Award Season Overload

Americans’ level of interest has plunged as most of these industry celebrations have metastasized into an unseemly glut of self-congratulatory, often tone-deaf displays of self-regard.

Oscars

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Normally, rounding into the meaty part of showbiz awards season, as we are now, I’d be pretty chuffed. Red carpets, parties, sparkly competitions! Glamourpuss actors, singers, dancers! This stuff can be positively — in Hollywood parlance — dreamy.

Less so lately, however. The Oscars, the undisputed King Kong of televised awards shows, remains the embodiment of glitz. A huge audience is sure to tune in when it airs in late March — but fewer, by tens of millions, than would have watched 20 years ago. Americans’ level of interest has plunged as most of these industry celebrations have metastasized into an unseemly glut of self-congratulatory, often tone-deaf displays of self-regard.

In the current cultural climate, and against the backdrop of the streaming revolution, the traditional awards shows now register mostly a grudging shrug among TV viewers, particularly those younger than 50. Many who still watch with enthusiasm confess that it’s the fashions, not the celebs and contests, that draw them in.

For the show-business elite, gathered mostly in Los Angeles and New York, there’s a creeping recognition that maybe things need to change. It doesn’t look so great when lavishly compensated performers stand before cameras year after year to thank their co-stars, publicists, social-media coordinators, dog walkers, and astrologers for “this amazing honor, which I could not possibly deserve.”

Yet within the entertainment biz it’s practically a sacrilege to publicly acknowledge the obvious — that it’s high time for some of the shiny statuettes to be retired. In early 2020, Time magazine published a story it headlined “Award Shows Are Dying. Is That Such a Bad Thing?” That had to sting.

As Time and others have observed, the telecasts are simultaneously alienating and fatiguing mainstream America. (Broadway’s classy Tonys are an exception.) Competition categories are sometimes nonsensical; the scripted drivel is nausea-inducing; divisive political commentary has too often seeped into acceptance remarks; and the shows can stretch to three hours. Who’s not yawning? They have so faded in impact that A-list performers now frequently decline the opportunity to host, despite the supposed honor. That would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

Equally startling: Some VIPs in the creative community are turning their back on their own industry awards. I reached out to a veteran producer of prestige TV series and asked about the Emmy Awards. “I don’t even watch them anymore,” he told me, requesting, for obvious reasons, that his name be withheld. “Previous generations might have considered winning an Emmy really did mean you did the best work that year. Emmys are now seen as one group’s opinion, influenced by politics and other factors, but not an authoritative judgment.” Wouldn’t he like to bag an Emmy? I asked. “It’s still nice to win,” he said. “But these days it’s likely to mean far more to the winner than anyone else.”

I then checked in with a longtime friend, Mindy Burbano Stearns, a former Entertainment Tonight correspondent who I thought could offer valuable insight. She quickly passed my questions to her 16-year-old daughter, Brooke: “People don’t watch TV anymore, and if they do, they’re watching streaming services,” Brooke declared. “I don’t even know when the awards shows are on, because streaming services don’t have commercials. We just look at our phones all the time.”

Ahhh. And that is why, for those who still love the showbiz awards shows, the lights are dimming.

In the November/December issue, Cable Neuhaus wrote about how Americans hunger for good news.

This article is featured in the January/February 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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Comments

  1. Bob, Gerard and Ron, thank you so much for your comments. It’s all true and needed to be said. Obviously many of us feel this way but no one has written it quite like this. I used to work in this industry in a ‘worker bee’ capacity, and A LOT of insiders feel this way too. We can’t say anything for fear of losing our jobs, so no, it’s not just people outside of it that have long had it with everything.

    Fran, you’re entitled to your to your opinion, but yes, the Academy Awards and the other same types of shows are in big trouble, as are theaters. That’s the point of this article and the comments. Most people do not want to hear what these multi-millionaires have to say. As for Brad Pitt, he fortunately doesn’t say much, as he’s barely understandable when he does speak. His acting skills are adequate for today’s low standards. His looks are just average, especially considering there are far better looking non-celebrity men walking around in everyday life. Brad has been marketed as “BRAD PITT” being the ultimate for so long in a brainwashing manner that it hasn’t mattered for years what he looks like. He’s usually strung out on pot and booze most of the time anyway because even he knows it’s all a sham too.

  2. Oh no! This article and comments make it seem like the Academy Awards are in trouble. Brad Pitt has to be the greatest and most handsome actor ever. He doesn’t say it himself because he’s very quiet. Don’t the American people want to hear what he has to say, or Meryl Streep or so many others? I’m afraid it’s all going to go away.

  3. I get the feeling that Bob McGowen, Jr. doesn’t care much for the recent annual Acadamy Awards TV presentations. Gosh, he must be over fifty to remember the good days of award shows. Everything was better back then, the actors were multidimensional, the MCs were funny, and the movies had a message. Today’s low regard image does mirror our current government. What does he expect from an industry that has a mental IQ of 10?

  4. I agree with the points made by Bob McGowan, Jr. to borrow from the movie industry itself: “Two Thumbs Up”!

    I started becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the Academy Awards when more and more politics was allowed to be injected into the award winners’ comments. I’m not interested in their politics. If they are getting an award it is because they did a good acting job, nothing else. The breaking point came when Meryl Streep was given six minutes to vent her spleen against Donald Trump. Why should we listen to her politics? She is, without doubt, in my opinion the greatest actress I have ever seen but that doesn’t mean I’m interested in her politics much less being forced to listen to them.

  5. Excellent article, although I don’t agree with the first paragraph. What you described may have been ‘glamorous’ and ‘dreamy’ decades ago, but that red carpet and all it stands for is filthier and more worn out than one from a 19th century brothel that’s never been replaced.

    Same undeserving generic celebrities over and over again at how many of these g– d— all-look-alike awards shows year after friggin’ year?! Then we’re supposed to be all giddy over supposedly the biggest mother of them all: the Academy Awards? Please! Sooo representative of the arrogant, low class image the U.S. projects around the world. Between the entertainment industry and it’s counterpart, our government, it’s no wonder we’re sadly held in such low regard.

    Unfortunately we can’t do much about the government, but we can, and are with the ‘industry’ by not going to see films in the theater, and not watching awards shows featuring people that, with few exceptions, aren’t any more talented, better looking or anything else than the rest of us. In many cases, way less so.

    How much longer is ABC going to carry this politicized, polarized, ancient pooh pile of a broadcast? They’re not in the charity business of giving advertisers “fire sale” ad prices. That’s what they’re going to have to do given the successive annual ratings drops, well before the pandemic.

    If they do air (per the situation) let’s hope its in the degrading form of Zoom, that suits it perfectly. Let these shows be BY and FOR the ‘industry’ only with coverage done exclusively by the biggest brown-noser rag out there: People magazine. In today’s world “Look at all WE have and YOU DON’T, you loser suckers watching from home!!” doesn’t fly so well, does it? No, not so much. It’s way past time for their plane of crap to crash completely.

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