The 2023 MTV Movie & TV Awards ran a lot like a COVID-era awards show, as the non-live event padded out two hours of runtime with throwback clips, a result of a quick pivot due to the writers strike. (And actually, this was a repeat of the very same thing the MTV Movie & TV Awards did during COVID in 2020, when it also had to trot out dusty clips in lieu of new material.)
In the days leading up to the show, Variety broke the news that host Drew Barrymore was pulling out of her hosting duties in solidarity with the strike. After that, producers hoped to still pull off some sort of live event sans host. But when the WGA announced it would picket the event on Sunday, producers gave up and announced that the show would shift to a pre-taped event.
At least most of the pre-tapes were already written and shot prior to the May 1 strike. Although that did make for an awkward use of Barrymore as the non-host, but really the only consistent presence on screen. The show began with a “Never Been Kissed’ spoof recorded before the strike, with Barrymore reprising her role of the film’s Josie Geller and parodying the night’s nominees like “Smile,” “Nope,” “Wednesday,” “White Lotus,” “M3GAN,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Cocaine Bear.”
Barrymore also showed up in the first commercial break in a pre-taped sponcon ad for Cheetos Popcorn, which simulated her backstage while hosting the event.
Barrymore additionally filmed a segment as Skipper for a parody of the upcoming “Barbie” film, as well as a “Wednesday” spoof later in the show.
The show itself didn’t reference the strike at the top, but instead went right into the “Best Hero” category, with Pedro Pascal accepting the popcorn statue in a pre-taped speech. Memorably, Tom Cruise accepted his win for Best Performance in a Movie for “Top Gun: Maverick” while piloting an airplane.
Jennifer Coolidge, who received the Comedic Genius Award, was the first person to reference the strike in her speech, and threw her support behind the WGA.
“Almost all great comedy starts with great writers, and as a proud member of SAG, I stand here before you tonight side-by-side with my sisters and brothers from the WGA, who are fighting for the rights of artists everywhere,” she said. “I think of the words of Shakespeare where he once said, ‘The play is the thing.’ Well, I don’t want to put words in his mouth or anything, but I think what he really meant was it’s everything.”
“Stranger Things” star Joseph Quinn also shouted out the striking writers, saying, “Being a writer is a hard job and it deserves respect.” The stars of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” threw their support behind the WGA, ending their Best Competition Series speech by saying, “We Queens stand with the writers in their strike.” While accepting the Golden Popcorn for Best Show for “The Last of Us,” Pascal said that the show’s creative team is “Standing in solidarity with the WGA, that is fighting very hard for fair wages.”
At the show’s start, the voiceover promised plenty of throwback best-moment clips, and these moments made up the bulk of the show, including replays of Sacha Baron Cohen landing on Eminem’s face as Brüno, Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, P!nk and Mýa performing “Lady Marmalade” live, and Chadwick Boseman’s emotional Best Hero speech for “Black Panther.”
Later on, “The Kardashians” won best docu-reality show but didn’t submit a video acceptance speech. Adam Sandler also didn’t make a recorded appearance for his best comedic performance award for “Murder Mystery 2.” The rest of the telecast relied on clips and promos for films and TV shows — including, synergistically, scenes from the next episode of Showtime’s “Yellowjackets.” Showtime, like MTV, is part of the Paramount Global family.
After presenting the Golden Popcorn for Best Movie, the show ended seven minutes short of the two hour time slot.
At least this year’s virtual MTV Movie & TV Awards didn’t require a COVID test.
Watch Coolidge’s pro-strike speech below: