For most of us, it's flu season. We pass around germs. But for our favorite celebrities, this is awards season. They give each other statuettes.
Obviously, flu season and awards season don't have a lot in common. On the other hand, they both are highly contagious and they spread quickly.
Like the flu, awards shows are rampant now.
Up next are the SAGs, the eager upstart in the awards show family.
It was only in 1995 that the Screen Actors Guild offered its first awards presentation, which means the show still is just a teenager. The 19th annual ceremony takes place Sunday at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium and will be broadcast live on TNT and TBS starting at 5 p.m.
The SAGs, while much younger than the Oscars (which date to 1929), the Golden Globes (1944), the Emmys (1949) and even the People's Choice Awards (1975), are a precocious youth. They are wise beyond their years and have been quick to gain respect.
This year, the historical epic "Lincoln," the musical "Les Miserables" and the romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" are the leading SAG Award contenders, with four nominations apiece.
Often, the SAG Awards have stood well with the Oscars, sometimes foreshadowing them with uncanny accuracy. Other times, quite frankly, SAG's choices have seemed even better than Oscar's.
In 2002, for example, the Oscar for Best Actor went to Denzel Washington for "Training Day," but the Screen Actors Guild made the braver choice and selected Russell Crowe for his nuanced performance in "A Beautiful Mind." In 2004, the Best Actor Oscar went to Sean Penn for "Mystic River," but the Screen Actors Guild honored the wildly more memorable work of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean."
One special trait of the Screen Actors Guild Awards is that they are just what they say they are - actors awards. They are for performers only. In fact, the SAG statuette is called The Actor. It's a 12-pound bronze figure of a nude performer striking a pose. Apparently, in Hollywood, statuettes don't wear pants.
"Argo" director Ben Affleck, who already this year has endured the mixed-signal confusion of winning a Golden Globe for Best Director while being snubbed for even a nomination in that category for an Academy Award, also will receive no love for his directing from SAG, because the Screen Actors Guild doesn't give awards to directors. Or to cameramen, or choreographers, or costume designers.
There are no SAG Awards even for best picture or television show. The closest they come is ensemble awards for the entire casts of favored titles.
Affleck, who had the good sense to act in "Argo" as well as direct it, does earn SAG props, after all, because "Argo" is one of the nominees in the category of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture - along with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Les Miserables," "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook."
On the TV side, the SAG nominees in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series are "Boardwalk Empire," "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Homeland" and "Mad Men." Nominees for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series are "30 Rock," "The Big Bang Theory," "Glee," "Modern Family," "Nurse Jackie" and "The Office."
Sentimentally inclined SAG voters were given a tough choice in the latter category, as two of the nominated shows, "30 Rock" and "The Office," are riding their farewell seasons into the sunset.
SAG voters also were confronted with tough choices in the motion picture categories. Two of the year's dominant movies managed to place nominees in three out of the four acting categories. "Lincoln" boasts Daniel Day-Lewis (Best Male Actor), Tommy Lee Jones (Best Supporting Male Actor) and Sally Field (Best Supporting Female Actor), while "Silver Linings Playbook" fields a team of nominees that includes Bradley Cooper (Best Male Actor), Jennifer Lawrence (Best Female Actor) and Robert De Niro (Best Supporting Male Actor).
Other acclaimed films also bring considerable star power to the table. "Les Miserables" has Hugh Jackman (Best Male Actor) and Anne Hathaway (Best Supporting Female Actor). "The Sessions" offers John Hawks (Best Male Actor) and Helen Hunt (Best Supporting Female Actor).
The list of nominees also includes such other formidable names as Denzel Washington, Helen Mirren, Alan Arkin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nicole Kidman and Maggie Smith.
Nominations for SAG Awards are made by two randomly selected panels of 2,100 guild members (one panel for motion pictures, one for television). The final ballot is then put to a vote by the entire SAG membership - about 100,000 strong. (And they can vote right up to the last minute, by the way. Deadline for ballots is noon Friday Jan. 25.)
Sunday night, while they ponder their choices and await the verdicts, attendees at the SAG Awards will dine in style in a showroom decorated with a Rose Parade's worth of flowers, mostly white, including calla lillies, white roses and orchids. The decor's theme is "Classic Hollywood."
Attendees will dine on beef tenderloin with fingerlings, arugula and horseradish cream, and slow-roasted salmon with green rice, capers and nasturtiums, accompanied by roasted beets and blood oranges with feta and black olives.
The vegans in the crowd, including Best Female Actor nominee Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty"), will opt for a grain-and-greens salad featuring farro, kale, young broccoli, currants and pine nuts, plus cauliflower couscous with pomegranate salsa.
Guests also will sip from more than 600 bottles of Taittinger champagne and almost 500 bottles of Gallo Signature Series table wines served in Optique crystal glasses. (Wow. If 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" had been nominated for a SAG Award, as she was for an Oscar, she would have required heavy chaperoning.)
The SAG Awards promise to be entertaining for fans as well as stars. A few hundred members of the public will sit in on-scene bleachers and watch the celebrity arrivals, which will take place on more than 15,000 square feet of red carpet laid especially for the occasion.
And, of course, millions of other fans will watch it all on television. And they needn't worry about not getting an eyeful of their favorites. Even A-listers who aren't nominated for anything this year still will be on hand as presenters, including Justin Timberlake, Taye Diggs, Liev Schreiber and Busy Philipps.
The latter, a star of TBS's "Cougar Town," has been Busy in more ways than one, serving as this year's SAG Awards social media ambassador. She will be on Twitter (@BusyPhilipps25) providing updates and observations on the show.
Carl Reiner will present this year's Life Achievement Award to legendary TV and movie funnyman Dick Van Dyke. Last year's winner of the award was Mary Tyler Moore, co-star of "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Of course, Reiner himself was creator of that show and had a performing role on it, so he might be in line for next year's award, if the Van Dyke bandwagon still is on a roll.
Anyway, it all goes to show that the SAG Awards, in spite of their youth, do show proper respect for the elders of their profession. They may be whippersnappers, but they are very well-behaved whippersnappers.