WASHINGTON, September 19, 2017 — It was during the 25th anniversary Academy Awards ceremony in 1952, the first to be broadcast on television, that master of ceremonies Bob Hope began the evening by taking a swipe at the new entertainment medium:
“I want to thank all the wrestlers for relinquishing their time so we could give these awards. It just shows you there’s nothing that one group of actors won’t do for another.”
Television was, for all intents and purposes, a wasteland, with wrestling on TV stations like Chicago’s WBKB (channel 4) taking up a considerable chunk of the 120 hours dedicated each week to sports.
Television may have served to boost attendance at the nation’s dying wrestling venues but did little to elevate the artistic potential of the electronic cyclopes flickering in blurry black-and-white inside living rooms across America.
But viewers watching Bob Hope give good-natured ribs to television were likely unaware that the medium through which they saw him had itself formed an “academy” in 1947, appointing famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (father of actress Candice Bergen) its first president.
So, it’s understandable that the first winner of the institution’s coveted Emmy was 20-year-old Shirly Dinsdale – a Los Angeles children’s show ventriloquist.
And with history serving as a prelude, wooden-headed marionette, and comedian, Stephen Colbert, hosted the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards last Sunday evening, interjecting his brand of anti-Trump humor (“Imagine if your president was not beloved by Nazis”).
A headline on the website Deadline, which covers the entertainment industry, said of last Sunday’s Emmy Awards, “Donald Trump Overkill Stains Stephen Colbert’s Hosting Debut.”
As a former reality TV star, billionaire President Donald Trump is certainly pleased he is living rent free in so many fashionably quaffed heads.
But their Trump fixation has turned off the viewing public, and they are staying away in droves. Sunday’s Emmys garnered only 11.38 million viewers.
“The 2016 show was down 5% from the 2015 show, which was the previous low,” Deadline reported. “Among adults 18-49, last night’s Emmys snagged a 2.5 rating. That’s down 10% from the Jimmy Kimmel hosted show of last year, the previous demo low.”
The highest Neilson rating for Trump’s 14th and final season with NBC’s “The Apprentice” was 2.7.
Conservative commentators insist Americans are turning off entertainment award ceremonies because they are tired of hearing their values mocked, and perceive Hollywood’s Trump attacks as proxy insults on them for being ignorant, racist neo-Nazis.
But it’s more likely they have simply grown tired of seeing and hearing the same thing over and over again, like an endless stream of bad TV re-runs.
“I find television very educating,” Groucho Marx once said. “Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”