With the premiere of the Emmys on September 17th, viewers settled in to root for their favorite stars and television shows. Unfortunately, they also had to sit through monologues and speeches that blatantly veered into political territory as celebrities used their turn at the microphone to let the crowd know their views on the current political climate.
Perhaps many viewers were already prepared for the onslaught and decided to tune out this year. Deadline reported this year's Emmy broadcast matched last year's all-time low ratings with just 11.4 million viewers. Compare this to the 2013 Emmys, hosted by Neal Patrick Harris, which scored 17.63 million viewers. To make matters worse, social media conversation about the Emmys was down 48%, and there's no doubt politics likely played a large part in the lower ratings.
A report by data analytics company Amobee indicated that 40% of all Emmys digital content was related to Saturday Night Live, a show that revolves around political satire. And Stephen Colbert and Alec Baldwin figured into the digital content 44% and 30% respectively with their potshots at the president. Even among media, the Emmys earn a scathing review. Dominic Patten of Deadline, for example, called it "a case of glaring overkill."
Viewers are feeling the same way as some of us had tuned in for the actual awards so we could enjoy firsts like Nicole Kidman's first Emmy win and her subsequent beautiful speech and call to awareness about domestic abuse. Or to see Dolly Parton reunite with her 9 to 5 co-stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda—a moment that would have been perfect for an awards ceremony if not for yet another political bashing.
Every day we are inundated with the latest political drama unfolding at the White House or on the Hill. Social media used to be an escape for us, but that has changed over the years as the news has invaded even that corner of the world. Facebook and Twitter became a place of bitterness and resentment with virtual fights erupting on a moment's notice. To escape the relentless tug-of-war, people have sought out television and movies, making streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu a place of comfort to escape the unrelenting onslaught of negative news happening in our actual reality.
In the world of television, we can watch dragons fly across a cloudy sky, root for the superhero who's being challenged by a dangerous villain, and imagine we're in a small town in Texas, surrounded by supernatural beings. We know what's taking place is fictional, and we're okay with that because fantasy can be better than reality when our brains are overwhelmed. In television series, the enemy is defeated, the bad times end, the crisis is resolved.
Awards shows like the Emmys are another form of escapism for us as most viewers watch to fall in love with the latest red carpet fashions and to find out if their favorite shows or actors are earning deserved accolades. In such an elegant setting with stars waiting for acknowledgment of their talents, perhaps its time for politics to take a back seat. If the focus of the show were to shift back to where it used to be in previous years, perhaps the ratings would start to rise again as audiences learn that tuning in doesn't mean being bombarded with more of the exact thing they're trying to escape.
No matter on which side of the aisle we stand politically, viewers don't want a constant barrage of political commentary and snark on a show meant to entertain. So maybe it's time for the awards shows to remember the purpose of the ceremony and the reason viewers tune in. We want to watch the glitz and glamour and pretend, even if only for a few hours, that there is no division among us. For a little while, we get to imagine a world where everything is beautiful, where people get rewarded for keeping us glued to our television screens, and where nothing bad happens. Yes, it's a pipe dream, but is it too much to ask that we have two or three hours to shut out the ugliness of this political climate?