Below are four problems the Oscars will never overcome, which dooms the broadcast forever to terrible ratings and the enmity of at least half the country. First some background…
Over the last 15 or so years, the film business has changed forever, and not for the better. Nevertheless, Hollywood, California, is still the entertainment capital of the world. It’s easy to lament the state of an industry that is either churning out $300 carnival rides (Marvel) or depressingly dull, pretentious indies (Roma) with a side order of increasingly tiring cheapie horror flicks, but name a country that does it better?
So you would think that with all of this talent and a full year to plan, Oscar night would not suck; that it would be the year’s most exciting, moving, compelling, and memorable four hours of television. But as we all know, the exact opposite is true. The Oscars are excruciating to sit through and for that reason the ratings have plummeted to lows no one would have thought possible just a few years ago.
In fact, the ratings are so bad now, the backlash from the American people so severe, Oscar is celebrating the fact that Sunday night’s telecast did not hit a new viewership low. You see, it was only the second worst low.
Whew, what a relief!
The Oscar telecast’s existential problem is the format: Comedy monologue, award, acceptance speech, montage reel, award, acceptance speech, performance of song no one will remember in 12 hours, award, acceptance speech, death montage, award, and so on… The format is episodic, like an old variety show packed with pretentious speeches.
For years, though, Oscar did overcome this format and we did still tune in. The problem today is that all the fig leaves to overcome that format are gone.
Since 2014, the Oscars telecast has lost nearly a third of its audience — a collapse from 43.7 million viewers to Sunday’s 29.6 million. To anyone who lives outside the bubble, the reasons for this are obvious, and those reasons are now impossible to overcome…
- No Suspense
People don’t talk about this, primarily because those who would are part of the problem, but for years there has been a thriving cottage industry dedicated to tracking, predicting, and shaping the outcome of the Academy Awards. The Gold Derby forecast, that type of thing… And to their credit, they are good at what they do.
Unfortunately, they are so good, all we can look forward to is four hours of no surprises. We already know who is going to win. Sure, every once in a while there is an upset or two, but a couple of surprises over four hours is hardly worth the time.
Oscar night was a whole lot more fun when there was some actual suspense about the outcome.
And you can’t avoid these predictions. They’re everywhere now.
- Divisive, Insulting Politics
The argument is that Oscar night is Hollywood’s night and therefore the stars should be allowed to express themselves in whatever way they wish.
Okay, but they are also inviting us into their home, and a polite host does not go out of his way to insult the guests.
So of course those of us who are tired of being insulted are turning down the invitation, are not tuning in. The show is already dull and predictable, why put ourselves through that?
And this will never, ever change. Hollywood is only becoming more insular and politicized, more obnoxiously woke, more willing to disguise its own intolerance and bullying behind a shield of virtue.
In the time it takes to watch the Oscars, I can watch The Green Berets and The Outlaw Josey Wales. This is not a difficult choice.
And if you were a normal American looking to give Sunday night’s telecast a shot, it opened with a Trump joke. Click.
- No Viable Hosts
One of the pleasures of Oscar night used to be the promise of spending four hours with the host, someone you liked, a Johnny Carson or Billy Crystal or Steve Martin. In the old days, it was Bob Hope. These gentleman promised a fun night. They were worth your time.
What’s more, these are hosts in possession of something that is all but dead in today’s hyper-politicized world: universal appeal.
Kevin Hart would have been a great choice to host Sunday’s telecast, he is one of the few entertainers left with universal appeal, someone who has not gone out of his way to polarize his talent with nasty name calling and insulting political statements — and look what happened to him: under the guise of a few innocuous gay jokes, he was blacklisted from hosting. But those jokes were just an excuse. Alec Baldwin and Joy Reid have actually said truly terrible things are homosexuals. Both remain in good stead with the very same people who sought Hart’s destruction.
Hart’s real sin is that he’s not political, and if you are not political in today’s Orwellian climate, you are suspect. Look at the pressure put on Taylor Swift to come out as a left-winger.
There’s talk of Dwayne Johnson hosting next year’s telecast. Hey, everyone likes The Rock, but hosting a four hour show is not his thing, he’s not even a comedian. No thanks.
- No Movie Stars
The aura of the movie star overcomes all, and there just aren’t that many movie stars anymore.
Look at how Sunday’s telecast opened — with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph. As I asked Monday, why in the world would a show devoted to the magic of filmmaking open with three TV stars?
Sure, they’ve made movies, but they are and always will be TV stars.
This isn’t even about politics. You can hate on Jane Fonda all you want, but Jane Fonda is pure movie star, as are other hardcore lefties like Shirley MacLaine, Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfus, and the like. Regardless of their politics, there is something about them that is inexplicable, something no one else has, and tuning into the Oscars used to be about spending four hours with gods, with Jack Nicholson, Vanessa Redgrave, Clint Eastwood, Sidney Poitier, Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton… I could go on and on forever.
Awkwafina? Trevor Noah? Dana Carvey? Emilia Clarke? Sure, Sunday night had its moment. Julia Roberts was there, so was Helen Mirren, Michelle Yeoh, Michael B. Jordan, Barbra Streisand… But again, are a mere handful of legitimate movie star appearances worth four painfully predictable hours of charisma-free mediocrity and insults?
Sorry, the Oscars are broken forever.