When it comes to awards shows, we’ve got home viewing down to a science: booze, chips, and quickly pausing the TiVo on pissy facial expressions and unexpected nip slips. But we'd always been curious how the viewer experience compares to attending the show. So we were stoked to be tottering toward the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. on Tuesday night, with tickets in hand, ready to watch the BET Awards in person. Would we bump into anyone at the cash bar or pass toilet paper to Ashanti under the stall door? And most important, could we sit through an entire televised event without the comfort of our sweatpants? The answers: Yes, no, and… sort of.
Interestingly, when sitting in the auditorium as attendees, the actual awards felt beside the point. We'd assumed we were in for an enhanced version of the at-home experience: performances requiring us to stab forks into our hands just to keep ourselves awake, and that thrilling split-second between the opening of the envelope and the reading of the winner's name, during which we'd gnaw our fingernails to the cuticle. Instead, it was the opposite. Granted, the Academy Awards might be different, because 90 percent of Oscar-nominated songs are gag-worthy — plus, Amy Adams got no backdrop, whereas T-Pain got a whole circus set on Tuesday — but the ten or so BET musical acts seriously ruled. The 13-year-olds inside us are still squealing at seeing En Vogue perform with Alicia Keys, and you can’t beat hearing 5,000 people sing "Let's Stay Together" in chorus with Al Green.
So it's understandable that the crowd's energy petered out when it came time to present a statuette, because really, that was just a good opportunity to rest your feet between songs. The guy in front of us completely ignored anything without music in favor of reading WWE sites on his BlackBerry, and the security guards spent Quincy Jones's acceptance speech discussing how hot Queen Latifah looked (they had a point). Little wonder that, of the sixteen categories our programs promised, only seven actually happened during the show. Even the nominees seemed to care less about winning — or listening to host D.L. Hughley's tired banter — than about the concert aspect, with Rihanna's most-enthusiastic ovation going to T-Pain's performance with Big Boi and Ludacris.
Given how chill these things come across on television, we were surprised that during the live show's commercial breaks, mayhem reigned. People ran around gossiping until the last possible second, forcing the mob of security guards to frantically hustle them back to their seats with five seconds to spare. A loudspeaker beseeched seat-fillers to get up so that, say, Nelly, wouldn't have to cop a squat on the floor. At one point we saw security deny seats to a guy in a giant mascot head — complete with faux-blinged grill — and two pals, only to spy one of them onstage ten minutes later standing behind Lil Wayne. "What the hell is he doing up there?" the guard muttered, paging his comrades backstage. "And WHY is he wearing a jacket when it's 100 degrees?" Two good questions that tragically went unanswered.
But it was at the beginning of the festivities that we learned the most important lesson of all: Gabrielle Union is way smarter than we are. While quaffing Preshow Beer #2, we spied the actress grabbing some liquid courage with her girlfriends — a strapless bra peeking out of the top of her flowing, probably panty-unfriendly white dress — and overheard her confessing that she'd also brought snacks. She had the right idea. The run time was a par-for-the-course three hours, but we underestimated how loudly our Bud-lined stomachs would be growling at the 90-minute mark. No wonder celebrities always go to In-N-Out Burger after the Oscars: If you’ve been living on twigs to fit into your dress, by the time the whole shebang is over you’re probably ready to eat your date’s arm. That postshow Big Mac was the best thing we've ever tasted, but as God is our witness, we’ll never watch an awards show without munchies again. Score at least one for watching from home. —The Fug Girls