Tag Archives: Oscars

Oscars Flashback: Neil Patrick Harris and the ‘One Billion Viewers’ Myth


The 87th Annual Academy Awards air on Sunday, and while I’m nowhere near as invested in awards season as back when I was on the movie beat (I still need to see too many of the nominees), I did want to share two previous stories of mine that are worth taking another look at before the big show on Sunday.

The first is this Daily Beast chat with Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris, where he looks back on his favorite emcee moments over the years. This story ran before he hosted the Emmys in 2013, but it’s just as relevant now in the walkup to his biggest hosting gig yet — and a wonderful reminder of what a gifted emcee he is. There’s even a story about the last time he appeared on the Oscar stage!

Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments

The second Oscar piece worth looking back on is this Quartz story from last year about the silly, yet annoyingly persistent, myth that one billion people worldwide watch the Oscars ceremony. I look into where that billion-viewer figure first came from, and why people continue to reference it today, despite all factual evidence to the contrary.

No, one billion people do not watch the Oscars

Happy Oscar viewing!

Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments

Neil Patrick Harris

Today, Neil Patrick Harris was named to host pretty much the only awards show he has yet to emcee: the king of them all, the Oscars. In light of the news, I suggested that the Daily Beast dust off my interview with him from last year about his best and worst hosting moments, and that’s exactly what they did:

Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments

No, One Billion People Do Not Watch the Oscars

one billion oscars

Every year at the Oscars, someone notes that the ceremony is being watched by “a billion people.” That’s an impressive figure, to be sure. It’s also a complete fiction. As I explained at Quartz,

Last year’s Oscar ceremony drew a United States audience of 40.3 million, making it the seventh highest-rated telecast of 2013 (the other top 10 shows were all NFL-related). That would mean that elsewhere in the world—the Academy says Sunday’s telecast will be seen in “more than 225 countries”—an additional 960 million people are interested enough to tune in and see what gown Cate Blanchett will wear and which film will win best production design. Roughly 13% of Americans watched last year’s ceremony; 14% of the remaining global population would also need to view the show in order to reach that mythical billion-viewer figure. Comparatively, the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies in Beijing were viewed by an estimated billion people, but those numbers were bolstered by more than half of China’s 1.3 billion population.

I trace the origin of the “billion audience” myth, and talk about why, despite all rational evidence to the contrary, the b-word won’t be going away anytime soon.

No, one billion people do not watch the Oscars

Hollywood has put too many films under the Christmas tree


The studios have been naughty this season, and snuck too many films under the Christmas tree. As I wrote at Quartz,

Each December, the studios line up a sizable number of new releases, hoping to capitalize on the hordes of moviegoers who descend on multiplexes during the holidays. But this season, they may have pushed things too far: a dozen movies are opening in at least 500 theaters in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, up from an average of under 10 films during the same two-week period over the past decade.

It’s inevitable that a few of those films will get left out in the cold, both by audiences and Oscar voters. Bah, humbug!

Hollywood has put too many films under the Christmas tree

‘Homeland’s’ Tracy Letts, Writer of ‘August: Osage County,’ Says Oscar Mania is Frustrating

tracy letts

It’s not often that I feel like I’ve unearthered tons and tons of new material from a subject, but that’s exactly what happened when I spoke with the brilliant Tracy Letts for this Daily Beast profile about his role on Homeland (he plays Sen. Andrew Lockhart), and the upcoming movie August: Osage County, which he adapted from his Pultizer-winning play. He was full of great stories, and didn’t pull any punches, like when he talked about the Oscar buzz surrounding August:

However, Letts is upset that the early reaction to August has been almost entirely in terms of its Oscar potential. Though he says “I hope it wins everything,” Letts admits that the awards season mania is “beyond frustrating. Man, this obsession with the Academy Awards in particular, who fucking cares? It drives me nuts. How the fuck are you going to compare Gravity with August: Osage County? Could you have two pieces any more different in every conceivable way? They’re both in color and they both have George Clooney involved with them [who is a producer on August], and that’s it. So I don’t know how or why you’re supposed to compare these things.”

He also talked about getting married in the hospital after emergency gall bladder removal, a story that seems like it should be a part of whatever he writes next. Also, Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa tells me about wooing Letts for his first role in front of the camera since 2006.

Homeland’s Tracy Letts, Writer of ‘August: Osage County,’ Says Oscar Mania is Frustrating

Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments

Neil Patrick Harris

As he prepared to emcee the Emmys, awards show host extraordinaire spoke with me for this Daily Beast story about his best (and worst) hosting moments from over the years. One of his favorites was the magical opening number to this year’s Tonys:

I have watched a lot of You Tube performances of Harry Blackstone Jr. and his unfortunate halftime show at the Orange Bowl [in 1987] where all the tricks were exposed and everything went terribly wrong. It’s one thing to say, “Sure, I’ll do a magic trick, I’ll be in this box and I’ll reappear over here … I know how to do it,” but then doing it live, you can’t redo it. If you screw it up, everyone knows not only how it was done but it becomes its own disaster footage. So I was more wrought with nerves about that than almost anything in that number. 

I don’t think he’ll do any magic tricks at the Emmys, but you never know!

Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments