This year’s Oscars, even with the added bonus of an unscripted MMA fight, suffered the second-lowest ratings in the history of the telecast. Only 15.4 million tuned in to a production that just five years ago was panicking over drawing only 33 million viewers.
Just before the two-and-a-half hour mark, comedian Chris Rock made a forgettable crack about Jada Pinkett Smith’s lack of hair. She is afflicted with alopecia, which is undoubtedly the most Googled word of the week.
This led to her husband, Will Smith, bolting to the stage and open-palm slapping Rock. Yes, slapping. He then went back to his seat, yelled a profanity at the obviously shocked Chris Rock, and then took the Oscar for Best Actor. Seriously.
Numbers were up from last year’s abysmal total of 10.4 million, but something that is slightly less irrelevant than last year is still irrelevant. And no amount of spin will change the fact that the past two awards shows are the only telecasts in Academy history to draw under 20 million viewers. By a mile.
It was only in 2003, three days after the Iraq War began, that the Oscars failed to draw at least 40 million live TV viewers. Just before 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic began, the industry celebration garnered only 23.6 million watchers. Compared with the last two, 2020 looks like the promised land for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
How did it get to this? One reason is the dearth of films that the general public has awareness of and interest enough to tune in and root for. Gone are the days of “Titanic,” “Forrest Gump” or even “Chicago.” Instead, last year, we were supposed to be white-knuckling our armchairs for “Mank” or “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Flash forward to 2022 and viewers had to endure lame jokes and even more lame pontification by liberal elitists to learn if “The Power of the Dog” or “CODA” took top honors — it turned out to be “CODA.”
It is rumored that literally no one saw “West Side Story” in a theater, but that has not been confirmed. Is it possible that the Academy will revert to choosing movies someone has actually seen and move away from pretending to the moral compass of America? It would bring viewers back, but no one should hold their breath.