Monday, October 8, 2012

Casting the Oscars: Some Thoughts

A couple weeks ago, the Academy announced that Seth MacFarlane would be hosting the One-hundredy Eleventh Oscars.

(Just kidding. It'll be the 85th.)


After thinking about it since then, I still think it's a terrible idea. They're going after the 21-45 year old male demographic, that elusive demographic that so many programmers aim for. It's about advertising. I get it. But it's still a terrible idea. Who in their right mind thinks that the audience for Family Guy and the audience for the Oscars have much, if any, overlap?

This is a marketing gaffe, and I don't think it's going to end well.

What the Academy needs their host to sell , on any given night, is THE MAGIC OF MOVIES. That's it. If you buy that, you'll hang on through the technical awards, through the In Memorium montage, through all of the explanations of the movie creation process because this is part of the JOY OF CINEMA.

Can every host sell it? Of course not. There have been more duds than not on the last several years. Which makes me think the Academy needs to try something new. Traditionally, they hire comedians. Let me be more specific - it's usually comedians *comma* male. Has it always worked? Of course not. Why so few ladies? A woman hasn't hosted since Ellen DeGeneres. Was it great? Well...it did run long. And a bit snoozily. Actually, the thing happened like it was an episode of her talk show that the Academy just happened to attend. But it was congenial, and far less of a mess than the Alec Baldwin/ Steve Baldwin combo (oy).

What Hugh Jackman showed us is that a song and dance man - who can deliver a line - can be even better. So who would I pick? Someone who I doubt made anyone's short (or long) list, but who I think would be phenomenal: Idina Menzel.


She's a triple threat, can deliver a line, has terrific stage presence, and looks great in a dress. She'd be magnetic. She'd also pull in the Broadway crowd, which would be on-brand for a year when Tom Hooper's Les Mis is likely to be a top best pic contender.



ABC - the network airing the Oscars - has made good money by gearing their primetime lineup for women. Grey's Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Revenge, Castle - it works for then. And in the day and age when Bridesmaids and The Help prove they can be female-centric and make plenty of money, it makes me wonder why the Academy is still chasing after the young male audience.

Sure, they may tune in for the opening monologue. But will they stay for the entire telecast? Will they be swept away by THE MAGIC? I think no.

And here's the hubris of it - imagine the reverse for the Superbowl. Imagine of they were trying to pull in the young female audience (particularly the audience who's enamored by Downton Abby). Imagine Adele doing the halftime show. I mean - she's great, she's super popular - but do you think a rousing rendition of Rolling In The Deep is going to get women to watch football? Probably not. Which is why they hire people who enjoy dancing around to fireworks.

Gosh, there are so many good people to choose from. What if Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-hosted? Or Tom Hanks? Or (as people have suggested for years) Neil Patrick Harris? Someone more on brand, at any rate. Every time some showrunner gushes about "keeping the Oscars fresh" I roll my eyes - it's not about keeping the Oscars fresh (does anyone worry about keeping the Superbowl fresh? Besides deodorant companies? No?), it's about rating.

And you know what tends to drive ratings? The nominated films themselves. So the backbends, the "let's have James Franco and Anne Hathaway host to pull those youngsters in" (which resulted in a deeply anti-establishment Franco doing...basically nothing throughout the telecast. Money well spent, there), it's really all superfluous. So why not hire someone the core audience might not hate?

Just a thought.