The writers’ strike-era MTV Movie & TV Awards felt a lot like a pandemic ceremony

Share via

Absent a host and amid industrywide labor unrest, MTV forged ahead Sunday with its Movie & TV Awards honoring the year’s most popular titles and stars of the big and small screens.

It was the first big awards show to take place — sort of — during the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike, which took a dramatic toll on the zeitgeist-mirroring ceremony.

MTV opted last-minute to pretape what was supposed to be a live show after Drew Barrymore resigned as host and the Writers Guild of America announced plans to picket outside the ceremony’s venue, the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. The red carpet was also scrapped after stars reportedly dropped out of the event.


‘In order to truly respect’ writers during the writers’ strike, Drew Barrymore said she won’t host Sunday’s MTV Movie & TV Awards. But she’ll do it next year.

May 5, 2023

Show producers said they were “pivoting away from a live event” format and leaned heavily into a retrospective-style broadcast, one that ended up being hastily reminiscent of low-rated pandemic-era awards shows. Sunday’s ceremony was packed with remote and pretaped acceptance speeches, video montages of past performances and outlandish moments, as well as sneak peeks for upcoming projects, including a clip from Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid,” Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” and Paramount’s summer tentpole movie “Transformers: Rise of the Beast.”

No stage was set and no golden popcorn trophies were handed out in front of a live audience. Instead, MTV condensed its fan-voted awards show into a zippy flashback reel that was a far cry from the must-see, pop-culture-shifting fare that the cable network previously traded in.

The show also lacked its bankable star power, save for an in-flight speech from “Top Gun: Maverick” star Tom Cruise, Jennifer Coolidge quoting “Hamlet,” Sofia Carson getting emotional and a trio of acceptances from “The Last of Us” star Pedro Pascal. The evening’s other notable winners — Adam Sandler, the Kardashians, Selena Gomez, Jenna Ortega and “Outer Banks” stars Madison Bailey and and Rudy Pankow (the marquee best kiss prize winners) — did not send in videos.

“Scream VI,” which earned the prize for best movie, was represented by a person costumed as the villainous Ghostface delivering thank yous on behalf of the film.

Hollywood’s writers went on strike, but what were the issues that led to the fallout with the studios and streamers. Here are six issues where talks fell apart.

May 3, 2023

Despite the glaring setbacks, a scaled-back ceremony aired on MTV and its sister networks. Here are some key takeaways from the show.

Drew Barrymore was still very much present

The “Drew Barrymore Show” host pulled out of the telecast days before showtime in solidarity with Hollywood writers demanding higher pay and residuals for streaming content during the WGA strike. The veteran actor and talk show host still appeared during the show in segments filmed in advance.


“Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation. And until a solution is reached, I am choosing to wait but I’ll be watching from home,” Barrymore said in a statement to Variety.

But the wacky TV personality, who said she’ll host the live show next year, opened the ceremony as her “Never Been Kissed” character Josie, dropping into a number of this year’s nominated productions, including “The White Lotus,” “Stranger Things,” “Smile” and “Wednesday.” She later starred in a “Barbie” movie spoof too and got roughed up in several of the nominated fight segments.

Barrymore also delivered an acceptance speech from what appeared to be her bathroom when she won the prize for best host. She thanked viewers for “letting me in, [and] get eyeball to eyeball” and name-checked her show’s writers Chelsea White, Cristina Kinon and Elizabeth Koe as another show of support.

Pedro Pascal does triple duty

“The Last of Us” star Pascal appeared three times during the telecast to deliver prerecorded speeches, amassing an additional golden popcorn trophy with each appearance.

The actor won the first award of the night — best hero — another for best duo, along with co-star Bella Ramsey, and a third for best show.

It was in his final speech that he shared that he was “standing in solidarity with the WGA” and writers and co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, whom he said “can’t be here.”


“[We are] standing in solidarity with the WGA that is fighting very hard for fair wages. We thank you, we love you. I’m going to take these [trophies] to bed with me,” he said.

Jennifer Coolidge shines as a Comedic Genius

After playing a montage that highlighted her roles in “The White Lotus,” “Legally Blonde” and “American Pie,” a glam Coolidge delivered an acceptance speech for her Comedic Genius recognition from the comfort of her — or someone else’s — living room. And she did not disappoint.

“I was in the Groundlings with Melissa McCarthy and Will Ferrell, and so now I get to be in the [Comedic Genius] club with them and Sacha Baron Cohen and Kevin Hart and Jack Black. My God, what a fun night. ... The reason why I’m so thrilled — it’s just ironic that this award would be made of my favorite food: popcorn.

“You know, almost all great comedy starts with great writers and I just think that as a proud member of SAG [the Screen Actors Guild], I stand here before you tonight side-by-side with my sisters and brothers from the WGA that are fighting right now. Fighting for the rights of artists everywhere,” Coolidge said. “I think of the words of Shakespeare where he once said, you know, ‘the play is the thing.’ Well, I don’t wanna put words in his mouth or anything but I think what he really meant was it’s everything.”

Coolidge returned later in the show when she was awarded the prize for most frightened performance and said that she hoped that her iconic exit from HBO’s “The White Lotus” is the last time she has to die on a show.

“I would like to stay alive,” she said.

Ariana Madix surfaces to address ‘Vanderpump Rules’ drama

Following the “Scandoval” affair that rocked Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” this spring, Ariana Madix appeared with her co-stars Katie Maloney and Scheana Shay to accept the golden popcorn for reality on-screen team (Lala Kent was also a winner, but delivered a separate speech clip.)

“We’ve been through so many ups and downs as friends and obviously it’s a very tumultuous time in all of our lives, but we are truly at our best when we come together as a team, so thank you,” Madix said, alluding to the scandal that resulted in her breakup with longtime boyfriend and co-star Tom Sandoval.


The writers’ strike, if it stretches on, could deliver a massive blow to the economy in Southern California. One expert predicted $3 billion or more in losses.

May 8, 2023

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ contestants slam anti-drag legislation

A quartet of drag queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” accepted the prize for competition series in a Zoom-like meeting room highlighting the importance of queer stories amid anti-drag legislation targeting their craft in Tennessee and other states.

“At this time it’s so important to hear queer and trans stories from queer and trans people, to meet the artists behind the artistry and see the human beings there so we can have empathy for one another and halt these blatantly bigoted anti-queer, anti-trans legislations,” said Season 7 winner Jinkx Monsoon.

L.A. drag queens and members of the queer community say that a wave of local anti-LGBTQ hate is just the beginning of the ripple effect from Tennessee laws prohibiting their way of life.

March 14, 2023

Co-star Jaida Essence Hall highlighted the ACLU’s Drag Defense Fund, which was created by “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the production company World of Wonder and MTV to preserve and defend LGBTQ+ rights. The fund, Hall said, was created to respond to “threats against drag performers all across the world and especially here.”

“As drag queens and independent artists we know how important it is to advocate for yourself and your worth,” Monsoon added. “And that’s why we queens stand with the writers in their strike.”

The queens and Coolidge were not the only ones to show support for the WGA. “Stranger Things” star Joseph Quinn, who won the award for breakthrough performance, also toasted writers for their “compassionate intelligent, quality writing” for creating a way for audiences to connect with his character.

Times staff writer Christi Carras contributed to this report.