After the startling news that the Academy was bringing back last year’s Oscar co-producer Don Misher and teaming him with, um, Brett Ratner (lord, it’s gonna be a long season) it appears one of the award show’s most famous faces has seen an opening.
Speaking at a 20th anniversary screening of “City Slickers” at the Areo Theater in Santa Monica, CA, eight-time Oscar host Billy Crystal made it clear he was ready to polish that monologue one more time.
According to the LA Times, Crystal was quoted as saying, “It got to be too much after a while and the sameness in my life. That’s why I pulled back. And then when I thought I might want to do it again, they were on to other people. It’s always fun. It’s really hard, but maybe one or two more times? I don’t know. They know where I am.”
The truth is Crystal has wanted to host again for years, but the producers and the Academy brass were trying to go in new directions. And after Crystal’s 2004 gig it was clear, at least for the moment, that the comedian’s Shtick had gotten a bit stale. That lead to some intriguing but temporary choices including Chris Rock (the David Letterman of the 00’s), Jon Stewart (so nice he came back one more time), Ellen DeGeneres (way too tame), Hugh Jackman (classy but not looking to do it again), the Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin combo (that didn’t work) and this past year’s pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco (that really didn’t work). Besides the happy memories of his run in the ’90s to wash away the pain of last year’s disaster, Crystal has something else on his side: ratings. Since 2001, no show has pulled in a bigger rating number than when Crystal landed a 26.68 in his last go around. It’s worth noting, however, that was the first year the show aired in February and the popular “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” was crowned champ. Rock actually did almost as well hitting 25.29 with the less audience friendly “Million Dollar Baby” creating little drama the following year. Since then? A ratings roller coaster. Let’s be clear, ABC wouldn’t mind Crystal’s return, even if it meant the younger demo deserts the program for a year.
Whether Crystal should return creatively is another question. On the one hand, his presence could alleviate fears over the Ratner-Misher combo behind-the-scenes. There is absolutely no way Crystal would let the show unravel to the point of dysfunction that seemed to be the mantra of the last two years. And yet, standing ovation aside, Crystal’s short monologue during the last Oscar telecast made him seem out of touch and, well, a bit too old school.
In the history of Oscar hosts, it took the Academy a long time to find a regular replacement for the “original” emcee Bob Hope. That turned out to be Johnny Carson. After Carson stepped away after the 1984 show, it was six years until Crystal came on the scene. Should the Academy really delay it’s ongoing search for the next “regular” host one more year? Considering all the problems caused by this past year’s fracas, safe may be the best option all around.
Do you think Billy Crystal should host this year’s show? Or, has his time passed? Share your thoughts below.
For year-round entertainment commentary and Oscar news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.