How to Fix the Oscars


Well, here we are, nearly a week after the 90th Academy Awards sported record-low viewership numbers. Nielsen suggested they were seen only by a handful of wandering channel-surfers and that strange guy down the street who collects antique dog bowls. No, seriously, only about 26.5 million people tuned in. As reported on Wednesday, that’s a 16% drop from 2017… when the experts were also panicking about how terrible the declining viewership was.

Anyway, since that all happened almost a week ago, we’ve had plenty of time for all manner of critics, experts, Hollywood acolytes and on-the-street opinion-givers to mull over why the Academy Awards can’t seem to get people to give a hoot.

Is it the humor-lite monologues, shot through with political commentary and inside-baseball nasty potshots, they’ve asked? Is it the fact that the show stretches on longer that the lifespan of your average housefly? Or that it’s so packed with celebrity finger-pointing and chest-thumping speeches that it’s about as annoying as your average housefly? Could it be changing viewer habits? The lure of streaming TV? Cable cutters?

And the answer is: Yes. I’m sure all of those things have a part in the declining equation.

I’m sure that the minds behind the Oscars will come up with tons of lights-camera-action solutions. The powers-that-be will create a list of potential new hosts. They’ll try to find ways to make the event more empowered, more culturally significant, more this, more that. They’ll power up and double down, doing all they can to get the majority of Americans to wake up to just how important the ideas of all those directors, actors and producers really are.

In my humble opinion, however, they’re kinda missing the point. In fact, they’ve been missing it for a good long while, and will likely go on missing it. Some have been screaming about it, but I thought I’d whisper it here, anyway. Hey, I’ll even weave it into an old campaign slogan, since politics seems to be so central to an awards show these days:

It’s the movies, stupid!

Think about it. What if Hollywood stopped worrying about trying to get people to care about the movies they care about, and simply paid attention to the movies we care about?

It’s a novel idea, but not all that tough to put into practice.

The reason that the Best Picture category was expanded to more than five nomination slots a few years back (which fluctuates between six and 10), was because somebody wanted to make it possible to include the fun, people-pleasing pics that folks who buy actual movie tickets enjoyed. That’s how it was pitched, anyway. So why not actually give that idea a shot? I mean, does anyone remember the year when the Academy Awards hit their high water mark? It was 1998, when the Oscars drew a record high of 57 million viewers. That was the year that Titanic won. You know, that little movie that nobody saw or cared about.

The fact is, we folks out here in flyover country still enjoy good movies. Our favorites may not always radically reshape the world, but that’s OK. They’re still good movies. And we love the movie-going experience. Pricey though it may be, a theater trip is something of a cool affair—featuring new theater loungers and a pumped-up menu of tasty treats—that can make for a fun diversion, a great date, or an enjoyable evening with the family.

All the Academy needs to do is represent that special joy and the films that make us most joyous. I mean that’s what Oscar night is really supposed to be about, right? It’s about celebrating well-made, memorable products and the people who make them.

I’d suggest to the Academy Awards crew that we love the movies, and we’d be willing to spend an evening saluting the many myriad movies that we turn out in droves to see. But we’re just sorta, maybe, a little tiny bit tired of … them.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

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