A year ago, I wrote a sports column about the Oscars. Yeah, I know. I used to do weird stuff like that. It was all about the fiasco last year when La La Land was announced as the Best Picture of the year instead of Moonlight.
“It appears,” I wrote, “that while La La Land won the popular vote, Moonlight won the Electoral College.”
I also mentioned how the previous Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA Finals — where the Atlanta Falcons, the Cleveland Indians and the Golden State Warriors were all leading until they were respectively overtaken at the end by the New England Patriots, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Cavaliers — could’ve also been the victims of accounting errors.
We talk a lot about how real life is a lot like sports. But sometimes sports are a lot like real life.
People get all excited after the Super Bowl about what the TV rating was. They want to know where it ranks among the most watched television shows of all time, and these days, the top 10 TV shows of all time are all Super Bowls.
But the Oscars are a lot like sports, too. After Sunday night’s Oscars show (the 2018 version in which no one messed up anything, other than making the thing more than 3 hours and 45 minutes long), everyone was waiting to see how the rating numbers would turn out.
Not super, it would seem.
ABC’s telecast earned an 18.9 big-market overnight rating and a 32% share of the audience, according to Nielsen. The overnight rating covers about 70% of U.S. TV households and measures what percent of total televisions were tuned to the program; the share measures the percent of TVs in use. The show was seen by 26.5 million viewers. The only TV shows likely to be seen by more people this year will be sporting events.
The Oscar rating is 16% lower than last year’s 22.5/37 mark and the viewership is 19% less.
Well, that’s not overly surprising, is it? First of all, everything went smoothly this year. Obviously, the Motion Picture Academy didn’t learn its lesson from last year: If you want to pull in the viewers, you’ve got to mess something up! That little business with PricewaterhouseCoopers in ’17? Brilliant! It was the best thing since Jennifer Lawrence tripped going up the steps to claim her Oscar in 2013.
Going by the script doesn’t work anymore — except, you know, in the movies. On TV, it’s strictly unscripted. You need something Survivorish, American Idolish, Big Brotherish and, best yet, Bachelorish to grab the big ratings on TV these days.
The Oscars this year might have been fairly predictable this year anyway. With so many other award shows taking place, and with so many of the same winners coming in for the same awards in each of them, the feeling was more one of déjà vu rather than of surprise.
On top of all that, in this year of the #metoo movement pointing out sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood, half the audience (the male half) may have felt a little too sheepish and guilty to tune in.
Male red-carpet interviewers were not only afraid to ask actresses who they were wearing, they were afraid to even look at what they were wearing.
JUST LIKE REAL LIFE
There were true sports connections at the Oscars on Sunday night.
The first was when Kobe Bryant, the former Laker, won the award for animated short, with artist Glen Keane, for Dear Basketball, the letter that Bryant used to announce his retirement on The Players’ Tribune website.
More than one account noted the irony, however, in celebrating Bryant’s achievement in this particular year when, in 2003, he was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado. Bryant admitted to a sexual encounter with the woman, but denied the assault allegation. The criminal case was dropped after Bryant’s accuser refused to testify. She later filed a civil suit against him, which was settled out of court and included Bryant’s public apology to her, although he admitted no guilt.
The second Oscar sports connection was by Icarus, the Netflix film that won for best documentary feature, detailing Russia’s state-sanctioned Olympic sports doping program. Director Brian Fogel told Entertainment Weekly the International Olympic Committee’s decision to allow Russian athletes to compete in the Winter Games under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” was “a slap in the face to every clean athlete in the world.” The IOC has since lifted the ban on Russia.
Fogel said Russian whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov “now lives in great danger,” and that IOC president Thomas Bach should resign.
“He is a crook,” Fogel said. “… If you can corroborate and prove and substantiate a fraud of this caliber on this level that spans for decades and then essentially give that country that committed that fraud a slap on the wrist, allow 160 athletes to compete in those games … and then … lift the ban on that country? What a fraud. What a corrupt organization, and that man should be embarrassed and ashamed of himself. He needs to resign.”
Sometimes sports aren’t all fun and games. Neither are the Oscars.