“In Memoriam” segments on awards shows are tricky to get right: you can’t honor every single artist who’s no longer with us. There’s always bound to be a notable name excluded.
The 94th annual Oscars ceremony this past Sunday was no different, with many fans expressing outrage at the omission of Bob Saget, Norm Macdonald, Ed Asner, Robert Downey Sr., and more from the list. Sharp-eyed Twitter users began decrying Saget’s omission within moments of the segment’s conclusion; the star of Full House and host of America’s Funniest Home Videos died on January 9.
Since the Oscars are meant to celebrate the big screen, it’s often the case that talent known predominantly for their work on television don’t make the In Memoriam cut. (So here’s hoping that Saget, Macdonald, and Mary Tyler Moore Show star Asner get their special tributes at this year’s Emmy Awards.)
If it’s any consolation to their fans, the Academy’s website includes them on a more exhaustive list of all recently deceased contributors to cinema’s legacy. With critics bemoaning overly long awards ceremonies, it’s understandable that Oscar telecast producers would opt for an abbreviated version.
Speaking of those producers, in keeping with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ desire to shake up ceremony proceedings—plus broadcaster ABC’s desire to bring TV ratings back from an all-time low—the In Memoriam segment was an unusual one.
Instead of a slideshow and solemn musical number, a joyous gospel choir singing Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” underscored the names, faces, and clips appearing onscreen behind them. And receiving special tributes were the late Sidney Poitier, honored by Tyler Perry; Ivan Reitman, honored by Bill Murray; and Betty White, honored by Jamie Lee Curtis—and, distractingly, her dog, Mac N Cheese. White, surely, would have had the perfect quip to poke fun at this bizarro moment in Oscar telecast history.