Before I had the chance to write something snarky about Brett Ratner’s recent behavior and resulting resignation from his post as producer of the upcoming Academy Awards telecast (working headline: Breaking News: Brett Ratner Is Kind of a Douchebag*), news broke that Eddie Murphy, picked by Ratner to host the show, has also resigned.
This suggests we’ve dodged a bullet. Two months back, I wrote a hopeful post about Murphy, fingers crossed that we’d get an edgy, angry host willing to break a few rules on air. But in showing loyalty to Ratner instead of distancing himself from him, Murphy hints that the kind of host we’d have seen would’ve been the one most of us feared: the tame, schlocky, unfunny post-Klump Murphy, a guy who prefers making easy-paycheck family films and hanging with frat boy directors.
So where does that leave the Oscars? Don Mischer (who co-produced last year’s show) remains on board as producer, although it’s clear he won’t be going it alone for too much longer. Rumors are already floating about Brian Grazer being invited to step in, while fans have begun rallying for, shall we say, more interesting host options. The latter presents the Academy with a rare opportunity: not only are fans actively celebrating the loss of a producer whom they never wanted and a host whose prospects made them hedge their bets, but they’re also itching for something new. Here’s the chance for the Academy to earn a lot of good press and goodwill, and all they have to do is sidestep the corny and the conventional. Anything that suggests the telecast will be different from the last three – and, more importantly, different from the one fans feared they’d be getting this year – has the potential to create the sort of buzz Oscar hasn’t seen in years.
Finally, a suggestion: No matter who hosts, I’d like to see the show stop somewhere around 9:30 PM so the announcer can remind us that no matter how bad the show may be, we’ve still come out ahead; after all, there’s an alternate universe somewhere where we’re all watching Eddie Murphy in a fat suit cracking wise with Ben Stiller.
*(Filled with jokes about Ratner’s ninth-grade behavior, it would’ve been as hastily written and unfocused as this post wound up being. Go figure. For a better, more detailed examination of the Oscars’ unclear future, try this excellent piece by Mark Harris at Grantland.)