Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Emmy ratings are in

Big surprise! Emmy ratings were incredibly low Sunday night. By the way, tomorrow I will be posting my Emmy review, but again, if you want to hear it right now just go to my podcast. A click of the big gold arrow will do it. Or iTunes or your podcast app. Hollywood & Levine.

But back to the ratings. Only 11.4 million people watched the back-slap-athon. The last MASH episode drew over 100 million people. I know – apples and oranges, but the point is those 100 million people are out there.

So now the question about the near record low ratings: How come?

The obvious answer is that no one has seen any of these Emmy winning shows. Or in many cases, even heard about them. And that’s not to say that they’re not totally deserving of their wins. The shows selected were excellent. But study after study shows that the vast majority of the country doesn’t know they exist. They’re on delivery services many people don’t have (or don’t want to have because of the cost), and in such a crowded marketplace it’s almost impossible to get noticed above the din.

I guarantee you this: If these shows did not send screeners to every TV Academy member, and if there was not good word-of-mouth within the community, most of them would never get a sniff from Emmy. If Hulu had to rely on TV Academy voters finding, subscribing, and watching THE HANDMAID’S TALE (even though it’s from a popular book) on their own, their outstanding series would be overlooked. And that’s people IN the television industry. So imagine folks who aren’t.

And if you haven’t seen the shows you have no rooting interest. Part of the fun of award shows is handicapping the winners, entering pools, and cheering on your favorites. The Oscars are having a similar problem. Oscar contenders play in art houses. They’re also a certain “kind” of film. And most moviegoers don’t make the effort, don’t have access, or don’t give a shit.

So that’s factor number one.

People will contend that the Trump bashing turns off viewers. Yeah, well, I tend to think these are the same people who wouldn’t watch THE HANDMAIDS TALE or BIG LITTLE LIES even if they were on FOX News.

Competition is also a factor. Last night’s Emmycast competed with a Sunday night NFL game (although that turned out to be a blow out) and the launch of the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam on PBS. You might say, “So what? PBS?” Well, think about it. The audience that would watch the shows nominated for Emmys are probably the same people who would be interested in a compelling documentary on the Vietnam War.

I also contend that we now have award show fatigue. There are so many of them, and some of them overlap, that it has severely tarnished the “event” status that big award shows used to have. Remember, for many years there were the Oscars and the Emmys and that’s it. Not even the Golden Globes were televised live.

And finally, how many of them have been bad? In desperate attempts to attract audiences (especially younger viewers) producers are employing “Hail Mary” stunts. Case in point: Last night’s Emmycast had Jermaine Fowler serve as the off-stage announcer. It was an abject failure and for many, ruined the entire show. (Much more about that in my bitchy review.) You can just smell the desperation and fear. And it’s uncomfortable. Audiences can sense it.

I suspect next year’s show will do better. GAME OF THRONES will be eligible. And maybe we’ll have a new president. And if THIS IS US wins the following year the ratings will grow even more. But that could mean 15 million instead of 11.4. On the one hand that’s a big increase, and on the other – big whoop.

35 comments :

Stephen Robinson said...

In 1987, the nominees for best comedy were "Golden Girls" (the winner), "Cheers," "Cosby," "Family Ties," and "Night Court." The dramas were "L.A. Law" (the winner), "Cagney & Lacey," "Moonlighting," "Murder She Wrote," and "St. Elsewhere." The viewership numbers for those shows compared to the nominees last night were likely exponentially larger. Also, they mostly endure to this day. "Veep," no matter how good (I haven't seen it and can't judge), can't really compare.

Michael J. Fox won an Emmy that year for FAMILY TIES (a "special" episode that still moves me) and Bruce Willis for MOONLIGHTING. Oh, and James Woods won one, as well.

Terrence Moss said...

And regular watchers are so sick of repeats. Six-in-a-row in ANY performance category is ridiculous unless you're Lucille Ball.

Tom said...

Even as a liberal there's a limit to the number of Trump jokes I need to hear. I get it, now think of something else to say. And worse than that, focussing so endlessly on negativity is a recipe for losing again in 2018 and 2020. Either come up with a positive message or give up. You're just helping him win.

Posting about politics to an entertainment blog is what the Emmys have reduced me to.

Andrew said...

"The audience that would watch the shows nominated for Emmys are probably the same people who would be interested in a compelling documentary on the Vietnam War."

That's a little unfair. I know plenty of people (including Trump supporters) who are in the latter category, but not the former.

When The Civil War series came out on PBS years ago, it was the same. The interest was across all political persuasions. It's simply riveting television, and hits close to home no matter what one's politics are.

I don't know a single person what watched the Emmys. No one cares. And Colbert's shtick has worn thin.

Chet said...

Agree 100% with you. I rarely watch Amazon and Netflix, but I never watch the other streaming channels like Hulu. Being retired there is only so much money to go around. And the awards shows are almost never worth watching any longer.

blinky said...

What amazes me is that they do not seem to learn anything from year to year. The show is way too long and indulgent.
My advice? Before the awards do a 30 minute clip show of all the nominees so people know what they are looking at. Then give them 90 minutes to give the awards and a hard out at 11.

VP81955 said...

I'll reiterate what I've said before: To revive the Emmys to some extent, go the route of the old CableACE Awards (anyone remember them?) and set up separate categories for over-the-air broadcast programming -- ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, the CW. They work on different terrain than the pay channels and streaming services, and that can't be ignored any longer.

BTW, I'm happy to see my favorite current sitcom, "Mom," now in syndication; those of us who remember how precarious its future was in its first season (when it nearly wasn't renewed by CBS) weren't sure we'd ever see this. Not only are local stations carrying it, such as KDOC, channel 56, here in LA (its campaign employs the slogan "MOM IS LOL FUNNY," with Anna Faris and Allison Janney in MILF-y poses), but it's also running on TV Land and FXX. Perhaps it will draw new fans to its fifth season once it begins Nov. 2.

Barry Traylor said...

CBS All Access has only one show I am interested in seeing, that is the new Star Trek series but I ain't willing to spend 10 bucks a month for one show.

Glenn said...

I'm no Trump fan, but I agree with Tom. There is such a thing as overkill with the Trump bashing. We get it, he sucks. Saturday Night Live has the same issue these days, where Weekend Update (for me, the best part of the show) is all Trump hate.

Dave Creek said...

I have to disagree on the idea of separate categories for OTA programming. Then it seems you'd have to break it down further into categories for basic cable, premium cable, and streaming services. To me, if you watch it on TV, it's TV. And I'd think any actor or writer or producer working on a broadcast show who won such an Emmy would have to wonder whether they could've competed with all the other cable/streaming shows.

I believe this is a problem without a good solution. The availability of so much television is liable to turn into the Balkanization of television as individual viewers only subscribe to the channels they prefer (or can afford) and ignore others.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I think the biggest issue is that the ceremonies are BORING. Too many people are shoehorned into presenting, the lines they're given to read are dumb and not funny, and the music sucks.

I mean here you are, an auditorium full of people who are supposed to be the BEST in the WORLD at what they do. And everyone is so frightened of inciting the tiniest amount of controversy that they bore us all to death.

wg

Gary said...

Plus we can see any of the funny moments or highlights on Youtube or our social media feed.

Charley O. said...

Dave Creek said...
I have to disagree on the idea of separate categories for OTA programming. . . To me, if you watch it on TV, it's TV.

Sorry but I would have to disagree. My wife endlessly watches the Harry Potter movies on FreeForm. Should they be eligible for Emmy consideration? Of course not. They were made for another medium. So are streaming programs. They're not available for TV. I've looked over available channels on systems like Cox, DirectTV, Dish etc and have not found Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, etc. Because they're not television. I have a camcorder that I play on my TV set but I wouldn't consider my home movies as television either. Different medium.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch much TV, maybe an hour a week, so when that hour comes up you can bet it's not going to be a self-congratulatory self-reverent awards show venting anger at the president regardless of his party affiliation. We get it, you lost and can't handle it even ten months later, but it's time to move on and run a better candidate and maybe even campaign in places you don't want to visit. I've never seen even one of the shows listed here. I feel the same way about the Academy Awards.

--Jim Dandy

benson said...

Why would anyone watch an awards show anymore?

With all the choices available, what is compelling about an awards show? Ok, maybe one or two series that a person watches and has some interest in, but three and a half hours of an awards show? Not in this day and age.

As Gary said, you can see any highlights on YouTube. It's the way we consume late night television now. Awards show, too. As Ken preaches, cut and cut some more. You can boil an awards show down to three minutes, no problem. There's your YouTube clip.

The political thing: Some may disagree, but I'm so tired of anything to do with politics. I resent that my twitter feed has been hijacked by both sides and I really would love to see some pictures of people's dinners again.


Orwell said...

"I'm no Trump fan, but I agree with Tom. There is such a thing as overkill with the Trump bashing. We get it, he sucks. Saturday Night Live has the same issue these days, where Weekend Update (for me, the best part of the show) is all Trump hate."

I agree 100%. You don't have to be a Trump supporter (which I'm not) to be tired of smug, self-righteous, entitled, insulated celebrities telling all of the great unwashed what to think. The egotism is astounding even for an industry built on ego. With Steven Colbert hosting, I didn't even turn it on, as I knew what to expect. And based on a quick reading of show reviews, it looks like the spoiled celebrities delivered as expected.

But... otherwise, you have a couple of good points, Ken. As critically-favored as a lot of cable/streaming shows are, the number of people familiar with more than a couple of them is pretty darn small. I've watched quite a few, but I think we're at a point where shows on HBO, Showtime and Netflix are viewed through a different filter than those on the regular networks, or even FX. I've watched Veep over the years, and while it's good, it isn't as good as the repeated Emmy wins suggest.

Don Tandler said...

I watched BECAUSE I knew there'd be Trump jokes, which I enjoyed. Oh, and I always look forward to the "In Memoriam" segment.

Anonymous said...

A factor that seems overlooked in trying to determine or opine why the ratings were so low this year, is that many people who enjoy the Emmys, and who would've watched it (myself included) did not know ahead of time that the Emmys were being held Sunday.

I peruse the mainstream news websites everyday. With all the major news events taking place recently (the hurricanes, foreign missile threats, etc.) the normal annual buildup leading to the Emmys took a backseat (which is fine - I like reading the news, but I also would have loved to watch the Emmys - I simply didn't know they were taking place this Sunday).

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

Agreed 100% with Tom, Glenn, Orwell and Jim Dandy. Well said and thanks for getting it guys! Also kudos to Andrew. I personally am quite interested in Ken Burns' new Vietnam series.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Every other commercial break on CBS and on KCAL 9 was an ad for the Emmy broadcast. Colbert was on Jimmy Kimmel plugging the show. It would've been harder to avoid a promo than to not see one.

Anonymous said...

My sister is visiting from abroad where's she's lived for 40+ years, visoting us onfrequently. Here's how she saw the Emmys:

"So that's what Anna Chlumski looks like now? What's she in now?"

"Janney was great in West Wing. I didn't know she did comedy."

"We get Grace and Frankie. I'm glad it's popular here. We don't get This Is Us. What's it like?"

In other words, it was a refresher but also and a primer on current US entertainment. She was not invested in favorites who were nominated. She was seeing new faces and old(er) faces in new roles. She wasn't judging people by their gaudy clothing which was just, you know, entertainment. The accepters' statements were intelligent and considerate. So we enjoyed the show.

Chris Juricich said...

Nice comment thread. I generally found the opening Colbert dance sequence fun and amusing. Enjoyable, but then...he just tore into Trump...like he always does. Don't get me wrong, I despise his orange essence but I am also a bit overloaded by the constant whacking that mole. Saw all this on YouTube cuz...I live overseas and any American media I see...House of Cards, Star Trek Discovery, any interesting US tv comes to me through...means. Every street corner in this southeast Asian archipelago has US, Australian, British and other movies and tv shows on DVD for almost pennies. Just how it is, so I don't have to pay for Comcast, Netflix, Hulu, or CBS All Access whatever.

Point is, I am somewhat detached from the US and it's required payment approaches cuz...well. I get my US media in convenient little snatches through YouTube and the corner DVD kiosk. Not attached to who wins or how low the ratings are. It's kinda cool.

Myles Warden said...

Jermaine Fowler was really a bright spot and added some youth and an audience's perspective to things. Very fresh. The diverse group of people I follow on social media LOVED him.

Patrick said...

Those 100 million people might be out there - but they dont care about award shows. TV is just different now - 100 million people dont watch anything, let alone 20...

Theres a big difference between loving a show and being interested in that show winning an award.

The biggest show on TV is the big bang theory and even if that was nominated I doubt the raitings would have been any different.

People just dont care about them anymore. I watch to see what they are wearing and if someone I like wins and to hear their speech. I live in LA and I fast forward through the whole thing - stopping on the people I like...

ScottyB said...

@Ken Levine: FQ for you, since I referred to this 'Cheers' clip (youtube.com/watch?v=-F_tT-q8EF0) because it's exactly the same thing I did with my kids to prep them for tests when they were in grammar and high school years ago: I didn't catch who the writer/s of the episode was/were, but Coach and Sam sitting there singing about how to remember anything about Albania was a keeper. Maybe it was you and Isaacs, or maybe it was someone else, I dunno. But to this day, it reflects a total at-home teaching tool that I used that my kids tell me actually worked. My question: How did anyone settle on Albania? (And back then, we only had actual libraries to consult since the interwebs hadn't been invented yet. And someone in the writer's room had to have said, 'How about Albania?' Might as well have been Zanzibar, but someone picked Albania.) So here's my secondary question, too: Other than the Albania clip, does anything stand out in your mind where funny writers being funny actually tipped the hat to actual education about something?

ScottyB said...

Y'know what will make people care even less about the Emmys (or even the Oscars or any other/s)? Getting laid at the time. Free or paid. No matter. Even if it involved a bad blowjob, paid-for or wifely-duty.

ScottyB said...

Personal note to @Ken Levine: My daughter finished a year this year at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana — the town's home to character Woody Boyd and the college to real-life actor Woody Harrelson. She still speaks of Harrelson's past collegiate presence that still lives on today there. But me as a dad, 'Cheers' episodes where Woody speaks of Hanover the town, is pretty much dead-on, since I've visited the town as well. And I totally love it, because those 'Cheers' episodes make me thing of her. So maybe here's another FQ: Has there ever been a time where you wrote an episode/s of a sitcom and have someone tell you the shit you came up with just being funny and shit actually touched someone on a really human level?

ScottyB said...

@Ken Levine: Jesus Lord, man. It's 1:57am California time. Go to fuckin' bed already, yeah? How you managed to produce offspring on a schedule like this is beyond me. Jeez, dude ...

ScottyB said...

FQ @Ken Levine: You've posted on and spoken of Annie, and her decision to follow in your footstaps. As a total father, what is it about her path following yours that scares the living fucking bejeezus out of you? And as not only a total father but a successful writer/showrunner/someone in the industry that scares the living fuck out of you when you look at where she and her partner have already accomplished? I'm a dad with a kid or two like that, so I'm genuinely interested in that sort of thing.

Chris said...

I watched because I'm a voter and I was interested in what won in the categories in which I participated (I was 0 for 5--oh, well). If I hadn't been a "participant" I would have turned them off. What's happened to us as an industry that this is the best we can do? I think you hit on some of it, Ken, but there's more to fixing this mess. And I feel, like some of the others, that the repetitive political material is just boring, regardless of our political beliefs. Let's take the comedy and the conversation to a different level. Please.

OldGidget said...

Good job, Ken, you nailed it. "TV" is not just over-the-air TV or even basic cable anymore. It's fragmented with each service wanting a piece of your monthly take home pay, or in my case, my meager retirement funds. We're all being nickeled-and-dimed to death, and where this all ends up, who knows.

I don't have cable. I don't go to the theater to watch movies any more. I use to visit pirate websites (yes, sorry, it has to be said) whenever I wanted to see something I absolutely didn't want to miss.

And then, fortunately for me, some friends offered me access to Netflix. Great! And then, Hulu. More great! And then, Amazon Prime - wow, really great! But add up those three services, which supplement each other, and there is no way in hell I could afford all three, much less one. I do good to afford an Internet connection.

While I saw "The Handmaid's Tale" (and read the book long ago), I was in the dark about "Big Little Lies." For "Veep," which I've seen a few episodes from season one, it has always appeared too overrated. Another win for Dreyfus? Really? Meh. Game of Thrones next year? I will be put to sleep for that Emmys, so probably won't watch.

But really, yes, it's all about piece-meal TV, and I agree - without a dog in the fight who really wants to watch an awards show now? Okay, so it was fun to see Nicole Kidman towering over munchkin Reese Witherspoon...and oh, *hey*, Keith Urban...but that may not be enough to draw me in next time.

BTW, you can watch the Ken Burns series at the PBS web site this week in an unedited uncensored form. The broadcast version is there as well.

McAlvie said...

Add me to the list of people who don't know any of those shows. I'm even re-thinking my Netflix subscription, because of the thousands of tv shows and movies it has, relatively few are ones I want to watch, and shows I'd love to see again aren't in their line up. It's only worth holding onto because I don't have to put up with commercials. I suspect I will eventually decide to drop cable, too. There just isn't enough bang for the buck, especially these days when so many shows are (a) about anti-heros, and (b) serial dramas that will be (1) taken off the air before the story arc is resolved, or (2) milked for another season even though the arc WAS resolved and there isn't anything left for the characters to do.

I'm seriously thinking about investing in DVDs the way I do books, both printed and audible. If you have a decent library of your own, you don't need all those services and its much more satisfying to reread a really good book than to buy a new but mediocre one.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of Trump jokes, I'm as tired of them as anyone else. But the jokes serve a purpose, which is to prevent people from getting used to Trump and thinking of him as anything remotely acceptable. If we stop talking about him, that means he has worn us down into apathy. Once people start thinking of a terrible situation as normal, the bad guys have won.

So BRING ON THE JOKES.

Mike Bloodworth said...

When your only source for television is an antenna on the roof the Emmys are meaningless. And of the shows I can watch, e.g. "This is Us," I don't. I have no idea if its a good show or not. But it doesn't look like one I'd enjoy. Better luck next year BROADCAST T.V.

Mike Moody said...

I disagree with you on this one Ken. As unpopular as Trump may be, enough people voted for him to win the presidency. Through the messy first six months, 35-40% (pick your poll) support the man. These people must be hard core fans. The academy pretty much telegraphed that they intended to mock Trump mercilessly. I don't see how that doesn't turn people off. Maybe not a ton but certainly enough to explain the difference between last year and this year.