Oscars producers: Maybe we shouldn't use a host at all

That outcome might get forced upon the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after their fiasco with Kevin Hart. They find themselves without a host for the Oscars broadcast in less than three months, thanks to what now looks like a very bad bluff with Hart over offensive tweets from seven years earlier.  The plan apparently was to make an example of Hart while still retaining his services and leveraging off of his damaged popularity, according to Variety’s report.


“They’re freaking out,” said a top comedy agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity. There were no contingency plans in place by the Academy or broadcaster ABC, according to another insider. The show’s producers are back to square one. …

The Academy had hoped that Hart would apologize for a series of years-old homophobic tweets and show signs of genuine remorse, but would stop short of actually leaving the show, said another person close to the Hart exit.

Variety quotes a “top talent rep” that says that his clients are unhappy that Hart didn’t choose to “stay the course and serve as an example.” If that was the plan, maybe they should have made it more clear to Hart in his contract negotiations. “Say, Kevin,” they might have said, “we plan to hang you out to dry if activists go through years-old material to find something offensive, declaring you to be inappropriate unless you willingly go along with the public beating. How’s that sound?”

Clearly, Hart didn’t like the sound of it when the Academy did hang him out to dry, but at least he would have been prepared for it. Unfortunately, every comic worth hiring for the gig understands exactly how the Academy supports its partners in their big broadcast — or more accurately doesn’t. That may be why the Oscars will go without a host for the first time in 30 years, opting instead for a Rube Goldberg-ish rotating set of players:

Late night hosts might seem an obvious choice, given their national profiles and history with the show (think Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and David Letterman). But the Academy is now said to be gun shy about going with someone anyone who might be too edgy or “off the cuff,” noted an industry source. Then again, going too safe could be fatal for the show’s record-low ratings — the telecast was watched by 25.6 million people in March, a 19 percent drop from the previous year.

Another option being tossed around is not having any host at all, but rather “a bunch of huge celebs, something ‘SNL’ style, and buzzy people to throw to commercial,” the insiders said.

They don’t want “off the cuff,” they don’t want edgy, but they don’t want to play it safe, either. They want something scripted, predictable, and yet pseudo-extemporaneous and with enough wattage to draw people. Maybe Amy Klobuchar is available!

If that’s what the Academy wants, though, good luck riding herd on “a bunch of huge celebs” trying to share the stage and sticking with any discipline. Having a single host makes it a lot easier to deal with pacing and the game plan. That person has a significant stake in the success of the production. It’s bad enough when the “huge celebs” start improvising at the podium for the awards — imagine what a night of a dozen A-listers mugging for the cameras with nothing to lose might look like. (Or God help us, B- or C-listers.)

Here’s a suggestion for this year’s Oscar broadcast: stop with the comedy and the speeches altogether. Hart’s departure gives AMPAS the opportunity to make a radical change to their format. Have an emcee simply open the show with a montage of notable films, move directly into the awards and performances of the nominated songs, and hold the acceptance speeches in front of the press in a side room. That will not only eliminate the need for hosts entirely, it will also eliminate most of the sneering condescension that has driven off a large part of the audience from this show over the last couple of decades. Plus, the show might finish sooner than the average Monday Night Football game for the first time in a few decades, too.

Addendum: Count me in with Guy in acknowledging that some of Hart’s comments were objectionable — but Hart had already apologized and changed his approach. “Encouraging people to grow & reconsider views is ~always preferable to punishment,” Guy rightly tweeted on Friday. Since Hart had already done this, the lesson appears to be that it’s useless to do it, since the online torch and pitchfork mobs will never forgive and never forget. Maybe that’s something AMPAS and other producers should keep in mind before leaving their partners twisting in the wind.

David Strom 10:01 PM on September 26, 2022