Liberal stars land sick burns on Trump & Kavanaugh at Emmys… get worst-ever ratings Hosts and nominees alike paraded their views on a constellation of political issues – from sexual harassment to Supreme Court nominations – throughout the most prestigious US TV awards. Not many tuned in to watch.
Only 10.2 million viewers, just 7.2 percent of US households turned on their sets to follow the Emmys on Monday night. This is 10 percent lower than last year’s figures, which were already the worst-ever, and down from 17 million a mere five years ago.
Yet, just because there is no audience, it doesn’t mean actors stop acting – or reflexively airing their political stances.
What you (probably) missed
For at least the third year running, Donald Trump was the elephant in the room, with co-host Colin Jost hoping that the Obamas “get way higher ratings” than the incumbent president’s former show the Apprentice. The opening monologue also featured a barb about the first Emmys in 1949 – “when we all agreed that Nazis were bad” – and a joke about Roseanne being “cancelled… and picked up by white nationalists.”
On stage, there was broader political subtext: a dance number about “solving racial diversity”, a half-jokey skit in which second co-host Michael Che somewhat patronizingly awarded Reparations Emmys to black actors from the past.
From attending actors, there was less nuance: Jenifer Lewis, star of drama Black-ish turned up in a sweatshirt emblazoned with a massive Nike logo – all in support of Colin Kaepernick’s “protest against social injustice and police brutality.” Straight-faced, she thanked the exiled quarterback’s corporate sponsor “for leading the resistance.”
Sarah Sophie Flicker, wife of nominee director Jessie Perez wrote “Stop [Brett] Kavanaugh” on her arm in felt tip, in protest against Trump’s nominee for the supreme court. Actors also wore pins proclaiming “We believe Christine Blasey Ford” – the name of the woman who has made an eleventh-hour sexual assault accusation against the judge.
There were other pins: pro-Planned Parenthood pins, American Civil Liberties Union blue ribbons, “I am a Voter” pins. Actress Laura Dern urged people to vote, winner Rachel Brosnahan told people to “bring a friend” to the mid-terms next month, and Evan Rachel Wood actually brought a friend, anti-sexual abuse activist Amanda Nguyen.
There was more of this, much more. Every single major topic of progressive agenda was endorsed, and not a single view deviating from it to be seen anywhere.
Are you not entertained?
So many worthy battles, such effort, such star power, such unanimity. Who could fail to watch such an enthralling and powerful spectacle?
Perhaps, the villainous and treasonous Republicans, who resent having their views and social norms (along with skin color) challenged, denigrated and mocked for several hours running. “The only white people that thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads,” ran one of the actually funnier punchlines, while in a more typical monologue Westworld star Thandie Newton informed those watching that “she doesn’t believe in God” but thanked “her” anyway. Edgy.
But would Republicans themselves actually want a flipped version of the show: celebs in MAGA hats, multiple renditions of the national anthem throughout, calls to retain the House from the stage, NRA pins, James Woods hosting, and Ted Nugent singing? And how many conservatives would be arrogant enough to assume that the rest of America would want to turn on this telecast?
Perhaps the problem goes deeper. Maybe people have no desire to be subjected to a mix of agitprop, historical apologia and smugness delivered - in one of a few examples of true virtue signaling – by self-serving celebrities with no credentials but an inflated sense of their own influence opportunistically jumping on trendy issues.
Is that really an appealing mix? Would anyone ever commission a brand-new show with such a premise? And how could people working in entertainment get so far away from what entertainment is?
To some extent the producers of several past awards shows have realized this, and have shied away from direct politics, hence the explicit non-mention of Trump by name at the Emmys, which was actually one of the least fiery shows of recent times. But this is a finger in the dike solution, while the content and tone of every show remains so politicized, from skit to monologue to speech. And is it too late? Between the technological changes and the toxic discourse, the Oscars and Grammys and the Emmys have been losing viewers in double digits over the past three years, with each show at their historic low point. Even if the broadcasts do become bearable again, the viewers may choose not to come back.
But the niche Venn intersection of arts and propaganda fanatics who will stay, is likely to relish the content more than ever. The New York Times write-up will also be amazing. And if on top of that, a multi-million star-studded broadcast can persuade at least one person to change their vote and (in the words of one winner) “Go Blue!” at the mid-terms, then it will all have been a worthy effort. Forget the rest of them.