So the numbers are in, and last night’s Oscar telecast raked as the ceremony’s highest viewership stats for a decade, reaching an audience of 43 million. Of course its being hailed as a triumph for host Ellen DeGeneres, but we’re going to suggest that part of that was due to a more open, or rather less decided, race for Best Picture between “Gravity” and eventual winner “12 Years A Slave." Not to mention all the people who tuned in with their kids to hear the one and only Adele Dazim sing “Let it Go.” (Be sure to check out our list of the Best and Worst Moments from the show).
With the figures 6% higher than last year’s, and with no foreseeable fallout along the lines of the sexism accusations that plagued Seth McFarlane’s hosting turn (that grew louder online and in the op-ed pages over the subsequent week) the organizers must be feeling pretty good about themselves. To which, killjoys that we are, we’d say whoa there! Not so fast! This year may have got a few more eyeballs, but there are still a few changes that we think will make next year’s telecast better. Here are five suggestions (along with the permanent, standing suggestion that they ply the celebs with more booze à la The Golden Globes), for your consideration.
1. Bring In An Edgier Host
So, we were quite impressed with the job Ellen DeGeneres did last night, with producers opting for a safe, steady pair of hands, and with a hosting style that was that bit more informal, after last year’s diametrically different, wannabe Rat-Pack/Vegas show feel that Seth MacFarlane brought to the stage. But we do hope that the Academy now feels that they have the license to go a bit further next year, and that the hiked-up viewerships figures are not necessarily read as being a direct result of a more conservative hosting choice. In fact, the impulse that seems to have governed recently is “take a risk” followed by “play it safe” on alternate years (Hathaway and Franco were risky and bombed so Billy Crystal came back the next year, then MacFarlane followed by DeGeneres) and by that same logic we should be in for something a bit less, well, cosy in 2015. But we just hope that the fact that so many of the riskier choices of late have turned out badly doesn’t see the Academy retreating back into their shell. Ellen we can take and mildly enjoy for a year, but we can’t see people getting hugely excited for another helping. Also, while the looseness of her off-the-cuff approach was refreshing, it did contribute to the show’s overlength, and the feeling of general sagginess that set in somewhere around hour two. Which brings us to....
2. Drastically, Vastly Reduce The Running Time, By At Least An Hour
Last night’s Oscars, at 3 hours 35 minutes were apparently, to the minute, the same length as 2013’s ceremony, but it sure felt longer. Though admittedly that might be because the mean-spiritedness of MacFarlane’s gig exerted its own kind of fascination. But while DeGeneres didn’t help matters by including a tortuous 15-minute bit about ordering pizza which was maybe hilarious if you were there but soon became irritating to the watching millions, a lot of the the dead air and slackness of the telecast was totally not her fault. The sluggish pace was basically down to the whole event not being run crisply. Do the celebrities doing the category presentations have to be introduced with such stately fanfare themselves? And do we really need to see a potted edition of every single Best Picture nomination, introduced by yet another celebrity who needs to be introduced? This sort of thing kind of guarantees the evening can’t ever really build momentum, and instead regularly judders to a halt. There are a bunch of ways the ceremony’s designers could go about tackling this, from reducing the categories they feature to staging in such a way that it’s more designed for the TV audience than for the attendees. But if there was one change we could impose on all future ceremonies, it would be this one: for the love of Mike, lose an hour.