Brian Grazer to the rescue

Well, that was quick. Though when you’re starting from scratch to mount a major television event in a little over three months, with host and star producer both off the project, taking your time isn’t really an option.

So it is that hedgehog-haired mega-producer Brian Grazer — an Academy Award winner himself for “A Beautiful Mind” a decade ago — is joining Don Mischer to steer the 2011 Oscar show, taking over from the disgraced Brett Ratner.

It’s always hard to predict what sensibility film folk will bring to live events like this, but Grazer seems a safe, if not particularly inventive, pair of hands for the job: probably a more sensible choice than Ratner ever was, though not someone you necessarily expect to give the show the radical overhaul it needs after two disastrous years.

Because I’m petty that way, I should admit that the first thought that popped into my head when Grazer’s name was (as many had been expecting since yesterday) announced was: well, this sure means the powers that be at the Academy aren’t expecting a Best Picture nominee for “J. Edgar.” (Grazer produced the film, and while AMPAS didn’t object to having a nominee host earlier this year, having the whole show overseen by a potential prizewinner would represent an unworkable conflict of interest.) Ditto “Restless,” ditto “The Dilemma.” A nation mourns.

Meanwhile, if you were still holding out any hopes of an Oscar sweep for “Tower Heist,” best let them go — though it’s a little ironic that the Academy has replaced Ratner as producer with… Ratner’s own producer. It’s a veritable Russian-doll routine.

With the first fix in place, the replacement-host guessing games continue apace. Steve Martin, Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey are just some of the frequently bandied-about names that have long been in Grazer’s Rolodex: I expect him to go with someone not too off-the-wall, someone experienced who won’t mind being known publicly as plan B. With any luck, of course, he’s active on Twitter and has taken note of @MuppetOscars campaign. We can but dream.

At this point, I don’t really mind who hosts, as long as it’s someone reliable, professional and excited to be there. (Step back, Anne Hathaway, you had your turn. Okay, maybe I do mind.) The to-and-fro of the last few days have been both frenetic and dispiriting: here’s hoping Grazer and Mischer can quickly regain control over the situation and put on a good show with little time to spare. Whatever Brett Ratner thinks, some rehearsal may be required.