Last weekend, no one watched the Grammys.
Well, not no one. But few enough that if the Grammys was a bricks-and-mortar business, they’d be thinking about hiring someone to torch the place.
About 9 million Americans tuned in. Last year, it was 19 million. Five years ago, it was 26 million.
The Golden Globes had the same year-over-year ratings disaster – from 15 million viewers down to 7 million.
April’s Oscars hope to avoid this trend by focusing attention on the nominated movies people loved this past year, films like Somethingsomethingland and that weird Danish thing and the one with the guy, you know the one I mean. God, it’ll come to me. Gimme a sec.
The awards show is on its way out. That’s not to say it’ll disappear. You can always cut the budget to the nubs and make oodles of money, regardless of who’s watching. Creative types will never skip a chance to be told how special they are, whether that’s in the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton or the parking lot at the Beverly Home Depot.
But the primetime awards show has lost its raison d’être – it no longer makes a critical mass of the lower orders swoon.
The usual reasons are paraded out for this – cord-cutting, pandemic ennui, there was a football game on at the same time.
What if it’s Economics 101? What if it’s a case of over-supply of what was once a difficult-to-obtain product, resulting in consumer apathy and a sharp dip in demand?
Think of someone famous you loved back when you hadn’t spent 350 consecutive evenings in your pyjamas and still had the capacity to love new things. Someone way back in the day. An actor or musician or someone equally glamorous.
What did you know about that person? Nothing. You knew they were handsome and could really sell the illusion of driving a spaceship. You’d seen an interview somewhere, and he talked about how he used to work as a carpenter before he was discovered. That’s it. You knew him from his movies.
Supply was limited, heightening demand. The chance to see this guy looking all snazzed up at a party with a few other intriguing, under-exposed colleagues had value. Especially so since it was only available for purchase once or twice a year. You couldn’t keep this thing on the shelves.
Things were going so well, they flooded the market. Tabloid TV. Six million interviews for every new film release. The cover of every magazine.
Social media increased exposure by factors. Now you can see your favourite movie star every day, cuddling his dog on Instagram, telling you how to make a martini, explaining how, no, he didn’t short that waitress on her tip like she said he did, it’s all a terrible misunderstanding.
When I was a kid, I loved Morrissey. I dressed like Morrissey, did my hair like Morrissey and attempted wearing cut flowers in the back pocket of my jeans like Morrissey (pro-tip: flowers are wet).
I didn’t know anything about Morrissey beyond his lyrics. I understood he was a militant vegetarian (because he called an album Meat is Murder), but it made no impact on me. If Morrissey wanted to eat nothing but hummus and dandelions, that was his business. I liked chicken more than I liked Morrissey.
Because the lines of communication between us were limited to album releases, there was no way for Morrissey to harangue me about it.
As it turns out, Morrissey is a bit of a pill. I know that now, but I don’t care about that either. When I was young, I was freed of the responsibility of knowing the person. I loved the icon.
Nowadays that would not be possible. If you have a current Morrissey, you know everything about him or her. They are up in your face 24/7 doing one of three things – lecturing you, bragging at you or asking you to buy something.
Supply is saturating. Meanwhile, the product is being devalued. What do you care if you get to see Actress X on a Sunday night in April, when you can see her every other day of the year on Snapchat?
When the famous do appear for their red-carpet moment, the new expectation is that they have Something Important To Say. What could be more fun than being yelled at by Joaquin Phoenix about how horrible we are to cows? Literally anything. Being a cow would be more fun.
There are now two award shows in every one – the garish spectacle of the super-rich celebrating themselves; and what feels like a college sit-in at the dean’s office. No one seems to notice the two things are in direct political opposition to one another.
If the gladiators had turned, mid-slaughter, to the Romans sitting up in the stands and begun pontificating – “We hear your applause, but what we really need to hear is that you’re going to write your Senator and demand change. These new levies on spiky helmets are the real bloodbath in the Forum” – fewer citizens would have attended the Games.
Nobody likes being lectured. They especially don’t like being lectured by people who showed up to the lecture in a Rolls Royce and will leave the lecture the same way.
The resultant decline in interest is no tragedy. It’s a good thing. The world these people live in is ridiculous. Shows designed as ad vehicles for that world are even more so. Ridiculousness is their function, one they’re currently taking to extremes.
Some private-jet-flying kajillionaire standing up on stage telling the rest of us to get our act together on climate change is “before the fall”-level parody. Maybe that’s how they should start marketing awards shows – as comedy.
While they’re at it, they might remember a steady rule of revolutions. They have a way of turning out badly for their stars.
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