Film and TV

For The Oscars, It's Time To Give The Viewers What They Want

If you were looking for a reason to skip this year's Oscars — aside from the fact Bizarro Driving Miss Daisy is likely to win Best Picture — here you go:

In a break with tradition, the Academy Awards in four categories will be presented during commercial breaks when the 91st Oscars are broadcast by ABC on Feb. 24.

The affected categories are cinematography, film editing, live-action short and makeup and hairstyling.

While the Academy's board of governors approved a plan in August to present some of the 24 awards categories during breaks in order to reduce the show's running time to three hours, it had not been known which categories would be presented under the new format, which attracted criticism complaining that it would mean a downgrade for some categories.
Because if there's anything people watching awards shows want, it's to see fewer awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been bailing out their sinking ocean liner of an awards with a Solo cup for years now in a desperate attempt to retain its audience. They've cut musical numbers, increased the number of Best Picture nominees, and launched Roberto Benigni into the sun (though I may have hallucinated that). Yet nothing seems to help.

The more conspiracy-minded of you might point out not one of the nominees in this year's off-air categories is a product of Disney, which owns ABC. To which I would reply: Ha! Ha! Only a crazy person would believe a billion-dollar corporation would ruthlessly exclude its competition! Please speak directly into this flower on my lapel!

The Oscars have been hemorrhaging viewers for years, as have most awards programs. There are a number of factors at play, both the length of the ceremony and the fact live television is no longer considered crucial in an age when results are available online and on social media nanoseconds after the winners are announced. The age of Event TV is coming to an end, so what can the Academy do about it?

They could try going back to the show's original format, which was a banquet held at places like the Biltmore and Ambassador hotels. These programs averaged about two hours in length, had lots of booze, and were pretty laid back. Problem is, you just described the Golden Globes (the 2019 GGs ran about 2:40, which is practically a blipvert compared to the Oscars). And while Globes are losing viewers less rapidly than the Oscars or Grammys, their audience is still dwindling.

Besides, why would you want to revisit the past? I say the Academy should embrace current trends to snag new viewers. Here are my well thought-out suggestions.

Bring On The Blackface Hosts

I realize the Academy has adapted a "no hosts" approach for the upcoming ceremony, and that's too bad! Blackface is "so hot right now," as the kids say. And if the Academy is worried about honoring its own history, they can bring back 9-time host Billy Crystal, who knows his way around some shoe polish.

Hell, he might even want to bring back Jimmy Kimmel (2017-18) to assist. His Karl Malone would be a nice complement to Crystal's Sammy Davis, Jr.

Inject Some Medical Drama

There are, by my estimate, some 874 medical-themed network TV shows currently airing. The Academy should strike while the iron is hot and leverage this by secretly sewing the Oscar statuette up in the winning nominee (for categories with multiple producers, use the one with the lowest Q Score).

When the winner is announced, the winner will have 90 seconds (the current time allotted for acceptance speeches) to reach a waiting surgeon and have the award removed before it explodes.

All Musical Numbers Are Replaced By "Baby Shark"

Each segment will only last about 90 seconds, but also carries the risk of driving the audience to commit murder and/or suicide. On the upside, they'll die with the TVs on, so ratings will still count.

Hire Presenters That Are Unlikely to Show Up

Too much emphasis is placed on the tradition of having previous winners present the Oscars. I say the chances of your ceremony coming in under three hours are a lot better if you rely on people known for their unreliability or outright assholery.

That means Kanye West presenting Best Animated Short, Gary Busey presenting Best Sound Editing (it helps to assign them categories they probably don't give a shit about), or Courtney Love presenting Best Production Design. Simply show the winner's name on screen and avoid that patented Bruce Vilanche brand hilarity.

Now that I think about it, this should apply to nominees as well.

Invoke The Jed Bartlet Option

In the West Wing season 2 episode "Shibboleth," there was this exchange:

C.J. CREGG: They sent me two turkeys. The more photo-friendly of the two gets a Presidential pardon and a full life at a children's zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.
PRESIDENT BARTLET: If the Oscars were like that, I'd watch.
This is the man who negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine, I think we should listen to him. That means, sadly, we'll likely be bidding a fond farewell to the likes of Willem Dafoe and Emma Stone. On the other hand, I bet Sam Rockwell is pretty tasty.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar