To start off this article, I love the Oscars. I know many people have a problem with the Academy Awards but for all its flaws, in my eyes, it’s the best system of awards in the entertainment industry. That be said I have some qualms every once in a while with the show.
Like any Oscar telecast, this 87th Annual Academy Awards had it’s range of highs and lows. But, generally speaking this telecast had more lows than highs. The Oscars continues to throw in a lot of unnecessary material. Did the general viewing audience really need to see the president of the Oscars come out and speak? Perhaps it is important to hear, but that speech went on far too long. I still think the music acts are always unnecessary (even though it was clearly the best part of the night). But, afoot there is a much bigger problem at large.
This was the lowest rated Oscar telecast in 6 years (bringing in 36.6 million Viewers). Why though? People are starting to figure out that the show has become increasingly dull and too long for their tastes. Perhaps we wouldn’t be complaining about the excessive length if the show has us entertained. Who cares if a show is 3 plus hours, if we’re having a good time? No one cares if a sporting event goes overtime and lasts 3, 4 even 5 hours! Why? Simple, we are entertained! We’re having a good time as we watch different teams and players duke it out long into the night. The Oscars goes a little over 3 hours every year and (especially this year) we become so increasingly bored our mouths start to drool. Why? Let’s look at the hosts the past couple of years.
Last year the Oscars hit highs with Ellen Degeneres hosting (43 Million Viewers). The highest since when Chris Rock hosted the Oscars back in 2005 to be exact. Why then the big drop? Aside from the fact that Neil Patrick Harris’s name perhaps might not have the biggest pull amongst audiences; could it be Ellen herself?
The ratings have been climbing higher and higher every since 2008 so what caused that drop? In 2011 (the only dip in that span between 2008 and 2014) we had what many considered the worst Oscar show in history with James Franco and Ann Hathaway hosting. They could not hold an audience (nor have big enough star power). Thus a drop in viewership from the excellent Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin (from 41 to 37 million). The next year Billy Crystal came in to play damage control (after Eddie Murphy dropped out) and gave a great show. Through name recognition and a fun performance the rating climbed back up a bit (from 37 million to 39 million). Some sour taste may have been still left in people’s mouths from the previous year.
After that great show, viewers were ready to tune in for the next one; which was to be Seth McFarlane. Seth McFarlane gave us one of the most controversial shows in the history of the Academy Awards. People were talking about it long after the night was over. Whether or not you liked it or hated it, McFarlane’s Oscars generated a lot of conversation and made the Oscars something relevant again. The viewership climbed to around 40 million plus viewership.
Amidst that controversy though, the Academy made a safe choice and got the likeable Ellen back to host her second Oscars. Where Crystal and McFarlane gave the Oscars a breath of fresh air, Ellen gave a dull and forgettable performance (as she did in 2007). What did the Academy come back with? Another “safe” choice in Neil Patrick Harris, a normally good entertainer. Still though is Neil Patrick Harris’s name a big pull?
Either way we were treated to another dull and forgettable Oscars. Almost none of Harris’s jokes or skits landed (with the exception of the John Travolta jab and maybe one or two other small chuckles). This show couldn’t hold viewers. But, is it possible that Ellen’s performance last year caused the drop? This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. After her other dull performance in 2007, ratings dropped significantly to Jon Stewart’s second turn at hosting the Oscars the very next year (from 40 million to 32 million).
So perhaps the problem is not so much that the show runs long (as some would lead you to believe) but instead an audience already going in with some preconceived notions that the show will be boring. That has to do with two things; the previous year performance, and who they got to host the Oscars the very next year. Was anyone really excited, jumping up and down about Harris hosting the Oscars? I know when I was watching Billy Crystal or Seth McFarlane I wasn’t complaining about the length of the show; I was entertained and excited to see how they were going to run the show. When Ellen or Neil Patrick Harris was hosting? I was bored out my mind and only mildly interested. I know many others felt the same way.
Just think back to the 1990s, the Oscars brought in huge and consistent viewership. What was happening the 1990s? The shows were incredible! That decade Billy Crystal was dominating (along with a couple of others), giving something entertaining every year. People tuned in because they knew the shows could be good; especially when the year before was so great. From 1990 to 2002, the viewership always hit 40 million or more (see a pattern here?)
The Academy needs to get a great team of writers and a great host that people would be excited for. Steve Carrell would be exciting, or a Kevin Spacey, or maybe it’s time to recruit Amy Poehler and Tina Fey to host the Oscars (bringing back Billy Crystal or Seth McFarlane isn’t a bad idea either). After these past two years, the Academy needs to get a host that people can get excited about. I actually like Ellen and Neil Patrick Harris a great deal. They are both very talented individuals (who doesn’t love Ellen as Dory!?); but as Oscar hosts? It was hard to watch, and apparently it was for others as well. Only time will tell, if this pattern or problem continues (or if I am completely in left field).