Ed Driscoll

Crash! Oscar's Ratings Down Ten Percent From Last Year

Late last week, in his Daily quirk column titled “An evening that’s gold-plated, dull as lead”, James Lileks wrote of the Oscars:

I don’t feel sorry for the losers. But I do feel sorry for Chris Rock, who was last year’s emcee. Because on Sunday the ENTIRE PLANET will be reminded that the Oscar management didn’t ask him back for ’06. That has to smart. Put yourself in his shoes. You couldn’t go out that night, because everyone would look at you and look away, embarrassed. You’d be tempted to sit at the bar and make up your own monologue and commentary, talking right over Jon Stewart in that trademark LOUD VOICE you employ to such comic effect, and no one would dare tell you to keep it down.

Rock was no Bob Hope or Johnny Carson himself, but at least he can say that he delivered better ratings than Jon Stewart:

The Academy Awards were down 10 percent from last year’s ceremony, based on preliminary Nielsen Media Research ratings from the nation’s 55 biggest markets. If the full national ratings follow suit later Monday, this year’s ceremony will likely be the second least-watched Oscars telecast behind 2003, when “Chicago” won best picture.

The ceremony, where “Crash” won a surprise best picture trophy, drew a 27.1 rating and a 40 share. Each rating point is equivalent to 1.1 million homes, while the share indicates that 40 percent of the TVs in use last night were tuned to the awards.

Last year’s metered markets had a 30.1 rating and 43 share, Nielsen said.

The ceremony’s central lesson: Play a real person enmeshed in wrenching drama, win an Academy Award.

It worked last year for Jamie Foxx in “Ray” and this time around for Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the glory-hungry writer in “Capote.”

Sunday’s Oscars were anything but predictable, however, as the explosive race drama “Crash” denied “Brokeback Mountain” the best- picture Oscar–despite the gay Western love story’s front-runner status and its best-director award for Ang Lee.

Or as Tim Graham puts it:

With all the competing Liberal Message Movies this year, the headline in the paper today should have been, “Racism’s Surprise Upset Over Homophobia.”

Certainly, the L.A. Times’ Kenneth Turan would agree.

Update: A round-up of opinion on Jon Stewart’s performance, here.

Update: The numbers have been revised slightly, down eight percent instead of ten percent from last year. Still, it’s the second lowest-rated Oscars show since 1997. The lowest?

The lowest was 2003’s ceremony, hosted by Steve Martin, that was marred by the start of the Iraq war; an average of 33 million viewers tuned in then.

That was also the year a number of stars either sat out the show or threatened to, in protest of the liberation of Iraq. No doubt that didn’t help ratings, either.

Meanwhile, Brokeback Mountain co-writer Larry McMurtry is quoted as saying as blaming the setting of Brokeback for its failure to win best picture: “The three rural films (I was involved with) lost. The one urban film, Terms of Endearment, won. Members of the Academy are mostly urban people. Crash was a hometown movie.”

Of course: the Motion Picture Academy isn’t homophobic, it’s ruralphobic. No wonder they rejected an obvious Red State drama like Brokeback!