Sunday’s Tony Awards attracted what’s believed to be the franchise’s smallest audience on record.
The Reporters Who Cover Television made much of the fact that Sunday’s trophy show, hosted for the third time by Neil Patrick Harris, scored a low 6 million viewers, according to early stats, despite airing on a night heavy with repeats. The previous record low was 6.22 million viewers, set in 2007.
Speaking of re-treads, major contenders for Sunday’s statuette dispensing included a re-staging of the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess”; a re-staging of the 1949 play “Death of a Salesman”; a re-staging of the 1970 play “Jesus Christ Superstar”; a re-staging of another ’70s play, “Godspell”; a re-staging of still another ’70s play, “Follies”; a re-staging of a hit 1990 movie, “Ghost”; a re-staging of a dud 1992 movie, “Newsies,” and a new musical set in the 1920s that recycles George and Ira Gershwin tunes of that era.
And, of course, if there’s one thing you can say for sure about trophy shows, it’s that the ratings are not about who’s hosting — it’s about who’s nominated and does anyone care.
Last year’s Tony Awards broadcast, for instance, was also hosted by Harris but averaged about 7 million viewers. Of course, heading into last year’s Tony show, theater fans — and non — were all agog to see how Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “The Book of Mormon” would fare.
Going in with a leading 14 nominations, “TBoM” walked off with nine Tony Awards, including the prize for best musical, as well as best book, best direction of a musical, best score, best featured actress, and four technical awards, capping a night of raucous “Mormon” acceptance speeches, including one in which Parker said he’d be remiss if he did not thank his late book co-writer, Mormon religion founder Joseph Smith.
“You did it, Joseph! You got the Tony!” Parker said as he looked heavenward and held his statuette aloft.
One year later, the closest thing to a buzz-worthy moment came when “One Man, Two Guvnors” star James Corden, accepting the best-actor Tony, thanked his girlfriend by noting she’d given birth to their son five days before he started rehearsals, adding “she’s my baby mama and I can’t wait to marry her.”
On the bright side, Sunday’s Tony Awards clocked about 3.3 million more viewers than the season finale of “Mad Men” on AMC that same night. The trophy show also snagged about a million more viewers than the fifth-season debut of HBO’s campy vampire drama, “True Blood.”
Strangely, neither network pointed this out, AMC instead focusing on the fact that 2.7 million viewers made Sunday’s “Mad Men” fifth-season finale the show’s most-watched season-wrapper ever, and HBO noting that the “True Blood” season kickoff was consistent with last season’s performance, and that around 1 million people watched the debut’s replay at 11.