Thursday, March 17, 2005

"I'd like to thank the little people..."

Last night I caught part of the TV Land Awards on television. If you are unfamiliar with this award show, it is to honor the actors, directors and so forth whose work we see in reruns up and down the TV remote. This is usually a pretty good show in some respects. I only got to see a little bit of it last night, but I did get to see a reunion of the old Bob Newhart Show (the one where he plays a psychologist), C. H. I. P. S. co-stars Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as well as Alan Young, who played Wilbur Post on Mr. Ed. Alan appeared with a horse, although I doubt it was the "real" Mr. Ed. Still it was entertaining while I watched. But I must admit that it was entertaining in the same way a high school class reunion is entertaining: I often found myself just wanting to see how these people looked after all these years.

What makes this award show so different is that usually the stars aren't as pretentious as the folks you see gripping trophies at the Emmys or the Oscars. In fact, it appears many are just thankful for a little attention. One of the honorees was veteran character actor Charles Lane who is now 100 years old. You probably don't know the name, but if you've spent any time watching 1960s sitcom reruns, you've seen his work. He could be best remembered in "I Love Lucy" as the "other" expectant father sitting at the hospital while Ricky Ricardo was nervously awaiting the birth of Little Ricky. Lane is the man whom Ricky asked, "Is this your first baby?" Lane answered in an annoyed, gruff voice, "It's my last." Last night, with that scene fifty years in the past, Charles Lane blew out a birthday candle and spoke into a microphone to any casting people watching, "If you're interested, I'm still available!"

But let's face it, the major award shows are all about stars and fashion. There are pre-shows to discuss what everyone will wear and post-shows to gossip about how badly some people were dressed. The awards themselves seem to be an almost an afterthought -- except to the people who were nomiated. But again, the awards game is so political that one has to be part of the in-crowd to even be noticed. I heard a comedian one time as he imagined the Grammy for Best Album going to a no-name band who could be at the ceremony because their van broke down and their manager could get out of a shift at the video store to make it!

Perhaps the most enduring image of the award show is of the acceptance speech. A few are truly touching. Most are truly boring. And a few are truly annoying. Who could forget Sally Field walking on stage to accept an award, exclaiming, "You like me, you really like me!"? But the stereotypical speech is probably one which grew out of urban legend or misunderstanding. However, maybe there was a winner who stood up and said, "I want to thank all the little people who made this possible." Of course the meaning was that they were "little" people compared to the "big" star. That sort of ego display doesn't stir my emotions as much as it stirs my stomach.

So why do we have award shows? I would guess that originally the cause was fairly noble; perhaps something like honoring great performances or amazing achievements. Today it's not as much an affirmation of a job well done as it is a cultural rite of celebrity worship. I'm sure there are people who can't be a part of the in-crowd who could really use the encouragement. But the "little" people will have to be happy with a brief, condecending mention in the big star's acceptance speech.

As a "little" person here on earth, I'm glad the big star is God. There is no condescension from Him -- there is love. Unending love. He gives the encouragement and affirmation I need. He isn't nice to my face only to insult my clothing behind my back. He doesn't look at me as a little person, but as His child, adopted into His family. His ways are not to ignore me, but to use me. If I'm still on this planet at age 100, I want my response to God to be the same then as it is now: "If You need me Lord, I'm still available!"

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