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Can Billy Crystal Save the Oscars?

The headline factory went a little funny in the head over Billy Crystal’s attitude towards hosting the Oscars again.  He said he’d become “itchy” to host again after a brief appearance on last year’s disastrous telecast.  He’s talking about maybe wanting to again – hard to tell if he’s being polite or really wants to do it.  Somehow I doubt if they’re going to all the trouble to hire the presumed “young and hip” Brett Ratner to produce, it seems unlikely they will veer off that path and head into more traditional waters with Crystal.  More likely, Ben Stiller might be the best choice.  Stiller is starring in Ratner’s upcoming Tower Heist.  I have my money on Stiller hosting.  Will they pair him up with a pretty young thing like last year? If so, my money is on Emma Stone – freshly picked peach also starring in another of Ratner’s upcoming movies.

When it was announced last year that James Franco and Anne Hathaway would star my first thought was: wow, some really shrewd publicist had drinks with, smoked a joint with, or shared a hot tub with (or all three) someone in the position of hiring the Oscar host.  There was just no other reasonable explanation.  One could see the train wreck coming from a mile away.  James Franco does a lot of things well, but hosting that lumbering albatross will never be one of them.

Why Billy Crystal always worked: he is the right blend of not too caustic but not too bland.  Steve Martin and David Letterman were too much for the Academy (although my preferred hosts), Ellen Degeneres was maybe too sweet for them (I loved her too).  They need the right amount of someone who will treat them like the suck-ups that they are while also making them feel as important as they think they are.  You know, kinda classy.

Another possible option for them this year would have been Oprah.  But now that they’re honoring her with her own Oscar can she still host?  Also, hard to see an Oprah/Brett Ratner pairing.

If you have Oprah as your host, you’re mostly looking at drawing a largely female audience.  The Oscars supposedly hit every demographic but the one they seem most nervous about is the target demo, the old 18 to 34 crowd.  James Franco and Anne Hathaway were put there for that very reason – it might have looked better to advertisers.

“Are you going young this year?”
“Yeah, we’re going young. Did you see we got Franco and Hathaway?”
“Saw that.”
“We also want to point out we got Black Swan and The Social Network — and you know, the one the kids all like the most, The King’s Speech all nominated for Best Picture this year.”
“Well, the King’s Speech will win.”
“And a certain Oscar blogger will never get over it – yes, yes, we know. Anyway, we’re looking to really raise our profile this year with the Nielson ratings.  Hathaway and Franco are going to be a ratings bonanza because it will look less like the Oscars and more like the VMAs.”

My best guess is that Rattner has been brought in to once again try to young-up the Oscars.  So it’s hard to imagine they’d ever go back in time with Billy Crystal.  I don’t see how it could possibly get any worse, though.  At least with Billy Crystal you pretty much know what you’re going to get — and it’s a reminder of a time when watching the Oscars was actually fun.

What I don’t think they should ever do again is hire non-comedians or non-talk show hosts to do this gig.  Hiring actors doesn’t work.  They need to know how to work a live audience – some actors do, like Alec Baldwin.  But most don’t.

Here are the people I’d love to see host

Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey
Tina Fey and Steve Martin
Tina Fey
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson
Stephen Colbert as his right wing character
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Larry David and Chris Rock
Ricky Gervais and Larry David

Those are my best guesses. I know, they’re all terrible.