As someone who has been lucky enough to attend the Oscar telecast, I’ve seen firsthand that the host’s job is a thankless one. I have not attended a single Oscars show where the host was not under high pressure scrutiny across the board. And, by the way, the same thing happened with Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh at the Golden Globes this year. They seemed to be only there for us to hate on them. I don’t know exactly when the internet became such a hive of bullies — yet that seems to be, for the most part, what the combination of clickbait-driven news plus the algorithms of Twitter and Facebook have done to us. It’s true of everything, from ads on TV to awards shows. No one really seems to care unless there is something to get mad about. And MAD MAD MAD MAD everyone is on a daily basis, flinging hashtags angrily, making furious pronouncements that get thousands of retweets and likes.
Now is when you ask me whether or not I think the controversies that raise the collective ire are justified . My answer is when this is going on at the same time, no. What’s missing is actual conversations or thoughtful, effective problem solving. I’m not now, nor will I ever be, a fan of angry mobs over relatively trivial ripples. I would prefer much more optimism, love, and support across the board, instead of whatever is going on now, which is becoming increasingly unbearable from one day to the next.
I can’t imagine a single high profile person who would willingly step into the job as Oscar host at this rate, unless it’s someone who is open and welcoming of the kind of hate that will be slung his or her way. No one is protected, by the way, from the wrath of the hivemind — at least not anyone who would generate the kind ratings they seek. Maybe it’s better this way. For true movie lovers, for loyal Oscar watchers, the lack of a host is the least troubling shakeup. ABC and the show’s producers have taken a machete to so many Oscar traditions we hold dear. All the same, along with the ongoing revolution in film distribution itself, we are living through an era in American cinema when the Oscar telecast needs to evolve. But we hope the Academy doesn’t do itself damage with too many hasty face-lifts all at once as it adapts to the new landscape.
Either way, there will be performers on the show and probably a voiceover saying “please welcome Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper” and the show will proceed mostly as usual without the need for anyone to come out and tells jokes in between. There will also be highly-respected presenters who can help move things along. There is the promise that the show will be kept under three hours, and now we have “popular’ movies nominated (as if that never happened before, hundreds of times), which should test whether it’s the presence or absence of popular films that drive viewership to begin with.
The question will have to be whether the ratings can climb from the all-time low of last year or not.
2018: 26.5 million, The Shape of Water (Jimmy Kimmel)
2017: 32.9 million, Moonlight (Jimmy Kimmel)
2016: 34.4 million, Spotlight (Chris Rock)
2015: 37.3 million, Birdman (Neil Patrick Harris)
2014: 43.7 million, 12 Years a Slave (Ellen DeGeneres)
2013: 40.3 million, Argo (Seth MacFarlane)
2012: 39.3 million, The Artist (Billy Crystal)
2011: 37.9 million, The King’s Speech (Anne Hathaway/James Franco)
2010: 41.3 million, The Hurt Locker (Steve Martin/Alec Baldwin)
2009: 36.3 million, Slumdog Millionaire (Hugh Jackman)
2008: 32.0 million, No Country For Old Men (Jon Stewart)
2007: 40.2 million, The Departed (Ellen DeGeneres)
2006: 38.9 million, Crash (Jon Stewart)
2005: 42.1 million, Million Dollar Baby (Chris Rock)
2004: 43.5 million, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Billy Crystal)
It will be interesting to see whether or not the telecast’s big changes will impact these ratings or not. One thing we can be sure of: Twitter will be pissed because Twitter is always pissed. About everything. All of the time.