TV OT is a weekly look at what CNN’s entertainment team is watching since too much television has us all working overtime.
The 73rd edition of the nighttime Emmys will air Sunday, after drawing a record-low 6.1 million viewers last year, despite what most agreed was an impressively resourceful virtual ceremony. While there was some modest hand-wringing over that number, in hindsight it served as a warning for the 50-plus-percent ratings swoon by the Golden Globes, Grammys and Oscars that followed.
The pandemic and going virtual surely played a role in that. The dour state of the world not only made Hollywood back-patting appear even more inconsequential but robbed the events of the red-carpet glamor and “Who wore it best?” fashion debates that elevate these shows beyond just who wins or doesn’t.
Still, even before coronavirus award-show ratings have declined. Part of that has to do with the challenges of an industry in transition, one evolving from the broad appeal of TV’s earlier days to siloed-off viewing by a splintered audience choosing its own pay-to-view menu.
The Emmys, in particular, have wrestled with abundant content that has fragmented viewing to the point where most people haven’t heard of, much less avidly watched, many of the nominees.
Everyone, naturally, has an explanation for why award-show ratings have fallen, starting with the ready availability of clips that lessen the need to tune in live. Conservatives put the blame on Hollywood’s politics and outspoken liberal stars — a factor, surely, but not one by itself that can account for the pace of the losses, especially since those dynamics are hardly new.
Of course, award shows serve a purpose that goes beyond ratings, reflecting career-topping achievements for those in Hollywood eager to receive such recognition from their industry peers. But they are also commercial enterprises for the networks that air them and the organizations behind them, which draw most of their revenues from TV fees.
The Emmys will go on, as will the Oscars and Grammys. Thanks to the hunger for web traffic, they’ll be covered and analyzed by media outlets, overlooking how much those lights have dimmed.
The truth, at this point, is that there might be no fixing a problem with so many moving parts. About all networks can do is to try making these presentations as appealing as they can be, and hope that’s enough to stop the bleeding.
Failing to crack the ‘Code’
After two movies based on Dan Brown’s books starring Tom Hanks, “The Da Vinci Code” character Robert Langdon gets a bland series spin for the streaming service Peacock. “The Lost Symbol” goes younger (don’t they always?) by casting Ashley Zukerman in the central role of the Harvard symbologist, embarking on an adventure with a shadowy voice pulling the strings.
Basically, the first few episodes feel like the TV version of the franchise that someone would have made in the 1990s, which is fine, but not really the stuff of streaming. Forced to put it in Langdon’s terms, the emoji for the show — which premiered Thursday — would be a shrug or a thumbs down, take your pick.
Casting the ‘LuLaRich’ miniseries
The cast of “Tiger King” has had their 15 minutes. The newest docuseries obsession of the masses is Amazon’s “LuLaRich.” CNN’s Sandra Gonzalez shares her dream cast for the inevitable miniseries.
“In taking on the story of multilevel marketing company LuLaRoe, ‘Fyre Fraud’ directors Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby traded stories about sad cheese sandwiches for those about hamburger crotch leggings. The result was, unlike the thought of the aforementioned food items, delicious.
It took about 10 minutes — around the time Mark Stidham, one of the founders of the company, said “out of our 14 children, two of them are married” (to each other!) — to decide this needed to be made into a miniseries.
For anyone willing to take it on (paging Adam McKay?), I’ve done some of the casting work for you:
Mark and DeAnne Stidham, CEO and president/founder of LuLaRoe: Woody Harrelson and Katy Mixon. These roles demand people who can pull off homespun charm, which these two actors have in spades. Mixon is quite young for this role and would require one heck of a physical transformation, but her experience playing a mom-in-charge on “American Housewife” makes her particularly qualified to portray a woman who built a billion-dollar company by speaking their language.
Sam Schultz, DeAnne’s nephew and former director of events: Chris Sullivan. Sam is a big personality and the ‘This Is Us’ alum has had plenty of practice doing exactly that. Also, for a brief moment when Sam was introduced in the documentary, I thought it WAS Sullivan.
Ashleigh Lautaha, one of the first LuLaRoe retailers who says when her marriage hit hard times, it was suggested that she read ‘The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands,’ which ‘is geared toward being submissive’: Alexandra Breckenridge. The ‘Virgin River’ star would nail the role of this no-nonsense mom.
LaShae Kimbrough, former home office employee who called out the lack of diversity in the company: Ptosha Storey of BET series ‘Tyler Perry’s The Oval’ and ‘Empire.; Kimbrough was one of my favorites in the docuseries, if for this quote alone: ‘You guys should be held accountable, whether you be sued or your story be told because remember you started in the trunk of your car. So you never forget you was just selling skirts, sweetheart, out the trunk of your car, and now look at you. So the least you can do is show the people who put you where you are some respect.’ Storey is an actress who can unleash a truth bomb with the grace usually seen only in those who recite poetry.”
I wish more people were talking about ‘On the Verge’
CNN’s Megan Thomas shares that she watched the entire first season of “On the Verge” almost as fast as “LuLaRich,” like a “glass of sauvignon blanc on a Friday at 5 p.m.”
“Julie Delpy, the Gen X heroine of the ‘Before’ franchise, helped turn a long conversation between two people into three beautiful films. Her latest project, ‘On the Verge,’ is a conversation between four women, friends who are dealing with strained marriages, career change and parenting.