"Charmless and unlikeable" seems to be the consensus, and not just re me on "Tucker". We'll get to that in a moment. But first a couple of observations from our comment sections that I thought deserved a wider airing:
~An Arizona member of The Mark Steyn Club notes what he calls the "most revolting, hubris-laden" quip from Jimmy Kimmel's Oscar monologue:
The world is watching us. We need to set an example, and the truth is if we are successful here, if we can work together to stop sexual harassment in the workplace, if we can do that, women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.
As our Club member added:
In other words, everybody else is every bit as bad as we used to be, but we've cleaned up our act and you haven't. Truly odious.
It's also not true. The most famous (and Oscared) movie producer of the last thirty years has been credibly accused of rape by at least thirteen women and of sexual assault by dozens more. I'm somewhat astonished to find that, in the course of my not terribly glamorous life, I've met at least eight of them. It's quite something to have encountered, in various countries across the decades, eight women all physically attacked by the same man. And those actresses who refused to put out and managed to escape from the room had their careers vaporized - as happened to Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette.
This is Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein co-opted dozens of his colleagues, from executive vice-presidents to lowly interns, to assist as part of their normal business routine in the management of his appetites, whether through laundering payouts or procuring erectile-dysfunction medication. This was an open secret, acknowledged and accepted by everyone from secretaries to Meryl Streep.
But, pace Kimmel, it's an aspect of the movie business that has no real equivalent in, say, the accountancy business or the feed-store business.
Hollywood is worse. But their sense of their moral superiority is so indestructible that Jimmy Kimmel couldn't resist lecturing the world that, even as the veil is lifted and the bathrobe cord is unknotted, they're still better than you - and always will be.
~Kimmel's fatuous jab reminds us that it's not the politics, it's the preening. There was politics galore in the Seventies. In 1974, when Bert Schneider accepted his Best Documentary Oscar by reading out a telegram from the Viet Cong, co-host Frank Sinatra responded by reading a disclaimer from the Academy, which in turn prompted Shirley MacLaine to announce as a member of the Academy her own disclaimer from the Academy's disclaimer, and Warren Beatty to berate Sinatra as "you old Republican". Now that was a show. Four years later, picking up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Vanessa Redgrave denounced "Zionist hoodlums", and got booed by the crowd, and derided on stage by Paddy Chayefsky.
Whatever one feels about Schneider or Redgrave, they came to pick a fight - which takes a certain amount of courage. Sunday's bloodless affirmations of solidarity with "dreamers" required not a scintilla of courage: They were simply the necessary cue to bathe in the warm glow of collective moral narcissism, which is as cloying and nauseating a perfume as there is. Miss Redgrave consciously chose to be unpopular. By contrast, Sunday's crowd said all the right things, all the de rigueur things, and yet were strangely unlikeable, and charmless.
~On "Tucker", our pal Wendy Osefo attributed the fact that the ratings were an all-time bomb to the lack of blockbusters among the nominees. This has become a common argument in recent years, but one unknown for most of Oscar's history. From Mrs Prodos in our comments section:
I never cared what movies were competing at the Oscars, whether I had seen any of them or had a favorite or not, or whether there was a blockbuster among them. I tuned in for the glamorous spectacle, all those stars in one place, all dressed up and witty and larger than life.
For half-a-century, from the dawn of television to the Nineties, from Bob Hope through Johnny Carson to Billy Crystal, audiences tuned in not out of interest in the nominees but because the real star was the show itself. Here is a fairly typical moment from the midpoint of that era. On the 1979 show, a couple of fellows (Larry Grossman and Fred Ebb) wrote a piece of what we used to call "special material" featuring dozens of movie songs Oscar's flipped the finger to, and then a couple of other fellows (Steve Lawrence and Sammy Davis Jr) rehearsed and managed to learn this fiendishly complex routine and put it over:
Now you might object that, forty years on, nobody under fifty knows any of those songs except maybe "Stayin' Alive" and "New York, New York", which Fred, the latter's lyricist, amusingly included in his celebration of Oscar busts.
But that's not the objection. I doubt, even with CGI, whether anybody on Sunday's show is capable of learning that medley and putting it over live, so in a certain sense there has been a massive loss of skills over the last quarter-century or so. But, as I said, that's not the point. The real objection is that, granted that times move on and tastes change, Hollywood has not replaced it with anything. Whether you like it or not, the above is something, it's a thing in itself. Ashley Judd lecturing us on "intersectionality" before introducing a montage of white women, gays, transgenders and Muslims telling us solemnly how great it is that they're not white men is not a thing - it's a big nothing. It would be boring if it happened to you while you were having a beer at that crappy sports bar out on Route 23 past the grain elevator, and it doesn't get any less boring just because Ashley's standing in a cocoon of 45,000 Swarovski crystals that, as Jane Fonda remarked, looks like the Orgasmatron from Barbarella (which is a funnier line than any of Kimmel's writers').
You'll notice, by the way, that the quartet who wrote and sold that medley includes African-Americans and gays. But Fred Ebb (whom I knew for many years, and who was as gay as any gay could be) didn't think the height of entertainment was walking out on stage and saying, "As a gay man, I'm proud to be able to stand here as a gay man and say that in the old days all the songs were written by butch heterosexuals like Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart and Noël Coward but now Hollywood is leading the world in celebrating diversity because I'm totally gay. Will that do? Did I mention I'm gay? If not, here's a Muslim and a transgender..."
Frances McDormand ended Oscar night by triumphantly declaiming the words: "Inclusion rider!" - which is what happens when a star has enough clout to insist that the production be staffed according to demographic fashion with precisely calibrated proportions of approved identity groups.
But Sunday's Oscars were one giant inclusion rider, and how'd that work out? Someone should pitch Universal a new creature feature: The Inclusion Rider That Swallowed the Show.
Incidentally, just to tie it all together, the walk-off music for Sam and Steve after that killer medley was "That's Entertainment!" The walk-off music for Miss McDormand after the words "Inclusion rider!" was ..."That's Entertainment!" Who earned it?
Oh, and Kathy Shaidle reminds us that Miss McDormand's inclusion rider impressively extends to the thief of her Oscar.
~From Steyn Club member Steven Payne:
I think Wendy's right that we haven't seen all the firsts yet. For example, we have yet to see a person with a beard in a wig winning the Best Actress award.
Actually, the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest was won by a bearded lady. I'm firsted out.
~SteynOnline regulars seemed to enjoy my last bit of guest-host ratings analysis, so, after this week's stint on "Tucker Carlson Tonight", I thought I'd offer another round. As I emphasized last time:
Ninetysomething per cent of [the ratings success] is due to Tucker and his terrific production team and the show they've built. But the trick for a guest-host is not to blow that.
Monday was a rough night for Fox. Without wishing to sound like Wendy special-pleading on the Oscars, that's no reflection on the network. Rather, all that crazy Sam Nunberg stuff broke in late afternoon, and, if you take (as MSNBC's audience do) the "Russia investigation" seriously, it sent viewers stampeding to Rachel Maddow & Co for the lowdown. The fever lasted only a few hours, and had been pretty much forgotten, or significantly walked back, by the following morning. But on Monday between 7pm and midnight Eastern Nunberg's fifteen minutes were in full swing, and MSNBC won every time slot - except one. At 8pm a certain Canadian guest-host delivered Fox's only victory of the night. To reiterate:
All but a sliver of that is due to Tucker and his tremendous brand, but the sliver's the difference between winning the night and not.
So congratulations to MSNBC, but I'm relieved that "Tucker Carlson Tonight" was still the Number Three show of the night - and in hard numbers we had, for example, almost twice the audience of Fox's newest star, Mark Levin, on his Sunday show. So I thank all of you who swung by, and I also thank the best team in cable news for putting together a rollicking hour for me. I can't tell you how great it feels to be in the hands of professionals. All I have to do is read the prompter and make sure my hairpiece stays on.
That said, I'll be back in my proper place, to answer Tucker's questions, tomorrow night, Thursday, at the usual time. Hope you'll tune in.
PS If you're that into Canadian guest-hosts, there's always The Mark Steyn Club. It's lots of fun -and, if you've got some kith or kin who enjoys classic fiction and other audio-visual delights, we have a special Steyn Club Gift Membership that includes a welcome gift of a book or CD personally autographed by yours truly. More details here.
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