Is it the end of award shows? How the pandemic has brought down the brittle celebrity backslapper

The Oscars recorded its lowest ever rating in 2021, Golden Globes saw a 63 per cent drop in ratings


                            Is it the end of award shows? How the pandemic has brought down the brittle celebrity backslapper
The 2021 Oscars fell to a record low with viewership of just 9.8 million (Getty Images)

Award shows are ailing. In 2021 The Golden Globes suffered a 63 percent viewership decline, The Grammys a 51 percent decline and of course, most recently the Oscars had fewer viewers tuning in than at any other time in modern history. A mere 9.8 million viewers tuned into the Oscars this year, a 58% drop from a year ago when 23.6 million watched. Before the 2021 Oscars, that was the lowest-rated Oscars ever. But is it just the pandemic that is causing awards shows to suffer?

For the Oscars at least, even before the pandemic, ratings had been steadily dropping. While in 2010, forty-two million viewers tuned into the award ceremony, by 2020 that number was already halved with just 24 million viewers tuning in. Experts feel that the pandemic has definitely worsened things, but also agree that when it comes to a waning interest in award shows, the writing has been on the wall for a while now. 

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The Oscars 2021 was produced Steven Soderbergh but some felt that the new format of the ceremony fell flat (Getty Images)

Award shows like the Oscars, for example, previously helped to unify viewers over a shared love for movies. But with viewing becoming more fractured, a lack of water-cooler conversation since people are confined to their homes and a growing indifference to movie stars especially among the young, it seems that award shows increasingly are being seen as relics of a bygone era.

Besides, the programming of many awards shows haven't changed much since the seventies, though the Oscars did try to change that up by asking Steven Soderbergh to produce this year. However, it seems that for many the new format at the 2021 Oscars didn't quite have the desired effect. With no music, no jokes and just a lot of long acceptance speeches, the socially distant award ceremony was described by some as a dead room both acoustically and emotionally. Production issues aside, the fact is in a time of such strife, back-slapping celebrities on the shows are striking many as trivial and tone-deaf.

While some may argue it's precisely at times like this that people need a little glamor and entertainment, due to the way award shows are now presented, much of the glitz and glamor that viewers associated with it have now been shorn away. After all, what is so glamorous about more screen time watching your favorite celebrities on Zoom? Adding to this is the predictability factor. By the time, for example, one gets to the Oscars and this year was later than usual, in April rather than February, firm favorites are already in place. Firm favorites of the awards are not necessarily favorites with the public anymore. The movies which have tended to be popular in recent years are action-adventure blockbusters which are not generally regarded as Oscar contenders.

However, some argue that with even the most avid movie buffs not being able to catch Oscar-nominated films this year due to theatres being closed for a large portion of the year, perhaps interest in shows like the Oscars will return once people can experience the magic of movies again. Even hard-core movie fans have said that in a year that has been filled with far more pressing concerns, it has been a challenge watching nominated movies on small screens and keeping up with when and where they are available on streaming and on-demand services.

So will award shows regain some of their lost ground once potential viewers are just able to experience the joy of movies, and dare we say the joy of normal life once again? Or is a life without awards shows or highly truncated ones going to be part of the world's new normal? 

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