The real winners of the 2016 SAG Awards? Previous winners

Cast members from "Downton Abbey," winners for performance by an ensemble in a drama series, in the Los Angeles Times photo booth at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Cast members from “Downton Abbey,” winners for performance by an ensemble in a drama series, in the Los Angeles Times photo booth at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
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The 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards offered up a few new faces on the film side, with four first-time winners in the individual performance categories and a host of new SAG victors for “Spotlight” in ensemble cast.

But the ceremony’s main television prizes had less interest in seeking out new blood, instead awarding five of its six trophies to previous winners — not just previous winners, but last year’s winners — in the categories.

Uzo Aduba of “Orange Is the New Black,” Viola Davis of “How to Get Away With Murder” and Kevin Spacey of “House of Cards” all pulled off back-to-back wins in the individual categories, while “Downton Abbey” and “Orange Is the New Black” served as repeat winners for ensemble.


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Only Jeffrey Tambor of “Transparent” was a new winner, though accolades are nothing new for his performance as Maura Pfefferman.

Though perhaps disappointing and certainly slightly boring, it’s not particularly surprising that the Screen Actors Guild recognized the same performances this year.

Television is a naturally cyclical beast. Entering the age of “peak TV” means that there are more shows on than ever and less time to actually watch them, meaning awards bodies often get locked into recognizing entities that they’ve already recognized because they are known quantities.

It’s a problem that plagues any organization that rewards television. But while the Emmys have taken steps to try to shake up their process and the Golden Globes often seem to constantly court whatever is the new, hot commodity on the TV scene, SAG seems particularly vulnerable to awarding its favorites time and again.


Perhaps the best example of this is during the run of “30 Rock” when Alec Baldwin won male actor in a TV comedy series an unprecedented seven years in a row. Given that this is the 22nd annual SAG ceremony, that means that Alec Baldwin has won 32% of all male actor in a TV comedy series SAG awards ever given.

“Downton Abbey” has won drama ensemble three of the last four years, while, before the reign of “Orange,” “Modern Family” won comedy series ensemble for four consecutive years. Three men have won male actor in a TV drama series in the 2010s — Steve Buscemi for “Boardwalk Empire,” Bryan Cranston for “Breaking Bad” and Kevin Spacey for “House of Cards” — but all won their awards back-to-back.

That said, as much as it feels like the SAG Awards recognize the same people year after year, it’s possible that some of that perception may be misleading.

For instance, since Baldwin’s streak in the male actor in a comedy category, the guild has recognized three different actors in three years — Tambor, William H. Macy for “Shameless” and Ty Burrell for “Modern Family.” Though Davis repeated in female actor in a drama series this year, the category has actually seen eight different women recognized in the last 10 years.

All of which suggests that as underwhelming as a year with five repeat winners in television categories might be, the odds are that it’s merely a fluke, not a full-blown trend.


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