Tommy Lee Jones had the flu and didn’t show up to the Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday night. He should have tanked up on Emergen-C and made the trip.
Jones won the male actor in a supporting role prize for playing an abolitionist lawmaker in “Lincoln,” allowing the oft-terse actor to somehow be even less loquacious. In a show with few notable stage moments, perhaps the most conspicuous speech was the one Jones didn’t give.
The absence made for an awkward moment near the top of the SAG Awards, and it wasn’t the only eyebrow-raiser of the TBS broadcast. In a show notorious for union-thumping and guild genuflection — “my brothers and sisters,” as Daniel Day-Lewis put it — several incidents seemed likely to elicit groans.
Reading the voice-over for a Dick Van Dyke lifetime achievement prize, Alec Baldwin described the octogenarian’s volunteerism in soup kitchens, in a speech that stopped just short of saying the “Mary Poppins” actor saved cats from tall treetops and cured terminal diseases with his hair. (For his part, Van Dyke gave a speech that was short and classy, and free of the riddles that marked Jodie Foster’s lifetime achievement speech at the Golden Globes two weeks ago.)
There seemed to be no shortage of teeth-gnashing from winners over the continuing success of “The Big Bang Theory,” with both “Modern Family” and “30 Rock” stars dropping snark about it. (“Family’s” Jesse Tyler Ferguson had an under-his-breath jibe about “‘Big Bang Ratings’ — I mean ‘Theory,’” while Tina Fey, touting her show’s finale this Thursday, made an unexpected plea: “Just tape ‘The Big Bang Theory’ for once, for crying out loud,” she said.
In a show that can play like an extended Jenna Maroney sketch — note rampant usage of “actor,” pronounced act-OAR, natch — the “30 Rock” creator was a breath of fresh air, also noting that she’s known Amy Poehler since the “Parks & Recreation’ star was “pregnant with Lena Dunham.”
Meanwhile, male actor in a leading role winner Daniel Day-Lewis seemed to have the joke of the night when he noted that “it was an actor who murdered Abraham Lincoln"--but then fell back down the earnestness hole when he talked about actors bringing the 16th president back to life.
Day-Lewis also offered some unusual shout-outs — one to praise the not-nominated star of “The Master,” Joaquin Phoenix, and a tandem nod to Liam Neeson, who almost played the Lincoln role, and former costar Leonardo DiCaprio. (Both helped persuade him to tackle the part of the Civil War-era president.)
And Anne Hathaway took a dive into the sincerity pool herself when she won for female actor in a supporting role. But she did land one of the evening’s memorable moments when she and “Les Miserables” costar Hugh Jackman — like Hathaway, a performer known for a superhero franchise — intro’ed their film with a riff involving Catwoman, Wolverine, “Mamma Mia!” and love children.
Another young star, Jennifer Lawrence, continued her quite literally breathless run through awards season after winning female lead actor. Recently felled by pneumonia, Lawrence nonetheless did her usual effusive schtick at the Shrine when she strode up to the stage in a long Dior dress that appeared to rip en route. After a typically ingenuous acceptance speech, she ran past reporters backstage saying she was suffering some, er, urinary urgency. It seemed fitting for a show made for bathroom breaks.
The big moment of the night came when Ben Affleck and the rest of the cast of “Argo” solidified their Oscar front-runner status by winning the top prize of cast in a motion picture. Affleck’s acceptance speech played the gracious card, but in the press room he couldn’t resist a knock on the Motion Picture Academy’s directors branch when he called on a reporter he had hadn’t seen before by saying, “I’m sorry I overlooked you ... I know how it feels.”
TBS made the most of its rare foray into awards season, offering interstitials that displayed the mundane tweets from stars of its shows, such as “Cougar Town” (not, it should be said, that Busy Phillips’ whereabouts during all moments of the broadcast isn’t an endlessly fascinating subject).
Yet it was often the spaces between that could be most noteworthy at the SAG Awards: The broadcast featured the first TV commercial for Disney’s upcoming “Oz: The Great and Powerful” that features James Franco as the Emerald City shaman.
As this was an awards show with TV stars, there were also the requisite Sofia Vergara jokes. “Modern Family” costar Ferguson quipped that she was busy landing development deals as he spoke. The Colombian-born actress, meanwhile, noted that she’d reassured her dad he needn’t worry about her prostituting herself in show business because her God-given anatomy was such that she already looked like a hooker.
Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT