Why the Oscars Are No Longer Appointment TV (Column)

Many in Hollywood would concur that this year’s Oscar show was by far one of the best.

The pacing of the three-hour-plus telecast was better, as was the choice of some offbeat musical acts like Eminem and Billie Eilish. These and the momentous triumphs of director-writer Bong Joon Ho and his exceptionally original film, “Parasite,” all added up to a more surprise-filled evening than usual.

It was hardly a shock that “Parasite” won the international award or, for that matter, that Bong snapped up original screenplay. But few expected the South Korean filmmaker to score the director award, let alone take home the biggest prize of the night, best picture. I guarantee that most company Oscar pools had Sam Mendes and “1917” as favorites for those two categories.

So why, if the show was more refreshingly unpredictable this year, were its ratings at an all-time low?

In my view, it’s because we live in a bubble.

While it was big news for those of us who write about Hollywood and those of you who work in the business that “Parasite” became the first non-English film in the Oscars’ 92-year history to win best picture, that likely mattered little, if at all, to most non-industry people, especially those living in middle America. Honestly, how many moviegoers outside the two coasts and bigger cities like Chicago do we think even went to their neighborhood cinemas to see the subtitled movie, let alone tune in to the Oscars to see how many awards it would win?

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Moreover, “Parasite” had no stars recognizable to American audiences despite their popularity in South Korea.

And speaking of stars, by the time the big Hollywood celebrities hit the Oscars red carpet, young and older fans of the Brad Pitts, Leo DiCaprios, Charlize Therons and Scarlett Johanssons of the world had already been inundated with photos, interviews and GIFs viewed on their cellphones, small screens and social media.

When I was growing up, watching the Oscars was appointment TV. That’s clearly no longer the case.

And there’s something melancholy about that, just as it’s sad to me that fewer people are venturing out of their homes to see movies these days.

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