It appears that taking a scripted show in which overpaid millionaires pat each other on the back, while turning it into a platform to voice their coordinated political grievances and lash out against the elected choice of a plurality of America’s voters may not have been the best idea to boost viewership: according to Nielsen, the 89th Annual Academy Awards brought in an average of 32.9 million viewers on Sunday night. According to ABC, that was the second lowest viewership in Oscar history and is down from the 2016 broadcast, which brought in 34 million viewers. Perhaps the show’s producers should have previewed the “shock” twist at the end in order to boost viewership.
Putting the rating collapse in context, last night’s show, which saw most commentators take veiled and not so veiled swipes at Donald Trump, was the lowest rated Oscars since 2008 where Jon Stewart hosted and “No Country For Old Men” won Best Picture. That broadcast brought in 32 million, according to Nielsen.
Of course, Hollywood’s biggest night had one of the strangest and most talked about endings in Oscar history following a Best Picture snafu that saw “La La Land” announced as winner even though the award actually went to “Moonlight.” The Oscar’s extravaganza lasted nearly four hours and the Best Picture flub didn’t happen until after midnight ET. Away from the chaotic, bizarre ending, the show also had some other miscues including listing the wrong person as dead in the In Memoriam tribute during the show.
Yet, as tends to happen, the show received mostly positive reviews from critics who found host Jimmy Kimmel enjoyable. “ABC was playing it safe and promoting its own late-night star, but in hindsight, Kimmel proved a helpful choice given the polarized climate,” wrote CNN critic Brian Lowry. “He brought a light touch to his satire – acknowledging partisan division and poking at Trump without seeming mean-spirited – and an overall silliness to the proceedings.”
Confirming perhaps that it is Hollywood in general that is suffering from a loss of public interest, despite its rating dip, the Oscars were still the number one entertainment telecast in the last year.
Even though the Best Picture mix up didn’t help bring in big viewership, the shocking ending was the talk of Hollywood, news shows and social media on Monday. Some critics like the New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik even compared it to President Trump’s surprising win on Election Day.
“After the election in November, we should have known better than to assume that a sure thing was a sure thing,” wrote Poniewozik.
Others were less forgiving: WSJ’s Jason Gay summarized the fiasco by saying “that was nuts, even for Hollywood” adding that last night’s Academy Awards was “a historic, colossal, ludicrous screw-up, which undoubtedly has some very talented people feeling very terrible.”
In retrospect, the general public agrees with the less than optimstic take on the show, which may need to do some deep soul-searching in order to redeem itself, and to regain its rapidly dwindling audience.