Jennifer Hudson's speech for humanitarian award highlight of People's Choice Awards 2014

(CNN) -- Jennifer Hudson didn't win a People's Choice Award for a performance on Wednesday. But it was her emotional speech for a humanitarian award that highlighted the 2014 edition of the awards show.

Hudson accepted the favorite humanitarian award with her sister Julia for the foundation the pair started in the name of Julia's son, Julian D. King, after his 2008 murder. The Hudson sisters' mother and brother were also killed in the crime.

Jennifer Hudson said she was inspired by performers and educators she saw as a child. She wants to carry the message on to a new generation, she said, because that inspiration made a difference in her life.

"If they did it, then I can do it, too," she said of the work.

Hudson's speech was one of the few notable moments at the 2014 People's Choice Awards, which mark the beginning of what the denizens of Tinseltown refer to as "awards season." It starts a flurry of kudofests, including Sunday's Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Grammys and the Oscars.

The show clocked in at two hours flat, with a number of categories other awards shows might consider biggies -- like favorite movie -- unrevealed during the broadcast. (That one went to "Iron Man 3," by the way.)

But nobody can complain about the range of categories. The People's Choice Awards are given for TV shows, movies and music, and there are almost 60 categories.

The range was indicated by two people who accepted the Waterford crystal trophies -- one a newcomer to the honors, the other a repeat winner.

The former, Britney Spears, may have won her share of MTV Video Music Awards, but she'd never been accepted by the People's Choice Awards until Wednesday.

Spears -- who recently put out a new album, "Britney Jean" -- was named favorite pop artist.

She walked up the stage steps carefully, almost tottering on her heels, and thanked her fans and her management team.

If Spears was a newbie at this People's Choice thing, Ellen DeGeneres is an old hand.

The talk-show host won her 14th People's Choice Award, named favorite daytime TV host.

"There's nothing better than knowing you make people happy," said DeGeneres in accepting the trophy.

Bullock dominates

Perhaps the night's biggest favorite was Sandra Bullock, who won favorite movie actress, favorite comedic movie actress and favorite dramatic movie actress.

It must seem "like I spend lonely Friday nights voting for myself," Bullock joked.

Justin Timberlake also won, for favorite album ("The 20/20 Experience") and favorite male artist.

A gracious Julianna Margulies accepted one of the trophies for her show, "The Good Wife," which won favorite network TV drama, and another for co-star Josh Charles (favorite dramatic TV actor). Charles, she revealed, had a good excuse for not being at the ceremony: He was on his honeymoon in Thailand.

The awards actually started before the broadcast.

The first trophy was handed out on the red carpet as stars' entrances streamed over the Internet. It went to Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black" in an appropriate category: favorite streaming series.

Later on the carpet, favorite cable TV drama went to "The Walking Dead" and Ian Somerhalder ("The Vampire Diaries") accepted an award for best sci-fi/fantasy TV actor.

Broad jokes and absurdity

The show formally began in time-honored awards show fashion: with an overlong sketch. This one featured a number of nominees, as well as hosts Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in character on the set of their show, "2 Broke Girls." The sketch was followed with the hosts on stage at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre making a number of broad jokes. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who will host the Golden Globes on Sunday, should have nothing to worry about.

But for all the absurdity, the People's Choice Awards do offer a snapshot of what's popular.

The show was created in 1975 by producer Bob Stivers. Consumer products company Procter & Gamble took over production in the early 1980s and still sponsors the show. Some categories change from year to year; one year featured a Nice 'n Easy Fans Favorite Hair.

After many years relying on Gallup Polls, the People's Choice Awards took a new tack in 2005. The nominations are now based on sales, industry ratings, box-office grosses, social media data and votes from peopleschoice.com. According to the hosts, 700 million votes were cast.

As Stephen Colbert observed in a taped bit, the People's Choice Awards aren't given out by "some elite academy of out-of-touch plutocrats." Colbert, incidentally, won favorite late-night talk show host.

"(The) People's Choice is one of my favorites, because it's the people choosing their favorite shows and their favorite movies," said actress Malin Akerman.

Nina Dobrev of "The Vampire Diaries" agreed. "It kind of is the ultimate award," she said.

The-CNN-Wire
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