I didn’t watch the Oscar broadcast last night. I haven’t watched it in years, as the broadcast has gotten longer and longer and the speeches more self-congratulatory and tedious. I’m not alone in this — the Nielsen ratings for the Oscar awards ceremony have been falling for a number of years.
So, when I saw this morning that the Oscars, through Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, screwed up the announcement of the best picture in legendary, unforgettable fashion, I wondered: could this have been done to try to increase the ratings for the show?
After all, people like the possibility of surprises. Many Nascar fans go to races in hopes of an exciting crash or two, and lots of hockey fans yearn for a throw down the gloves fight. Reality TV shows are all about unexpected twists and turns that leave viewers talking. If the Oscars is just going to be a bunch of tuxedo-clad and ball gown-wearing stiffs reading cards from an envelope, it’s pretty staid stuff. But if there’s a chance that the announced winner turns out not to be the real winner, and there’s a big, confusing scrum onstage while things get sorted out, maybe people will start tuning in again.
It’s hard to imagine how the announcement of the winner for best picture could be so botched. I feel sorry for the people involved in making La La Land, who initially thought they had won, and I feel sorry that the people involved in making Moonlight, which I thought was a fine film, had their moment of triumph tainted by a foul-up. But maybe this colossal screw-up will make Hollywood a little less smug. That wouldn’t be a bad thing.