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THB #87: Deconstructing Oscar
I am honestly looking forward to not discussing Oscar for a while. But for now, it’s one of the big things on the table.
In light of The Academy giving up, yet again, on trying to make Oscar about the celebration of the art form, chasing ratings desperately, there have been many expressions of what “Oscar viewers want.”
Rather than chewing on every iteration, I thought it might be a good exercise to break down what the Oscar show is.
3 hours (in principle)
15 minutes an hour of commercials
135 minutes of show
In that 135 minutes, the show is meant to present…
23 presentations of category (min 55 minutes)
23 walk-ups (about 12 minutes)
23 thank you speeches (min. 23 minutes)
Opening Monologue (10 min)
10 Best Picture packages (min 15 min)
5 Original Songs (min 10 min)
That’s 125 minutes on just the basics, with tight timing
That leaves 10 minutes for whatever else they want to try.
In 2022, with 3 hosts, the 10 minute opening will likely be 3 3-minute bits. So now the producers have 11 minutes to “increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant” with “comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes.” (see: Yesterday’s Memo)
If you’ve ever been part of a live television show, you know how 10 seconds of dead air can seem like a lifetime and how 10 minutes of great material can seem to pass in a second.
By killing 8 awards from the live show and allowing them to be reduced to :30 second roll-ins, they saved about:
14 minutes in presenting (avg 2:39 x 15 then add 5 min presenting the roll-ins)
4 minutes in walk-ups
10 minutes in thank you speeches.
So maybe, 18 minutes total.
Now the producers have 29 minutes to do whatever they like.
Of course, the show will go long.
Of course, Thank Yous will really take 40+ minutes.
Back down to 12 minutes in 3 hours of “musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes.”
Unless they go over.
Which they likely will, even cutting 8 awards and 18 minutes from the live show. Because they think they can “increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant,” even though no one involved has ever done that before.
Thing is, this set of numbers can be used to make many different arguments. Some would say, “cut more.” Some would say, “you’re cutting into the live flesh of the show with little benefit.”
In the pre-2022 theoretical 3-hour show, half the 3 hours (90 minutes) is presenting awards, walking to the stage, and accepting awards. 1/4 of the show (45 minutes) is commercials. A quarter of the show (45 minutes) is everything else.
So that is your show. If you are trying to pretend there is a different show going on, thinking people will tune in, you are probably deluding yourselves.
Even with 9 minutes of “comedy,” only 1 minute per Best Picture nominee for a clip package, and 90 seconds for each best song, that only leaves 19 minutes for anything else.
(This is where some people might point out that 10 Best Picture nominees are responsible for the cut of 8 live award presentations… those 5 “extra” titles do eat some square footage.)
And of course, in 2022, you need to make space for the stupid Twitter Award for Perhaps The Worst Idea From The Academy In The Last Three Years. (It’s a tight competition.) Since Twitter is likely paying for this privilege, figure that’s 3 minutes of the show they’ll never get back.
So we’re down to 16 minutes.
And an Academy that thinks those 16 minutes are, somehow, going to change the course of the Oscar ratings.