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Oscars 2011: The Broadcast that Bored

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I’ve been watching the Oscars since I was about 10 years old (Bob Hope was the host.) It was an annual event—must-see TV occasion in the Shyette (my maiden name) household. Naturally the show was over way past my bedtime, so I’d plug in the earphone on my trusty transistor and listen to WLS (ABC) radio in Chicago to listen in and learn the “big” awards as they happened. It has remained a must-see event each year for me, much like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Emmys.

Which brings us to last night’s Oscar broadcast on ABC. It says a great deal when the first laugh of the night, as I recall, came late into the show from former host, comedian Billy Crystal. Don’t get me wrong. I adored The King’s Speech, which made me a Colin Firth fan in a way that none of his previous films have. I amOscar's Big Winner: The King's Speech thrilled that it won Best Picture and Firth won Best Actor.

Anne Hathaway (Alice in Wonderland) and James Franco (127 Hours) are both good actors, and each possesses a comedic flair. Neither are comedians or comic actors. So they smiled a lot, Hathaway changed into one gorgeous gown after the next, and Franco came out in drag during a complete non-sequitor of what was supposed to have been a comic bit.

Even in the opening, which I mostly enjoyed (having loved Inception), both actors seemed out of place with no ability to really milk the comedy from it in a way that Alec Baldwin (who appeared in it) might have.

If the Oscar people and ABC wanted to draw a younger demographic to the telecast by casting two young actors as hosts, it was a very bad call. Neither actor has any edge at all—just pleasantness, good looks and nice smiles. And it’s not enough to get the viewers at home to sit for three hours of awards—especially in a year with very few real surprises. For that you need the instincts of a comic and the ability to go off script things get boring. So at the end of the technical awards segment, when Franco said “congratulations nerds,” it came off as insulting and unfunny rather than admiring, witty and humorous.

Now I’m not saying that ABC should bring in Ricky Gervais, who, in my not-so-humble opinion was a bit too much. But hey, I could deal with Billy Crystal. Or someone with his flawless instincts in a more 2.0 version. But even long-in-the-tooth, he was exponentially more interesting in his short bit than all the remaining Oscar bits put together.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Val

    Hello Barbara

    I usually post on your House MD page, and though I still love your reviews, but I get a bit frustrated with some comments(none of the regulars). So, I’ve taken to just reading these days.

    Anyway, agree with you about the Oscars telecast. I have to say I never really watched it in the past, only when movies I REALLY enjoyed are up for awards,(like the King’s Speech this year), which deserved every award it got and I was happily surprised that it won Best Picture. So, it would have been nice to sit through something interesting while I was waiting for Firth’s Speech.

    I actually muted or watched PBS through a majority of the presentations. I did unmute it when Downey Jr. and Law appeared as presenters…those two garnered a genuine laugh or two. They had more chemistry as a pair than Franco and Hathaway.

    No, it wasn’t the most enjoyable telecast…but, hey, The King’s Speech won! I’ve got nothing to be really disappointed about:) Looking forward to reading your next House article…

  • Orange450

    While I enjoyed the broadcast (it doesn’t take all that much to entertain me, as you might gather ;)), I can see your points. So let’s start a grassroots petition to ask Hugh Laurie to host. His movie credentials make him most eligible, and his incomparable talent and flawless instinct would make him unforgettable.

    My only concern is that he wouldn’t want to do it :(

  • Heloise

    Franco was a bad choice period. He should have stayed in the cave he fell into for the movie I correctly predicted would take nothing home. Don’t ever do this again academy it was beyond boring.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I agree with everything you said except Ricky Gervais being too much. Of course you couched that as a personal opinion, so you have every right to it. :) One of my best friends, who loves awards shows, and I have been arguing ever since the Golden Globes as to whether or not he did a good job. I loved him, personally.

  • http://barbarabarnett.wordpress.com barbara barnett

    I really like Gervais. I like his humor as well (dry as a bone British–just my style). But I also like it tempered with at least a tad of warmth and Gervais had none at all (IMHO)

  • susan

    You only became a fan of Colin Firth from “The King’s Speech?” Not from my all-time favorite “Pride and Prejudice”?

  • http://barbarabarnett.wordpress.com barbara barnett

    susan–I’ve seen so many CF movies and I’ve always like him, but he never quite touched me the way he did in King’s Speech