I go into every awards show feeling the same way about it. I tune in wanting to enjoy and see if my predictions are right, check out the speeches, appreciate the fun moments, and then think about what my speech will be like if I ever get up there some day. What I inevitably get, however, is a lot of frustrating choices by the show’s producers, at least a few eye rolls thanks to the host, more than one audible beseeching of a winner to please. For the love of GOD. Just. Stop. Talking, and at the end of it, a sort of shrug and the questioning whether or not these things even matter anymore.
I mean, they do, but if people stop caring, and stop watching, maybe they don’t? I don’t know. What I do know is that there is definitely much that we, and by extension the Oscars, can learn from what we saw with the Emmys the other night.
For starters, I think the notion of a host has become sort of untenable until someone who is actually the right person for the job can step up and do something that will appeal to more than a select few. Also, someone who can poke fun at the notion of celebrity without actually crossing the line into being offensive. I know that I just wrote about how I believe there’s no such thing as crossing the line, but that’s only if something is funny. If you take a big swing and it connects, you’re golden. If you swing and miss, then there are consequences that must be paid.
Which is where I come to Cedric the Entertainer. I accurately predicted that he would piss some people off, and while he clearly did, he also didn’t seem to be bothered by it. I respect that to the Nth degree, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed his work as a host.
I continue to believe there is that perfect person — indeed, there are plenty of them — who is charming enough to step into this role and really knock it out of the park. Since we’re now focusing on the Oscars, I will toss out the name Dwayne Johnson as a candidate. I will also point out that Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis had a fantastic idea to host the show in 2012, in which they were going to pretend that the producers couldn’t find a host and were going to talk all about that, and then the pair would show up as if they were asked at the last second and act like they didn’t know the jokes and didn’t know where the cameras were and were constantly flustered.
They were turned down then, but why on Earth would that not work now? Seriously, there hasn’t been a host for two years, so how could this be worse?
Speaking of worse, there really has to be some kind of limit, maybe even a physical hook, for ridiculous speeches. I love Scott Frank, I think he’s a brilliant writer and filmmaker who has written two of the three good cinematic Elmore Leonard adaptations — those would be Get Shorty and Out of Sight, with of course Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown being the third — and I thought The Queen’s Gambit was the best thing on TV this year, but jeez, that speech.
There should be a rule about these things: celebrate your win, celebrate your profession and how lucky you are to be paid to do it and be recognized for your brilliance, thank a few people who helped you get there, and then get the hell off the stage. It was nice that he spent so much time thanking so many people, but the length of it, including the tribute to Anya Taylor-Joy that went on and on? Oy. Let’s just get up there, say something nice, ideally something funny and/or charming, and then be gone. Nobody cares about the rest of it.
Basically, do what all the Ted Lasso winners did. Each of them was great in their own way, and each got up, got it done, and got out. Text book.
In that vein, can we get rid of the production numbers? If you want to do some kind of a bit, make it short, and make it funny. The stuff Billy Crystal used to do was dynamite, but why do we need to hear Rita Wilson rapping? People tune into these things to look at the fashions, see who wins, and what they have to say about it. They don’t tune in to see a tribute to Biz Markie, who was a talented guy, no question, but what, exactly did he have to do with television? I mean no disrespect here, but … am I missing something?
One thing I think the Emmys does well that the Oscars continues to struggle with is time management. They have a ton of categories in different disciplines, and yet the show always seems to come in around three hours. The Oscars can’t get out of its own way in that regard, and it feels to me like the show’s next producers could take a lesson from this show here. Personally, I would actually lose several Oscar categories, but that’s probably a column for another time.
Which brings me to the true highlight of the night: Conan O’Brien. Maybe all awards shows from now on should just hire him to keep things light and funny, to poke fun at the proceedings — of which, by the way, each of these awards shows could use quite a bit more — and maybe even let the audience in on the joke. Conan didn’t win anything, crashed Stephen Colbert’s victory party, was hilarious in his spontaneous tribute to/heckling/trolling of TV Academy President Frank Scherma, and completely stole the show.
Come to think of it, how about just let him host all these things, from now on? If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences won’t let Will and Zach do their thing, and they want people to start tuning in again, are you really going to tell me that folks won’t dial in to see what Conan comes up with? Poppycock.
These shows mean something. They mean something to the industry, and they mean something to millions of people who get really into this kind of thing. We’re living in difficult times that are far more complicated than they were when this show aired two years ago, but there is nothing you can say or do to convince me that the people who have stopped tuning in can’t be recaptured.
We still love movies. We still love TV. We still enjoy celebrating both. Maybe if the Film Academy and the TV Academy can get together and find a way to do that, and bring those people back, they’ll save themselves and their shows in the process.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.