It’s January 3rd and we still don’t know who is going to host the Oscars. According to The Hollywood Reporter, neither does just about anyone in the Academy. That’s bad, right? A little over 50 days from now the Super Bowl of film awards shows will take place and apparently nobody wants the hosting job made so famous by the likes of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, and, um, Anne Hathaway and James Franco?
Wait. Weren’t they actually terrible hosts?
Yes! That’s exactly the point. We remember the hosts who screw up more than we do the ones who actually put on a good show, unless “putting on a good show” involves some kind of stunt which went viral on the internet like Ellen’s infamous selfie. It’s a thankless, thankless job which nobody really wants. Still, somebody usually steps up to take it eventually. This is just the third time in the 21st century that we’ve entered the actual year of the telecast without already knowing who was going to host it. John Stewart wasn’t announced as the host of the 78th Oscars until Jan. 5, 2006. Ditto for Whoopi Goldberg being announced as host of the 74th on Jan. 7, 2002.
The Academy thought it had avoided joining that club by announcing Kevin Hart as the host last month. That didn’t end well. Now, here we are with the Academy suffering through yet another PR crisis and posting a help wanted sign no one seems to be responding to. Justin Timberlake, Melissa McCarthy, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Krasinski, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler are just a few of the famous names who have taken themselves out of consideration and sworn off ever hosting the Oscars.
That might be because, as THR learned, Donna Gigliotti, who is producing the telecast for the first time, and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and president John Bailey have some very strict guidelines for who and who does not qualify as a potential host:
- Cannot be socially divisive. So, no repeat of Seth MacFarlane’s casual misogyny.
- Cannot be some veteran who primarily appeals to older viewers since they’re more likely to watch regardless of who’s hosting. Sorry, Billy Crystal.
- Cannot be associated in any way with a rival broadcast network to ABC. That counts out every other late night host not named Jimmy Kimmel and probably also anyone from a rival network’s scripted show, like Sterling K. Brown from This Is Us.
- Cannot already be hosting another awards show this season. Sorry, Golden Globes emcees Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg or SAG host Megan Mullally.
- Cannot have offended John Bailey, which counts out Tiffany Haddish since she dared to have fun (and, to be fair, also struggled to pronounce certain names) while announcing last year’s Oscar nominees.
- Must be high profile enough to get the OK from not just the Academy but also ABC. That probably discounts people like Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Kumail Nanjiani, Josh Gad, Billy Eichner or Ken Jeong.
- Probably must be just a single person or perhaps a famous couple like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. With precious little time left to actually plan the show, they figure taking on multiple hosts isn’t feasible anymore as it would require far too much orchestration.
So, none of this:
As a result of all that, it’s increasingly likely whoever they pick will have either had their arm twisted by a boss (Bob Iger, on behalf of Disney and ABC, could personally appeal to Kimmel, Goldberg, or anyone from Mary Poppins Returns) or been guilted by a “save us, you are our only hope” phone call from a friend in the Academy. Don’t rule out Jennifer Lawrence being recruited as a favor to Gigliotti, who produced Silver Lining Playbook and thus had a pretty big hand in the actress’ sole Oscar win to date.
All of this is an embarrassing look, but it’s also in that La La Land–Moonlight territory where the Oscars are at their most interesting when nothing goes according to plan.
Proposal: Pull a Masked Singer and just have a bunch of celebrities take turns doing hosting bits from under comical masks, leaving us guessing who they really are until they Meryl Streep, Oprah, and their posse in the front row gets to vote one of them off the stage. Sounds silly, but 9.4 million watched that kind of thing last night, and it would certainly add to the “second screen experience,” whatever that really means. Or have no hosts at all and instead several segments where the winners must complete the Bird Box challenge – walk around blindfolded without hurting themselves – in order to claim their Oscar. Maybe play a little “Yakety Sax” underneath it. I’d watch that.
What about you?