By David Poland email@example.com
Is There Something Wrong With Oscar?
Bad ratings once again has brought a plethora of reactive, silly pieces about “what’s wrong?”
As you know, I am on a boat, but this morning, it was Old Man Goldstein busy, as he so often does, mistaking his home for a place of importance in the scheme of things. Wrong!
There’s nothing more pathetic than Traditional Media, unable to figure out the current marketplace, explaining to others how the current marketplace should work.
What happened to the ratings? It’s not complicated. The expected acting winners and the ones who won in upsets were all, pretty much, unknown outside of the arthouse world. Juno was the one major box office hit in the group… but as excellent as Ellen Page is, she was the only acting nominee from the film and has not proved to be a “we have to tune in to see what she says” kind of public personality. The f-ing songs nominated from Enchanted… a movie most loved by the already committed Oscar viewers.
But this is the micro view… not very meaningful.
Paradigm shifts in media are most often driven by micro choices, but those choices are based on the macro view.
James Bond has had three major successful transitions in its 40 year (or so) history. From the serious Connery to the charmingly quippy Roger Moore to the Bond-as-many-think-of-him Brosnan to the rough and tumble hard edge of Daniel Craig. Yes, the actor matters. But the bigger idea of what a Bond is defines the change.
But The Academy Awards is NOT a movie. It is television. Deal with it.
And television is, like most media, narrowing. For everyone, except the Super Bowl, which is a four-quadrant event like Christmas, regardless of who is playing the game. Up a little for NY teams… down a little for small market teams. But the machine is much bigger than the game. And if it stops being that, that event too will become marginalized.
So the question can not be, “How can The Oscars be returned to its glory?” That is a disaster in the making.
The questions can only be, “What is it that makes this idea appealing to people?” and “How do we best design a show to fit that appeal?”
The answer is NOT The Rock… with due respect to the delightful scent of what he is cooking. it’ also not loading up the show with every presented under 40 they could scrape up.
None of us know the answer for sure. But my sense is that there are two ways to go… toney or intimate. The Golden Globes was “the intimate choice,” but has gotten less so over time. The toney choice is Steve Martin or the like hosting, cool enough to be smart, dry enough to never let them see him sweat… a show of utter elegance and produced in near black & white.
I kinda would like to see them try that multi-headed host thing again… go cross-generational. I mean, would you like to see up there? Let’s not see a Judd Apatow Oscars. How about Amanda Bynes, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, and Meryl Streep? Or Amy Adams, Steve Carrell, George Clooney, and Kathy Bates? Or Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bruce Willis? Or Ian McKellen, Josh Brolin, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jennifer Garner?
Do the musical numbers as covers… serious covers… but serious names… that can seriously be sold after the show.
Add a category or two, like stunts.
And remember why people watch… to see emotion and glamor and the unexpected from people who they only know through their performances.
All I am saying is that it might be more fun for Oscar to feel more like that ballroom at the Hollywood Roosevelt again.
Regardless, the ratings are likely to continue dropping until they reach the next natural plateau. It is the nature of the medium. You can make that plateau a little higher or lower, but you can’t make this show the massive hit it once was again. It is the nature of niche.
And picking apart silly details – which The Academy itself was nervously doing even before the show this year – is not going to change that.