Just when it seemed this year’s Golden Globes ceremony was enough evidence that award shows are irrelevant now — it literally failed to secure a broadcaster—the Academy Awards are officially taking home the trophy for the distinct honor of failing to notice that only a dwindling few care to watch three hours of the celebrity ruling class pose as people who weren’t friends with Harvey Weinstein less than ten years ago.
On Tuesday, in an attempt to make the piddling pageantry that will surely be the 94th Academy Awards “more entertaining and more thrilling,” the telecast will reportedly present eight awards before the live show even begins. A letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter sent to members of the Academy by President David Rubinby explained that the awards for Documentary Short, Film Editing, Make-up and Hairstyling, Original Score, Production Design, Animated Short, Live Action Short and Sound would now be presented during an off-air ceremony an hour before the live programming.
Who even cares about the creative geniuses that gave us the Encanto score and managed to make even Jared Leto and Jessica Chastain look like fellow plebians in our local theaters?!
Rubin went on to assure those with concerns that the off-air ceremony would still provide each winner with their “Oscar moment.” The real question however, is whether or not audiences need their Oscar moment.
Even before covid, which has been blamed for the bulk of more recent awards show disinterest, ratings have dwindled so much that the possibility of pulling some of the Oscars’ 23 categories from the broadcast has long been a matter of debate. In 2019, the Academy considered cutting four categories— cinematography, editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-action short — for a shortened, pre-taped segment. It was only after it received backlash that the Academy decided against it just days before the show. Of course, an enduring, evolving pandemic hasn’t helped. Last year’s broadcast plummeted to an all-time low of 9.85 million viewers, a stark contrast to years like 2018 when 29.6 million watched.
It’s been noted that the academy, a predominantly wealthy white male majority, and ABC, its longtime broadcast partner, have been pressured to make the programming more like the Tonys or the Grammys (read: less stuffy, more spirited). As if in direct response to that criticism, Rubin also
clarified that what the amended show would lack in speeches, it would make up for in opportunities for “audience entertainment and engagement through comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes.”
Some of that “audience entertainment” will surely come from Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall, who are acting as joint hosts for the Oscar’s ceremony this year. In a statement announcing that news, the trio said: “We want people to get ready to have a good time. It’s been a while.”
To echo the understatement of the century, it has been awhile. Most of Twitter will agree that the Oscars — and every other award show — cannot be saved by cutting awards people care about, incorporating more musical numbers or instituting the first ever trio of female hosts. For better and for worse, our palates — and attention spans — have changed , and appeasing viewers who don’t like award shows by alienating viewers who do, just isn’t working. In other words, cue the walk-off music already.