There are certain TV events that you have to watch live if you’re going to watch at all, and awards shows are most definitely in this category. So what do you do if you’re out doing errands, on a business trip, or on a vacation in another country while they’re happening? Situations like these are why we created Slingbox — so you can watch anything on your home TV, on any mobile device, with no restrictions whatsoever. While Slingbox may not have existed for some of these awards show shockers, it sure would have been helpful if it had — and luckily, it exists now for any future moments like them.
Rocky: Best Picture, Oscars, 1976
If you remember the end of the boxing classic, you’ll recall that the scrappy Philadelphia underdog turned in an inspiring performance against, but did not actually defeat, overwhelming favorite Apollo Creed. The same can’t be said of the movie itself: Despite facing off against cinematic heavyweights All the President’s Men, Network and Taxi Driver, Rocky still managed to come out on top.
Jethro Tull: Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, Grammys, 1988
’88 marked the first year the Grammys attempted to honor heavy metal. According to many angry fans, the result proved they didn’t know how to do so. Instead of genre titans Metallica, the win went to Tull, who were more known for flute-tinged, folksy, early-’70s prog rock. The band’s members reacted with bemusement, as frontman Ian Anderson joked, “”Well, we do sometimes play our mandolins very loudly.”
Metallica ended up winning the award six times thereafter. And to be fair to everyone involved, certain songs on the winning album Crest of a Knave did rock fairly hard:
Katherine Heigl: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Emmys, 2007
Quick, who’s the only actor on Grey’s Anatomy to win an Emmy? Title character-portrayer Ellen Pompeo? Breakout star Patrick Dempsey? Longtime favorites Sandra Oh or Chandra Wilson? All wrong — it’s Heigl, who played Dr. Isobel Stevens for six of the medical drama’s 11 (and counting) seasons. She was so surprised to win (Oh and Wilson were also nominated) that the cameras captured her uttering an expletive upon the announcement of her victory.
Avenue Q: Best Musical, Tonys, 2004
Wicked was (and still is) one of the biggest phenomenons in Broadway history, and no one thought for a second it would fail to win the Tonys’ top prize in ’04. And then it did — to a formerly Off-Broadway show starring foul-mouthed and sexually explicit puppets.
This was seen as theater’s ultimate David-beats-Goliath moment, but as always, the truth is more complicated than it looks. There’s a fascinating story behind the upset — Avenue Q had quietly launched an unprecedentedly aggressive campaign to win, challenging voters to “vote your heart.” In other words, they said, vote for the universally praised and unique Avenue Q over the lucrative but relatively old-fashioned and middlingly-reviewed Wicked.
Emil Jannings: Best Actor, Oscars, 1928
Okay, so even if Slingbox had existed back then, you still couldn’t have seen this one — the first Academy Awards were the only ones not broadcasted on either radio or TV. But if you were an Academy voter in the room, you may have been surprised — the real winner of the first Best Actor Oscar, according to biographer Susan Orlean, was one of the biggest box office draws of the time, Rin Tin Tin. And the Academy refused to give him the Oscar just on the minor technicality of his being a dog.
Jannings would end up returning to his native Germany to make Nazi propaganda films during World War II — confirming that the Academy erred in not awarding the true, canine, winner.
Mary-Louise Parker: Best Actress in Musical or Comedy Television Series, Golden Globes, 2005
Desperate Housewives was dominating the TV world in the mid-’00s, and nowhere was that more evident than in the nominees for this category. Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria were all nominated, leaving room for only one non-Housewife: Parker, for her role as a drug-dealing suburban mom in Weeds.
Perhaps the fact that the Housewives vote was split four ways made this result unsurprising, but it didn’t seem to reflect the show’s ubiquity at the time. Bonus fun fact: Parker was actually offered Hatcher’s role on Desperate Housewives first, but turned it down to do Weeds instead.
Arcade Fire: Album of the Year, Grammys, 2011
The nominees in this category didn’t lack for star power: Recording industry giants Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum and Lady Gaga all were recognized. But the award ended up going to hipster legends Arcade Fire for their album The Suburbs, which until that moment had seemed squarely in the “it’s-an-honor-just-to-be-nominated” category.
No one was more surprised than the Grammys’ producers — Arcade Fire’s performance segment concluded right before the announcement, leaving them to hear the news backstage.
The Practice: Outstanding Drama Series, Emmys, 1999
Today we’re accustomed to cable ruling prestige television. In the ’10s thus far, only three broadcast network shows have been nominated for Outstanding Drama Series (PBS’ Downton Abbey, CBS’ The Good Wife and NBC’s Friday Night Lights). Every single other slot has gone to AMC, HBO, Netflix and Showtime.
So it’s easy to forget that until 1999, no cable series had ever been nominated. That was the year The Sopranos announced it was time to take cable series seriously, and everyone expected it to make the biggest statement of all on Emmy night. Turned out the voters weren’t quite ready: They gave the award to ABC’s legal drama for the second year in a row. NBC’s The West Wing won the next four years after that, and it wasn’t until 2004 that The Sopranos, and cable, finally broke through.
Johnny Depp: Best Actor, SAG Awards, 2003
The Screen Actors Guild Awards are particularly reliable predictors of the Academy Awards — they are currently running an impressive streak of 10 consecutive years (and counting) where their choice for Best Actor lines up with the Oscars. The last time that didn’t occur? ’03, when Johnny Depp won for a role that, while iconic, might not be what most people think of as awards fodder: Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
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