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Onstage Fireworks Couldn't Salvage Oscar Ratings

A man with light brown skin wearing an all-black Tuxedo with a full black beard, DJ Khalid walks while speaking into a microphone toward a white woman with blonde hair wearing a blue long dress, Amy Schumer, a woman with brown skin, short brown hair, and an all-white suit, Wanda Sykes, and a woman with brown skin, shoulder-length dark brown hair wearing an off-white dress, Regina Hall.
DJ Khaled and co-hosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall speak onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards
(Neilson Barnard
/
Getty Images North America)
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Each year, the proverbial bulletin board material in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences war room probably remains the same — make the Oscars memorable. In what turned out to be a monkey’s paw wish, this year’s ceremony was unlike anything else before it, but not necessarily in a good way, and certainly not when it came to ratings.

The 94th Academy Awards second-lowest ratings in its history, which was first televised for the event’s 25th iteration in 1953.This year saw a sizable bump from last year’s stripped-down ceremonies, the lowest ever recorded, which had to twist and turn and improvise in the run-up to the ceremony, ultimately changing the venue to downtown’s Union Station due to COVID-19 risks.

The night saw history made and controversy whipped up, courtesy of Will Smith's slapping of Chris Rock onstage — if you're looking to relive the night, be sure to check out LAist's illustrated guide of the evening.

Tim Cogshell, one of our regular FilmWeek critics, said, plainly, that the ceremony was not good TV.

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“Sometimes one of the three hosts would just disappear for gigantic, long stretches of the of the show,” said Cogshell. “And I gotta tell you the writing, particularly when two of those ladies are actual professional comedians — they could have written all kinds of funny things for just for themselves. But instead, we had these writers writing all of this material. It was just flat and not funny and mostly bad.”

The comedians he referenced — Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes — shared hosting duties with Regina Hall, the first Oscars with dedicated emcees since 2018. Despite cutting eight awards this year, Cogshell, a critic for Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com, said the categories still managed to be hard to follow at times.

16.6 million viewers tuned in to the Oscars this year, according to final numbers released Wednesday.

For reference, the highest-rated event in the ceremony’s history was the 70th Academy Awards in 1998, when Titanic was king, Billy Crystal was slinging jokes, and 55.25 million viewers watched. And just two years ago, over 30 million people watched the awards.

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