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Friday, April 3, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Kids Get Their Say For Nickelodeon Awards

Seattle Times Staff Columnist

Life is not fair. That's a lesson most of us learned early in life, dealt to us one day when Mom or Dad got home from work and switched away from our favorite cartoons to watch a news show. "No fair!" we protested. Our child-like faith in justice led us to believe the adult usurpers would see their error and turn back to "Tom & Jerry" after a humble apology and a bribe of animal crackers and milk.

Instead, our parents probably responded with that undeniable truth: "Life is not fair." We pouted and destroyed our Lego buildings in protest, but Tom Brokaw stayed on the screen.

Sometimes, however, turnabout is fair play. As weeks of Nickelodeon commercials have heralded, kids rule when it comes to the cable channel's annual Kids' Choice Awards, airing at 8 p.m. Saturday on Nickelodeon. No wonder the show gains momentum with each year.

Last year's Kids' Choice telecast pulled in 4.6 million viewers, including 1.2 million adults. "Cutie-patootie" heroine Rosie O'Donnell hosts the shindig. No surprise there; after all, what other celeb has that voice that's audible above the clamor of thousands of screaming kids juiced up on Shirley Temples and Ding Dongs?

Celebrities have picked up on its popularity, too. Among the stars and acts scheduled to appear are Heather Locklear, Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, Puff Daddy, and Oscar-night fashion victims Madonna and Drew Barrymore.

Chances are some of those spurned Oscar nominees might be watching. If fairness was part of the cosmic balance, two weeks ago Burt Reynolds would have walked out of the Shrine with a little gold statue and another crack at a legitimate film career. As it stands, we may be seeing yet another "Smokey & the Bandit" sequel. The dejected scowl on Burt's face as Robin Williams cartwheeled up to the stage said it all: Life is not fair.

Well, kids aren't having any of that. After watching James "King of the World, Ma!" Cameron's "Titanic" sail away with enough Oscars to anchor a cruise liner, it's refreshing to see an awards show where the big boat might be sunk by "Batman & Robin," "Liar, Liar" or "Men in Black" in the "Favorite Movie" category. Nick nuts only gave "Titanic" one nomination. If that's not poetic justice, I don't know what is.

The millions of Kids' Choice Awards judges cast their votes in more than 18 categories by filling out ballots at McDonald's restaurants, surfing to Nick's Web site and calling a toll-free number flashed on the screen during their favorite shows. Instead of "Bests," the Kids' Choice Awards designates "Favorites."

And kids don't rely on Nielsen ratings to sway their tastes in entertainment. Witness the "Favorite Television Actor" category, in which Marlon and Shawn Wayans, and Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchel, are elevated to the same level as Golden Globe-winning actor Tim Allen. In the "Favorite Television Actress" category, Kirstie Alley is pitted against Melissa Joan Hart, Brandy and Tia and Tamera Mowry.

Animal actors get their due, too. "Air Bud's" late star, Buddy the Dog, might have a chance as a sentimental favorite. But the competition is stiff: Willy the Whale, Salem the Cat and "Mouse Hunt's" Mouse are also contenders in the curiously chimp-free "Favorite Animal Actor" category. Michelle Kwan got a nomination for "Favorite Female Athlete"; Tara Lipinski didn't. And four musical groups adults love to hate - No Doubt, Hanson, the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls - have a shot at being named "Favorite Musical Group."

Indeed, Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards might be the only opportunity for a statuette most of these stars have gotten since they played in Little League. That's just fine. After all, if you're going to go through all the trouble to become famous, it's only fair that you have some kind of award to show for it. Right, kids?

Melanie McFarland voted for "Hey Arnold!" in the "Favorite Cartoon" category. She can be reached at 206-464-2256 or by e-mail at mmcf-new@seatimes.com.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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