The ghosts of two luminaries hovered over the Emmy Awards last week. One was Oscar Wilde, whose aphorism holds as true now as when he spoke it a century ago: “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.” The other was the once-controversial Broadway producer Billy Rose (Jumbo), who explained a lifetime of celebrity in five words: “Every knock is a boost.”
These observations apparently slipped the minds of the onstage presenters who spent much of the night being pleased with themselves as they disparaged the current White House occupant. As expected, Stephen Colbert spent five minutes on the subject, aided by such eminences as Julia Louis-Dreyfus: “Imagine if your president wasn’t loved by Nazis.” Alec Baldwain, who resurrected his career with his Donald Trump impression, added cryptically, “All you men up there, you put that orange wig on, it’s birth control, trust me.” Actor Donald Glover chimed in: “I’d like to thank Donald Trump for making black people Number One on the most oppressed list.” When it came her turn to spew, Jane Fonda recalled that in the film 9 to 5, “we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotist, lying hypocritical bigot.” On cue, her co-star Lily Tomlin, responded: “And in 2017 we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotist, lying hypocritical bigot.”
None of this came as a surprise; the news that the Emmys were to be a political detest-fest had leaked out days before. What did come as news was the response from the Oval Room. Colbert taunted, “I look forward to the Tweets.” But Trump didn’t tweet a word about the Emmys—he knows all about the value of ink and airtime, even when it’s unfavorable. Instead, he tweeted salutes to the Air Force and the CIA on their 70th birthdays.
Yet there was a surprise in all these showbiz shenanigans. The Emmy’s early ratings were disastrously low. Some of this might be blamed on the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Sunday night football. But the real cause of the dwindling TV audience is Trump fatigue. Famously overpaid performers kvetching about global warming in an over-air-conditioned theater; smug wink-and-nudge jokes that not only put down the president but also those who voted for him; recycled commentaries heard weeks before; and, below all, the utter predictability. All conspired to make it a Don’t Watch event.
Not that this is likely to mean much to the entertainers. They’ll be right back at it again next year, no lessons learned.
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images