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 am 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.