The Enduring Mediocrity of Award Shows

In our first newsletter of 2024, a member of our Events Team, Nate Wintraub, takes a look at the ever decreasing quality of award shows, reflected by a plummet in ratings, in the run up to the rush of Awards Ceremonies, beginning with the BAFTAs in May...

It’s award show season once again, but at a time when so many used to tune in to marvel at the red carpet and root for their favourite outputs from the past year, one can’t help but notice just how mediocre the whole gambit has become. This insight is far from revolutionary, and has been commented on by numerous publications for close to a decade now. Viewership numbers reflect a societal disinterest for these programs; the Oscars, the most watched show of the season, has seen its three lowest ratings in the last three years. It’s hard to say whether viewership was ever motivated by content rather than an itching to see the biggest stars come together in one room and deliver the occasional memorable acceptance speech. Think about it – the most memorable Oscars event of the last five years was Will Smith’s hyper-viral slap delivered to host Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards in 2022. Can you remember who won best picture that same year? Probably not. It was Coda, a heart-warming (and a tad Oscar-bait-y) flick about the deaf community, with a loveable cast and an indie production story. The win capped off what was mostly a year of weak film output, with a saving-grace sprinkle of auteur driven blockbusters like Dune and Licorice Pizza emerging as the only few movies with any sort of lasting legacy in the years that have followed. Years such as this beg the question of whether or not award show viewership has gone down because the films in the public eye are increasingly disappointing. If true, this year’s Oscars, with the release of some of the best and biggest movies of the past decade, should hypothetically draw in unprecedented numbers for the 2020s so far. 

The more realistic interpretation of the declining popularity of these programs is largely tied to social media. The decline in viewership corresponds with the skyrocketing of social media platforms that give the public access to their favourite celebrities whenever they want. Who needs to see Timothee Chalamet’s red carpet look when you can watch a compiled edit of every outfit from every movie he’s ever been in on TikTok in a bit-sized 30 second compilation? One could argue social media’s imposition of the shortest attention spans in history has something to do with it too – people are considerably less willing to sit through dozens of commercials and filler content over three hours than they used to be when that was the only option. If the list of winners and clips of acceptance speeches are uploaded to X/Twitter as soon as the show ends, there seems no good reason to keep your eyes glued to the sludge between awards. Speaking of sludge, this year marked a new low for award show hosting with comedian Jo Koy’s atrocious opening monologue at the Golden Globes. A strange jumble of poor delivery and awkward, misogynistic jokes became the top news story of a Golden Globes that actually saw a 50% viewership uptick, likely because of the aforementioned quality of the content released this year.

Award shows need a significant overhaul – a focus on audiences (Better Call Saul won 0 of its 53 Emmy nominations despite universal acclaim among the masses), a charismatic host (John Mulaney’s great set at this year’s Governor’s Awards provides a glimpse of hope), and a propping up of media creatives rather than them being torn down with embarrassing skits and tele-prompted lines (see Ariana DeBose from last year’s BAFTAs, or Bella Ramsey at this year’s Critics Choice Awards). Maybe then we would tune in.

Nate Wintraub, Events Team

Recommended Reading:

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/16/business/media/emmy-awards-ratings.html

https://scrippsnews.com/stories/why-are-fewer-people-watching-award-shows/

Published by Anabelle Zaris