Flynn: Emmys Insult the Audience and the Audience Predictably Tunes Out

Host Stephen Colbert dances onstage during the 69th Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. / AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. Brown (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The most politicized Emmy Awards goes down in history as the lowest-rated Emmy Awards.

Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon bizarrely thanked Hillary Clinton, whom she played on the program, upon winning an award. Julia Louis-Dreyfus described Donald Trump supporters as Nazis in her acceptance speech. Donald Glover announced, “I want to thank Trump for making black people number one on the most oppressed list. He’s the reason I’m probably up here.”

If one listened intently enough, one could hear the audible clicks from remote controls around the country, which, after all, includes 62,984,825 people who voted for Donald Trump. Many of those people watch TV too. Why insult half your audience?

Entertainers, particularly comedians, know the phrase “playing to the back of the room.” This denotes people who play to their peers rather than the general audience. This works in some instances. But when an entertainer ignores the entertained they, well, cease entertaining. This happened Sunday night, and works as a metaphor for what ails Hollywood.

The almost Tourette’s-like tic to announce one’s politics at an event honoring quality entertainment hints at the quality of that entertainment. Many of the programs celebrated Sunday evening seek to propagandize as much as entertain. No one wants to watch a public-service announcement disguised as a television show. This is a corruption of the mission of Hollywood. If politicians sought to impress through character acting or boasting of their times in the 40, Americans would immediately sense something wrong. The same applies to actors or athletes who speechify or wear sandwich boards. Americans possess the patience for one Sunday sermon. After sitting through one in the morning, doubling up with another in the late evening proves too much.

Celebrities poured it on in support of Hillary Clinton. She lost. Millionaire football stars refuse to stand for the national anthem. The NFL bleeds viewers and hosts empty seats at various stadiums in a traditionally hot-ticket league. The Emmys went political. The audience tuned out.

Notice a cause and effect here? Celebrities, to their own detriment, do not.