Maybe it’s just the way Twitter brings all your snarky friends from around the world together to be snide at once, but from the very beginning of last night’s Oscar™ telecast, it was obvious that the youth movement of Anne Hathaway and James Franco was going to be dire. You know how at every awards they they bring out two gorgeous young stars to present an award to caterers and give them some excruciating dialog? And it turns out they are high and have the chemistry of a sweat sock and a muskrat? Imagine a WHOLE SHOW like that. You have to give Hathaway props for being a super trooper — like some kid just out of acting school who has to keep the whole USO tour going because the supposed star is drunk back in the hotel room. She was going to charm and shimmy and smile and warble and costume change and hair-flip her way into our hearts no matter what. Franco was just squinty and stoned and acted as if he had been kidnapped from a weekend in Marin County and told at gunpoint that he would have to host the Academy Awards that night or his puppy would be killed. His heart was not in it.
But they were supposed to be youthful and peppy and “hip.” So that’s what we got. So why and how did this whole move to youth and pep begin?
I seem to recall last year when Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin came out, everyone was tweeting how lame and corny they were, and Nikki Finke was doing her usual “ohmygodihateawardsshowsandthisisunbearable!” schtick. And it was decided Something Must Be Done.
Something must be done? About Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin? Two of the most inherently funny people on the planet? Two humans whose timing is to comedy what Wayne Rooney is to the bicycle kick? I mean you take away two dedicated schtick meisters and give us Anne Hathaway and James Franco and suddenly wake up and say “WHAT HAVE I DONE?”
I wish people would stop complaining about perfectly competent awards show schtick — as delivered by Bob Hope Billy Crystal, Hugh Jackman, Whoopi Goldberg, and yes, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin — and just admit awards shows are boring and you need to minimize the damage. Otherwise, someone gets it into their head to “fix it” and we get stoned Harry Osborn or Rob Lowe singing to Snow White.
Or as Mark Evanier sagely observed, even David Letterman’s fabled “bad’ outing as host wasn’t that bad:
Within the Academy hierarchy though, they weren’t fond of Letterman as host and the Oprah/Uma joke was a symbol of the problem. The complaint was along the lines of, “Dave didn’t understand or care that this wasn’t supposed to be The David Letterman Show with occasional interruptions to present some silly awards. The man only knows one way to do a TV show and he kept expecting everything to be done that way.” My feeling was that it was a slightly-unfair criticism. You ask Dave Letterman to host your show, you shouldn’t moan when he comes in and acts like Dave Letterman. I thought he was the wrong guy for the job but he did just what they should have expected and he was more entertaining than some Oscar hosts…like, say, most of them.
On the other hand, if there is one thing people like to do, it’s complain. In the late ’90s I was big into wrestling — Steve Austin, The Rock and Mick Foley at the top of their game, and it was, as any fool could tell you, an absolute Golden Age. But to read the fan recaps of the time it was all about how awful it all was, and why couldn’t Val Venis have a better workrate. Right. Who’s crying now?
Speaking (ahem) as someone who has hosted several awards shows (the Lulus a bunch of times, the Ignatzes, three) here is my pronouncement from on high: If you must have someone young and hip host a boring awards show, try to find someone inherently funny who can ad lib. Or just get someone English, preferably Ricky Gervais. Now you know what awful really is.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.