Since the dawn of television, kudocasts have been among each season’s most-watched shows. Now, though, each passing year sees ratings drift further downward.
There is the long-standing values divide between Hollywood and Bible Belt markets, but that was true when ratings were at their peak. It’s also a perennial complaint that fans of the year’s blockbusters find the nominees drawn from films they’ve barely heard of and haven’t seen.
Still, around the country, morning radio talkshow personalities are getting an earful about kudocasts from their listeners — and what they’re hearing goes beyond the movie awards being liberal and elitist. Their complaints give a snapshot of the growing award-show ennui.
Paul Castronovo, of the “Paul and Young Ron” show on WBGG Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and WKGR West Palm Beach, thinks it’s less important for the regular Joe because people are busier these days. He says his listeners are telling him, “We work our butts off, we only have two hours to watch TV. If I have to wait three hours to watch Jack Nicholson accept an award, I don’t have that kind of time.”
And when people are that busy, they don’t stay aware of award shows, even the big ones. Tony Lynn of “Big I Mornings With Tony Lynn and Myles” at KBQI in Albuquerque, N.M., says: “I didn’t even realize when the Emmys were on! I’m in the media, and I was surprised to find out when I opened my prep sheet that the Emmys were on that night. We’re not talking the MTV Movie Awards — the Emmys!”
The glut of award shows isn’t helping either, says Chio of “Chio in the Morning” on WRDW Philadelphia. “Everybody has one,” he says. “It’s too boring. It’s too many. If you put too much soda with the alcohol, it’s watered down.”
Even Acad prexy Sid Ganis concurs on that point. “I wish there were three less shows, but we are the Oscars. I hope to continue to be the premier show and the one that people wait to see.”
Some kudofests try to set themselves apart by promising a raw, relaxed atmosphere and uncensored, untimed speeches from the podium. That’s a big selling point of the Spirit Awards. The SAG Awards may be black-tie, but they cultivate a just-a-bunch-of-friends-getting-together atmosphere, even if the friends include many of the most famous faces in the world.
However, the spontaneity of those shows and the off-the-cuff remarks at the podium are a turn-off for much of the country when they turn political.
That’s certainly the case in Houston, says Irv Harrigan of KILT’s Hudson and Harrigan radio team.
“The Oscars put them off because someone is always talking about how terrible America is and how President Bush is to blame for everything,” Harrigan says. “When you politicize the awards show, the public is going to stop watching.”
Ganis takes great exception to the comment. “Should we not give Michael Moore an Oscar because of his political feelings? Should we not give a Student Academy Award winner their Oscar because of his political views? It’s not our job to censor him unless he says something inappropriate.”
Houston is Bush country — the airport there is named after George the elder, after all — and the selection of Jon Stewart to host this year will hardly be considered a peace offering to offended conservatives.
Yet even fans who aren’t put off by podium politicking may be ticked at the tech awards. Moviemakers understand the importance of editing and cinematography, but fans complain when they have to watch Thelma Schoonmaker and Janusz Kaminski when they want Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
“That turns people off, when they don’t know anything or anyone nominated in a category,” says Myles Copeland of KBQI’s “Big I Mornings With Tony Lynn and Myles.”
The gap between the hits and the contenders reflects a demographic gap, too. Chio says his 18-to-34 listener demographic is pop culture-driven, and most movie award shows simply are not. In the film industry, the “in” crowd knows the award contenders. Among Chio’s listeners, “The hip people that know what’s goin’ on don’t even know the nominated movies,” he says.
Even the gap between Hollywood and the Bible Belt may be widening, at least when it comes to Oscars, if only because the rise of Christian media, especially Christian radio, are providing an alternative where award season simply isn’t important.
Stace Whitmire, morning show co-host on Way-FM Christian Hit Radio satellite network, asked her listeners in 50 markets from Tallahassee, Fla., to Wichita, Kan., to Longview, Wash., to share their opinions on why they are or are not watching award shows. What she discovered? “Literally no one cares. Seventy-five percent say they (award shows) are completely irrelevant.”