About 100 million times a year, famous people sit down for extremely fancy dinner parties, where other famous people hand each other awards, for seemingly no reason. The extravagant party circuit costs millions for its organizers, and at least hundreds of thousands for the brands that splash their merchandise across the many goodie-bag booths and step-and-repeats.
The festivities generally work like a hulking, well-oiled machine, except when industry-wide sexual assault reckonings derail things, or a pandemic implodes Tinseltown. Where most parties have assigned dates, a devastating new rise in Los Angeles coronavirus cases have dashed what desperate hopes still remained that the rich and famous would gather in close proximity to each other at Dolby Theater. With vaccines just barely trickling out into the masses, Hollywood power players have resorted to their most base instincts: fighting over dinner reservations.
On Tuesday, the Recording Academy, which is responsible for the Grammys each year, announced that they would postpone their yearly festivities from January 31 to March 14. In a joint address, the Recording Academy’s CEO, Executive Vice President, and Executive Producer said: “The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do.” Problem is, that date was already saved more than six months ago, by SAG-AFTRA.
The actor’s union released a competing statement Wednesday morning to Entertainment Tonight, and told the outlet: “We are extremely disappointed to hear of the conflicting date, March 14, announced today for this year’s Grammy Awards telecast.” If the tone was already pointed enough, SAF-AFTRA added: “We expect the same consideration from sister organizations throughout the industry.” Fight, fight, fight!
The obvious thing here is that nobody really watches these things all that much anyway. Insider ratings from the last 10 years illustrate a marked decline in viewership for the average awards show, seeing only a brief bump in Oscars and Golden Globes viewership amid the fallout from Harvey Weinstein’s undoing, and efforts in the industry to diversify the proceedings. Notably, lesser “at-home” award shows have seen an increase in online interest, with a pandemic ravaging the American landscape and a drip-feed of television content starving the streaming masses, but it’s not readily apparent if the world is ready to suffer through the Big Three on the awards circuit: Oscars, Grammys, and Golden Globes.
As a date, March 14 seems sensible enough, from the perspective of a disillusioned Tinseltown executive. I can see a board of directors thinking it’s just enough time to roll out vaccines to those who need it and maybe stage some semblance of a dramatic “comeback” to the red carpet. Conversely, it’s perfectly reasonable that the actors at SAG-AFTRA would rile themselves up over such an egregious scheduling conflict, considering most members have found regular work “challenging,” at least, in these last 10 months.
But as an outsider, who acknowledges that award shows are generally meaningless—or, only as meaningful as everyone lets them be—I find this whole affair satirically Shakespearean. It’s a Hunger Games of their own design!