In 2011, the Oscars made the head-scratching—if undeniably bold—choice to have actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco co-host the award show. Not quite a match made in heaven. In high school terms, Franco is the bright but underachieving kid getting stoned in the parking lot and Anne Hathaway is the student body president who is also the lead in the school play. If they were dating, you’d say, “Huh, I guess opposites really do attract.” Nonetheless, host together they did and the results were memorably awful. They never found a rhythm, Franco seemed bored, Hathaway began to get a little twitchy. There were even some conspiracy theories that Franco had intentionally tanked the hosting gig as part of some performance art project. (He insists he actually tried to do a good job. #NancyPelosiClap)
So the Academy knew exactly what to do the next year—return to the most reliable, well-received, universally beloved host in recent memory: Billy Crystal. A slam dunk, right? Not so fast. Crystal’s performance felt dated, irrelevant, hopelessly out of touch (he did his Sammy Davis Jr. blackface, for God’s sake.) And suddenly, thanks to social media, we were seeing the public’s less than enthusiastic reaction in real time.
That’s the thing about social media—you can’t hide from it. We look back nostalgically at the hosting gigs of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Crystal and think they were the kind of smooth, urbane raconteurs that they just don’t make anymore. But what if social media, with its pack mentality and uncharitable instincts, was around back then? Something tells me they wouldn’t have been received quite as enthusiastically. (Conversely, I think Dave Letterman’s much maligned, “Oprah/Uma” shtick might’ve turned into a great meme.)
Suffice it to say, Billy Crystal isn’t the only recent host who didn’t nail the gig.
Ellen did fine, in an anodyne way, although she started an obnoxious tradition of letting the unwashed masses rub shoulders with the famous stars. (The little people! They’re nothing like us!)
The multi-hyphenate Neil Patrick Harris seemed like he would be a perfect host, but he got off to a rough start and never recovered, getting increasingly desperate as the show went on (remember the lockbox?)
Seth MacFarlane brought his frat-house style of humor to the proceedings, with predictably stupid results. (“I Saw Your Boobs”? Really, Seth?).
Jimmy Kimmel continued in Ellen’s tradition of being just fine! (By Oscar hosting standards, “just fine” is a cause for popping champagne corks.)
At this point, everyone knows what a minefield the Oscar hosting gig is so, understandably, very few celebrities are lining up for the job.
(My suggestion? Go with a rising star, not an established one. A rising star has much more to gain than, say, The Rock, who has little to gain and almost everything to lose.)
When the announcement came that Kevin Hart would be this year’s host, it was already on the late side. And then, Hart’s homophobic tweets were unearthed, the diminutive actor/comedian refused to give a full-throated apology, and we were back to the drawing board.
Yesterday it was finally made official: The Oscars would go on without a host.
And here’s the thing: I’m actually okay with this. No, there won’t be an opening monologue filled with hit-or-miss topical humor and GIF-ready celebrity reaction shots. But there will almost undoubtedly be some sort of filmed sketch or musical extravaganza (or both) to kick things off—and then we’ll go directly to the awards. Honestly, after the opening monologue, the host becomes a bit of an afterthought, anyway. And don’t worry, I promise there will be enough pretty people exchanging painfully awkward scripted banter to go around.