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Apparently, Hosting The Oscars Isn't As Coveted A Gig As I've Long Assumed...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 16, 2014 10:30 AM
4 Comments
  • |

I found this revelation (to me) by former Oscars co-host Alec Baldwin interesting, and worth sharing, in light of this morning's nominations announcement.

In short, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last year, Baldwin shared his concerns for producers of future Academy Awards, who he says will face big challenges in finding celebrities to front the show - because it's a thankless job that pays "chicken feed," and isn't at all worth the censorious aftermath that has followed recent hosts.

He starts with:

The Oscars is a completely thankless job. It’s really tough. 

When asked whether he'd ever host again (he hosted with Steve Martin in 2009), he replied:

No. Never, never, never. And I enjoyed doing it. What the Oscars absolutely, unequivocally should be is a show with a little bit of entertainment and a very reverential overview of movies of that year. And that show would last about two hours, and it would be a very tight show with a lot of serious, cineastic appreciation. But the Oscars is also a television program that raises 90 percent of the Academy’s budget for the year in a single night. When the Oscars is three hours — when they bullshit you and say that the Oscars is running long, and that’s a problem — that’s not a problem. They’re making more money. So ABC and the Academy, they have no interest in doing a tight, better-produced show. They are forced, because of economic constraints, to have a flabby, tired show.

The interviewer asked about hosts facing strong criticism, and Baldwin continued:

They need to gamble on the show, and they’re not gambling. I am a member of the Academy, but everyone who has done it lately has been crucified. So they’re not going to get anybody who is reasonably talented or special to take that chance anymore. They don’t pay you any money; the Oscars pay you like chicken feed. It’s all about the honor of helping to extol film achievement. But they’re going to have a tough time. I’m dying to see who they get to do it next year. They’re going to have to go dig someone up from a cemetery. They’re going to have to go dig up Bob Hope.

And when asked if there's anyone right now who he thinks would be the best candidate for the job, Baldwin said:

Ellen DeGeneres. She would work. Everybody likes her, and she can be edgy without being too edgy.

And he was right. That interview took place a year ago, and months afterward, Ellen DeGeneres was named host of this year's Oscar ceremony.

It's worth noting that last year's Oscar host, Seth MacFarlane, echoed very similar sentiments about the gig, saying that he wouldn't do it again.

But I love *insider* stories like this. I like hearing from those who are right there on the front-lines, and who aren't scared to be upfront with their thoughts and feelings, in an industry that seems to discourage that kind of thing.

I've always imagined that hosting the Oscars was a job that most Hollywood personalities would want to have, or at least would be honored to be asked to do. I never really considered salary; it just always seemed like more of a prestige thing to me, and also, as one of the most-watched televised industry events in the entire world (the ceremony is broadcast in some 150 countries), I considered it a way for whomever is hosting to raise their international profile, which can translate to more work, more paychecks, etc.

But as Baldwin says, fewer and fewer stars are willing to risk hitting the Oscars stage to helm the ceremony, because it actually may have more of an adverse effect on them and their careers, or just isn't worth it, as any benefits/rewards one might see from taking the job, are being trumped by the drawbacks. 

Despite all he said, I'm sure it's still a job that's coveted by some, who'd gladly accept if offered - especially if they're interested, and feel they can capitalize on the publicity they'll receive in return - the good and the bad.

But it might mean that Academy producers may not get the first, second or even third names on their short lists of potential hosts in any given year, and may have to make some unorthodox choices, which could be a good thing for the event overall.

I think most would agree with Baldwin that the show is too damn long, and should be trimmed. And the reasons he gives for why ABC and the Academy aren't keen on broadcasting a much tighter show, aren't surprising.

So who'll be the lucky (or maybe unlucky, depending on your POV) celeb chosen to host the show next year (2015) ? Maybe, ultimately it doesn't really matter. I haven't seen any surveys taken on this, but I can say that I, and many other folks in my circle, don't watch the show for the host. We just want to know who wins each of the awards - especially the *major* awards. As we see it, the host shouldn't be so central to the broadcast. In fact, I might even add that they shouldn't be memorable.

In recent years, as I can remember, there seems to be this clashing of the reverent (the stodgy Academy Awards and its lengthy legacy) and the irreverent (some of the *edgier* hosts who've been tapped for the job). And I wonder if the Academy needs to maybe consider what Baldwin suggests, which is to make the event a compact reverential event, and not feel like they have to appear hipper, or more appealing to younger audiences.

Or they could also turn it into a somewhat raucous dinner affair, with food and champagne at the tables - old Hollywood style.

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4 Comments

  • No | January 16, 2014 10:57 PMReply

    LL Cool J hosting Grammys again. NPH hosts Tonys every year. Seth Macfarlane just hosted oscars last year. Patton Oswalt Indie Spitit Awards. Lots of award shows on lots of networks and a mix of genders hosting.

  • Nichelle | January 16, 2014 10:25 PMReply

    Coincidentally, I had this thought today: the era of men hosting awards shows is over. Now that I read your post, it makes sense

  • Alias | January 16, 2014 2:27 PMReply

    Additionally, it's been noted by past hosts that it's a very time consuming gig (approx. 3-4 mos. preparation), which means that their time and attention are pulled from other projects (if you're an actor or comedian) in preparation for this one big event. I believe that's one reason both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler said they would never host it.

    But as Baldwin said, perhaps the Academy needs a fresh take, which could include, as Tambay stated, a more raucous or relaxed dinner affair (similar to the Globes set up) or even try offering the gig to up and coming talent who aren't household names. ...I enjoyed Seth McFarlane last year, and I wasn't at all familiar with or a fan of his work. But I thought he
    did a good job. Neil Patrick Harris, like Bob Hope and Billy Crystal, is a very entertaining, adept, host for the Emmy's and Tony's. ... And I believe his show is ending this season, so he
    would be available for 2015.

    Certainly, I think there's opportunity for the right person to capitalize on the publicity, the problem is the people asked to host are already famous and don't NEED the gig. Who knows
    what their initial thinking is for taking it. Nostalgia. Love of the Oscar pomp and circumstance. Publicity and raised profile. Or, as Baldwin stated, perhaps it's not until they're mired in it they
    realize what a nightmare of a situation it is to navigate.

  • Peggy | January 16, 2014 12:05 PMReply

    My problem with the show is that, if it is a "Show", hire talented people to produce and perform. People who are forward thinking. For example, Manual Lin Miranda, who wrote "In the Heights" and "Bring it on" if you must hire Broadway people. To host, you need someone who can perform and is smart so they make good, quick decisions. You might think that would be a stand up comedian but a screenwriter might work as well.

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