The Emmys are losing their appeal with television audiences

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Last week, the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards aired, paying tribute to some of the most influential and talented creative endeavours in prime-time television from June 2017 to Sept. 2018.

If you are, like myself, wondering how you missed it, then you’d be in the same boat as a number of people. This year’s Emmys were the least-watched in its history, garnering only 10.2 million U.S. viewers — a greater than ten per cent drop in its viewership from last year.

Its rating amongst its key demographic, adults aged 18 to 49, dropped as well, down four per cent to 2.4.
The Emmys this year were co-hosted by Michael Che and Colin Jost, co-head writers and anchors on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.”

Their opening remarks to the program touched on topics like the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement, Nazis, racism and diversity in television.

Reactions to the jokes were as mixed as the jokes themselves, but being controversial in nature, they definitely received assorted approval from the audience. When discussing shows that were cancelled and subsequently picked up by different networks, such as Brooklyn Nine Nine — cancelled by Fox and picked up by NBC — and Last Man Standing — cancelled by ABC and picked up by Fox — they then touched on Roseanne:

“Roseanne was cancelled by herself, but picked up by white nationalists!”

Mild applause and laughter was then quickly followed by the statement that “she’s had a tough year.”

The joke in the introduction that went over best with the crowd was easily Jost’s comment on the issue of diversity in television, when he noted that in response to upcoming diverse programming, “It’s gonna get balanced out by an all-white reboot of Atlanta called 15 Miles Outside of Atlanta — and it focuses on white women who call the police on the cast of Atlanta.”

These issues of representation are something that Hollywood elites like to pretend they are seriously considering, but prove in situations like this that they are no more than a facade — a Band-Aid measure to say “look at all the good we’re doing for ‘them’!”

Their show focussed on how much the awards — and television — have changed in the past 70 years, especially in regard to how important the shift towards promoting racial diversity and varied content in mainstream media has been.

Television is arguably the most dominating form of consumable media. With the help of streaming juggernauts such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime — and even Youtube TV, watching mass amounts of high-quality entertainment is easier than ever.

You would not have gathered this from the Emmys, however — and especially not a celebration of its 70th consecutive year of running. Instead, it would have seemed as though a pair of C-list celebrities were hosting an event that neither really cared for.

Jost himself noted, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, that with regard to shows like the Emmys, “Most of the time they’re way too self-serious and focused on things that 99 per cent of the country doesn’t care about. At the end of the day, it’s adults getting trophies.”

The fact that so little excitement was built around a poorly-executed awards show exhibits something indicative of the time we’re living in.

Diversity, though it was joked about by the hosts, is still a very serious issue that needs to be given more than just a passing, awkwardly handled series of jokes aimed at the cultural elite of a nation.

The fact that Sandra Oh, known best for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, was the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for best lead actress in a drama series — for her work on Killing Eve — is a startling enough realization.

These issues of representation are something that Hollywood elites like to pretend they are seriously considering, but prove in situations like this that they are no more than a facade — a Band-Aid measure to say “look at all the good we’re doing for ‘them’!”

Hosts like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are those that need to be emphasized in a time like the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements: established comedians with repartee and well-executed humour, without being unnecessarily offensive or controversial for the sake of giving rich people a feeling of tabooed superiority.

Ultimately, the reason why awards shows like the Emmys are beginning to die is the same reason that a lot of long-running events are.
As our options to be entertained grow, so too do the number of distractions we have available from shows like the Emmys. Unlike ten years ago, when network television was the only way to watch it, people no longer need to feel compelled to sit through the entire event to understand what happened.

What shows like the Emmys reduced to, is a showcase of a self-congratulating, drawn-out, not-so-memorable moments, that at the very least becomes rife with problematic jokes aimed at issues that most of them will never have to come face-to-face with.

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