPhone-style commercial showing everyone basking in Billy Porter’s existence. There are multiple spots that just show Rihanna trying not to laugh at whatever mess is happening onstage.
Finally, the winners of the most interesting categories are announced. All. At. Once. The spectacle turns into a “Hunger Games”-style showdown as all winners head to the stage, where there are but 10 microphones. It’s a competition in which truly no one can win — except Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep manages to secure a microphone even though she hasn’t even been nominated.
Across all 10 mics, we hear things like “thank my agent” and “kids, go to bed!” and “Give it up for God!” and the sound of fumbling paper and “wait the winner is actually ‘Moonlight’” and “politics!” and “no more politics!” Patricia Arquette says something powerful and moving in her speech, but we all agree that we could’ve waited until tomorrow morning to watch it. Finally, the music — an orchestral version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” — plays everyone off.
The red carpet occurs, like every red carpet should, after the ceremony. We get it: Celebrities are hot. We want to see them post-award show, in all their late-night, last call, half-a-bottle-of-champagne glory. It’ll be a true test to see whose outfits still look good after being sat on for hours, whose hair and makeup managed to hold up through all the tears and anxiety sweat, and who tried to sneak out early.
No Bad Men win awards, and whenever one is so much as alluded to, Tom Hanks is there to soften the blow. Most importantly, the whole award show is done in less than an hour and the remaining winners are announced via email. Though the entire viewing public is on this email chain, nobody accidentally hits “reply all.”