No ratings. No stars. No dice.

Those are the breaks for the American Film Institute, its newbie awards show banished from primetime after just one attempt to rival the likes of the Oscars and Golden Globes.

The AFI announced this week that its trophy-handing-out affair, billed as the AFI Awards, would not be back on CBS, which broadcast the not-so-big show last January. Nor would it be on any other network in 2003.

The inaugural AFI Awards telecast, honoring both television and film, was watched by 5.5 million viewers. By comparison, the Globes and the People's Choice Awards, also broadcast last January, were eyeballed by 23.5 million and 15.2 million, respectively. (And the Oscars? Last March's show, officially the lowest-rated Academy Awards ever, was sampled by a "mere" 41.8 million.)

But bad ratings alone don't explain why the AFI Awards is getting the ol' Soviet dissident treatment. There's also a little matter of all the no-shows.

Perhaps proving that even celebs can grow weary of award-show hardware, four of the top five film winners--Denzel Washington (honored for Training Day), Gene Hackman (The Royal Tenenbaums), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), and director Robert Altman (Gosford Park)--skipped the Beverly Hills Hotel ceremony.

The spotty attendance extended to the TV division, where James Gandolfini, medaling for The Sopranos, and Judy Davis (Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows), also failed to appear. Media types quickly dubbed the AFIs "the MIAs."

TV broadcast or no, the AFI Awards will live on--albeit in a less glitzy format. Instead of a black-tie televised gala, the event will be scaled down to a tie-optional luncheon, to be held next January 16.

Winners will be announced on December 16, allowing losers a full month to weep in the privacy of their own mansions, and, in theory, encouraging non-losers to, you know, actually show up.

The awards, referred to in brainy AFI parlance as an "annual almanac that records and preserves the evolution of the moving image arts in the 21st century," will also be refocused. Instead of serving as yet another vehicle for a star looking to build Oscar momentum, they'll serve as yet another showcase for AFI's list-making talents. The all-new AFI Awards will nix the individual honors, and pay tribute to what its jury panels decide are the top 10 movies, TV shows and "moments of significance" of 2002.

Presumably not eligible for one of those "moments of significance": The 2001 AFI Awards.

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