After the media whiplash that was Kevin Hart's acceptance and then resignation of Oscar hosting duties, reports now suggest that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science is considering going hostless for the first time since 1989. The situation comes amidst a growing narrative that hosting the show is now the most thankless job in Hollywood. Seth MacFarlane, who hosted the show in 2013 to decidedly mixed reviews, has chimed in saying as much.
“Look, it’s a gig that has all eyes on it,” MacFarlane told Entertainment Weekly. “And when you’re doing something that’s that much in the spotlight, with that much focus on it, that much intensity, you’re going to have a lot of opinions from a lot of people. I’m trying to think of the last time that I read a review of the Oscars the next day where everyone is raving about it—it’s been a long time.”
"It’s not an easy job, and I’m not surprised that they have a tough time finding takers," he continued.
The specifics of Hart's situation have been dealt with elegantly elsewhere, but it shouldn't be too controversial to point out that the target audience for younger bro-friendly comedians like Hart, MacFarlane, and, to a degree, last year's host Jimmy Kimmel, is not exactly that of people who get really, really excited about the Oscars.
MacFarlane compares trying to make the Oscars modern to "fitting a square peg in a round hole," but that could also describe some of the perplexing host choices they've made in recent years.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that a whole lot more women watch the Oscars than men. It's a night where high fashion is often as important as the actual awards in many a viewer's mind, and the most anticipated trophy might actually be Best Actress. More than 60 percent of the audience is often female, and last year 27 percent of the audience was women in the 18–49 demo (just 22 percent was men in that same demo). Nielsen's rating don't track for this, but, anecdotally, we can all safely assume that some of the most devoted male Oscar watchers are gay. After all, long before the finale of RuPaul's Drag Race, the Oscar's were the original "Gay Super Bowl." Aside from devoted film nerds (bless them, because someone has to care about the best editing race), we might also assume that a good deal of those male viewers are watching because their wives and girlfriends decided what was on TV that night. The Oscars apparently want to broaden its audience, but sometimes it feels like it's only angering its natural base.
MacFarlane asks when was the last time a host got good reviews the next day, but perhaps he should be asking when was the last time someone the majority of the audience actually liked hosted? Probably Ellen back in 2014, and she delivered the second-best-rated Oscars in the past decade.
This all seems like an ongoing problem of the Oscars' own making. If they want to make it look like a fun gig again, perhaps give it to someone who actually makes it seem fun (Kimmel and Chris Rock both hosted with a reserved sense of disdain for the whole affair) and who the core audience is more predisposed to find fun.
We suspect, despite its "Gay Super Bowl" reputation, to the serious, straight men who still very much run large swaths of Hollywood (and sit on the AMPAS board), this is a potentially career-making night for them and the studios they control. One has to wonder if they and their egos think having their works showered with gold statues of a nude man is somehow more dignified if the whole event is emceed by a safe, straight male entertainer.
How else to explain the historic lack of female hosts, and perplexing choice to not have had one yet in a post-#MeToo era?
We gave our choices for potential female hosts last year, but perhaps the Oscars should start thinking about two-person teams hosting again as a way to both try to please broader swaths of the population (and take some of the perceived pressure off a single individual). Yeah, we all know James Franco and Anne Hathaway were a bomb, but Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin's gig in 2010 was a relative ratings smash. People still fondly recall Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's years hosting the Golden Globes (not to mention the fact that people seem juiced about Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg's turn this year). Why not Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell? Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen had a lot of fun essentially being shadow hosts at this year's Emmys.
Though, obviously, there's always that weird energy of ABC not wanting to bow to legacy of NBC's Saturday Night Live nor promote stars on other platforms at play here, another example of this being an issue of Hollywood ego's own making.
Sigh, there's always some issue of potential Hollywood ego-bruising and -coddling at play here.
The point is, maybe AMPAS and ABC brass should stop trying to solve the hosting problem on their terms, and instead at least experiment with giving the people who actually watch the thing year-after-year what they want.