Throughout the weekend I was asked a few times if I was covering the telecast of The Emmys Sunday evening. Over the years I have regularly held live-blog coverage of the major awards shown such as The Oscars, The Emmys, and The Golden Globes. (I know I wrote "major awards," but just play along.) I refrained from covering the broadcast this weekend; not only had the run-up to the telecast been missed save for the days just ahead of it, but I did not get a sense there was anything approaching an appreciable interest in the show.
The ratings proved me correct. Some had speculated earlier there could be a heightened curiosity, given people have been consuming more television in a quarantine environment, and to see how the telecast would be conducted with no audience and remote appearances by the performers and presenters. Instead, the numbers are clearly showing that there was diminished curiosity, and it is easily apparent why this was the case.
With already lowered expectations from the past few years of eroding audiences, Sunday’s telecast barely seemed to register. The numbers were down a strong -17 percent, leading to the record lowest viewership of a broadcast of The Emmys. The viewership was just a tick above 5 million sets of eyes. As a point of comparison, that is on par with the audience that Tucker Carlson draws on any given weeknight. To drive home this significance, Tucker does not have a year-long buildup and a parade of celebrities from supposedly beloved programs.
In the category regarded as "The core demographic" -- viewers 1-49 years old -- the ratings went from bad to disastrous. The audience in that segment was off a staggering -33 percent. This is not only the most favored group targeted by advertisers but also the primary consumers of the Hollywood product. Here we see that one third of the audience has simply walked away.
The show was held on ABC for the first time since 2016. Sunday’s audience was down almost -50 percent from that last telecast. The show was hosted by that network’s late night gabber, Jimmy Kimmel. The man who once went by the moniker "comedian" has himself turned into a social crank over the years, and he seemed to be incapable of reading the non-existent audience. As fans have fled over the years and political fatigue is blatant in the gentry Hollywood decided to go all-in with the activism, staging what Entertainment Weekly dubbed, "The most political Emmy telecast ever."
Kimmel opened things up in his monologue not with levity and distractions, but in recanting how miserable this year has been. “The big question is why would you have an award show in the middle of a pandemic?! No seriously, I’m asking -- why are we having an awards show in the middle of a pandemic? This has been a miserable year, a year of division, injustice, disease, Zoom school and death.”
And they expected people to stick around for more morbid fun? Once Kimmel got into the actual mirth of his monologue he went right after half his audience, cracking that of course there was no audience in the auditorium, because it was not a MAGA rally. Later he made a joke about the hailed graphic novel show from HBO, "Watchmen," declaring that the program is mostly realistic, except for the part of people in Oklahoma wearing masks. If he had said simply, "You stupid Donald Trump voters should just turn this show off,’’ he would have achieved the identical result.
But this went far beyond Kimmel being a partisan emcee. Entertainment Weekly breathlessly covered the broadcast, despite the fact it was clearly a show in need of CPR, detailing how it was fully infused with social activism:
"From jokes to clothing choices to passionate statements, Hollywood's top television talent infused the 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards with the current political moment: a period of social re-examination in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and a historic presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden just weeks away."
So yes, if you were looking for a chance to put aside the social distemper we are served up on a daily basis and lose yourself for a couple of hours in the shallow glitz and distracting glam of a Hollywood gala, sorry. This was the celebrity lecture extravaganza.
Marc Ruffalo won for something and implored people come together with love for each other; obliviously he then alluded to our being "a country of hatred and division and only for a certain kind of people," telling us we need to "vote for love, compassion, and kindness." Regina King was a winner for "Watchmen," wearing a Breonna Taylor shirt while invoking Ruth Bader Ginsburg and urging us to vote accordingly. Dan Levy’s show "Schitt’s Creek" won a passel of awards, and he accepted, saying, "Go out and vote because that’s the only way we’re going to have some love and acceptance out there. I’m so sorry for making this political!"
And on it continued. Michael Anderson started a Black Lives Matter chant, loudly commanding, "Say it so Mike Pence can hear it!" One winner hailed the young people "doing the work in the streets." Kimmel had a comedy skit involving a Russian agent who was disguised as a postal worker to steal votes, and it went all the way to the final winner, where the creator of "Succession," winner for Best Drama Series, gave a speech ’’Un-thanking’’ various political figures.
It was amazing to behold, these people who rely entirely on adulation and public support turning completely blind to the fact that this very type of display is what turns off their support structure. After years of blatant political pandering leading to diminishing returns they cranked up the political dial and were delivered historically horrible returns.
Some industry experts tried to blame the low figures on the pandemic, and a night with sports competition. Except these same experts told us to expect better ratings. And the NFL, which has also marinated itself in social activism, has been seeing drastic drops as well. Sunday’s game that played opposite the Emmys had a -17 percent loss from week one, where they saw lower numbers from last year. Nobody from these sectors seems curious how self-inflicted this has been.
In a recent Gallup poll measuring how the public perceives various industries, professional sports plummeted in the last year to near the bottom of the list, falling in approval in every measured category with an overall Unfavorable view by Americans. Hollywood and the pro-sports leagues would be wise to note this; as they have turned political they now reside in the same level of public perception as politicians.