OSCARS: Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Play It Safer This Year With Star-Studded Show Led By Ellen

Some people were surprised when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 2013 Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron backthe-academy-oscars-new-logo-1 to run the 2014 telecast. After all, that was the Seth MacFarlane-hosted show that caused controversy (“We Saw Your Boobs,” anyone?). You have to wonder what he might have done with 12 Years A Slave or The Wolf Of Wall Street this year! The reviews, though, were mixed to negative (I actually liked the attitude MacFarlane brought — different), with critics saying the show had too many musical segments and a James Bond tribute that, other than Shirley Bassey’s rendition of “Goldfinger,” fell flat. But it scored well in the AwardsLine.LogoBWratings and actually added a lot of previously missing young males to the typically female-driven viewing demographic. Zadan and Meron return this year in triumph after single-handedly reviving the live Broadway musical The Sound Of Music with their smash-hit version that starred Carrie Underwood and aired on NBC in December. Critics balked at that, too, but who’s laughing now? (Peter Pan is the next live musical they will do for NBC). Perhaps in a bid for more universal appeal, the producers are bringing back past Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres for what promises to be a much safer, more female-friendly telecast. Ellen is, well, Ellen, and very likable, so you know what you’re getting. The ABC promos just reinforce that.

Related: Oscars To Fete 75th Anniversary Of ‘Wizard Of Oz’

craig-zadan-and-neil-meron-asked-back-to-produce-the-2014-oscarsWith a salute to real-life, fictional and animated movie heroes, the producers have come upon a theme this year that promises to be what they call “entertaining and emotional.” At this year’s Oscar nominees lunch, Zadan told me he is happy with how the show is going so far, but the pair is keeping many details close to the vest, other than some already-announced best song performances from Pharrell Williams, Idina Menzel, Karen O and U2 (perhaps brokered when they were deep in conversation with song nominee Bono at that same lunch). Bette Midler also is going to perform for the first time on an Oscarcast and will make what the producers are terming “an especially moving evening”. Hmmmm. She reached out after the announcement to fans on Twitter asking for song suggestions, but the line about “moving evening” sounds to me like she will be doing something more in concert with the In Memoriam segment than “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”.Poitier OK, so “Wind Beneath My Wings,” anyone? (keep in mind I correctly guessed Barbra Streisand singing “The Way We Were” last year after a similar cryptic announcement from Zadan and Meron). The producers also have announced a Pink performance for a “highly anticipated moment”. Double hmmmm. She was one of the highlights, no question , at the Grammys last month with her musical acrobatic act with Cirque du Soleil, so maybe she’ll be flying over the Oscar audience too?

Related: Q&A: Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron On “Historic” ‘Sound Of Music’ Special And ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini, ‘Smash’, Miley Cyrus

In terms of presenters, all four acting winners from last year (Daniel Day Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, Christoph Waltz, Anne Hathaway) will be handing Oscars to the acting winners this year as per Academy tradition. The Academy also announced the full list of presenters in one big press release at the crack of dawn Monday. And it is nice to see old Hollywood not completely forgotten by the presence of legends like Kim Novak and Sidney Poitier on the roster. Zadan and Meron said, “We  sought to include a tremendous diversity of stars to represent not only this year’s nominees, but the legacy of the motion picture business as well”.   86th Oscars®, Nominees Luncheon, Group PhotoThe “diversity” includes at least nine African-American stars including Poitier. After this year’s nominees luncheon class photo appeared, there was some media sniping about the overwhelming preponderance of white faces, especially in a year that sported so many great films driven by black talent. I think it would be a nice touch to give 87-year old  Poitier a prime spot, maybe Best Picture, as acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of his historic 1964 Best Actor win. Can you imagine that moment if he were to present to 12 Years A Slave? The Oscars need moments like that. As for the show overall, Meron offered only this at the nominees lunch: “We are actually thrilled to be producing the show for a second year in a row, and again [the Academy] has provided an incredible group of films with which to work. We are thrilled to have Ellen as our host because she is going to be bringing her specific brand of comedy with her, which we all love.” As for the rest, tune in March 2 on ABC.

Related: Deadline Awards Watch 63: The Oscars For Grownups Podcast

A version of this article first appeared in AwardsLine.

  1. “Critics balked at that, too, but who’s laughing now?”

    There’s a difference between laughing with the SoM Live and laughing AT the SoM Live.

  2. Looking at the presenters list 30% are black, when did black people become 30% American population, besides what a tiny percentage black audiences are to the international box office…
    Why does diversity mean adding more black people, could have had Asian presenters… Add it’s 12 years a slave , all these black presenters and nominees .. Think I will pass this year on the Oscar’s , heard enough black power America racist blah blah, with Obama as President for the last 6 years., especially when the fact is, black people are over represented in American culture & politics , not under.
    Golden Globes is a better show anyways, I’ll stick with that…. There only so much of Hollywood patting itself in the back I can watch.

    1. You are not going to watch the Oscars because there are too many black presenters???? Seriously?
      When did presenting an Oscar (which means you have attained of level of success in your career field) equate to racist black power.
      Sorry but the racist in this situation is NOT the Oscars, but the person who took the time to add up all of the presenters and figure out the percentage of black people to complain about.

  3. “Diversity” = Black.

    Who are far out-numbered by Latinos, but have a stronger lobby.

    Poor Asians have nobody to help their case…

  4. last year was, by far, the worst Oscar show in memory. Forget the opening – five minutes of the host justifying being the host – the great hard working artists who got to this point, clumping their achievements together with other nominees. INSULTING.

    Let’s not even talk about Neil and Craig’s unabashed self promotion.

    the academy should be ashamed they hired them again/

    who would have ever thought the Golden Globes would have been the highlight of the awards season?

    at least the dress designers will get their due

  5. I’m thrilled Kim Novak was selected. My feeling is most people don’t even know who she is, but for a very brief moment in the 1950’s, she was the biggest female box office star in the world. She didn’t get a lot of great roles, but when she did – PICNIC, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, VERTIGO, MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT – she was brilliant. She did a really moving interview with Robert Osborne last year on TCM where she revealed that she suffered from bipolar disorder and how this – and a difficult relationship with her father – made dealing with Hollywood overwhelming. Hats off to Zadan/Meron for giving Kim Novak her due.

    1. Kim Novak is a class act and it will be the only reason I’ll watch the Oscars this year. There was a time when the Oscars were full of surprises and fun to watch on live TV without the 7 second delay. Now it seems so corporate. And the Oscars don’t even want to show the honorary awards to old folks on the show, they’ve shoved them into their own evening (imagine Charlie Chaplin getting his special Oscar now which would be reduced to a few sentences on the TV, opposed to the astounding emotional 7 minute standing ovation he received and at the height of the hippie youth culture in 1970). You can brag all day about adding so much class to the telecast by getting rid the “campy” dancers but in reality the ratings were much higher when there were on with those over the top numbers (anyone for having Joel Grey repeat “Lights Camera Action” again, or that sexy Ann-Margaret dance that opened the 49th show?).

      Seth MacFarlane was very funny to guys like me, the only thing he missed is that after the nazi announced the Von Trapps had escaped, he should have had Christopher Plummer enter with his Von Trapp kids from the film for a reunion of the world’s most famous actors from the world’s most famous film. Now that’s entertainment.

      The Golden Globes under Amy & Tina is now THE award show to watch. Spot on acerbic humor coupled with semi tipsy actors bumping into walls on their way to the podium who forget what to say when they arrive. All live with no delay. Now that’s entertainment II.

    2. I agree that Kim Novak is a class act and will stick around to see Oscars to see her. And I heard that Stana Katic will also present which I hope to see. Bette Midler is ok but these folks who think they have present their liberal views or flavor of the month are not what I watch the show for. The comment about dancing and singing from the past is true. It was entertaining to watch the show then.

      1. Bette Midler is singing, not sharing her “liberal” views so not sure why you had to inject that.
        Stana Katic is more of a flavor of the month than Pink- Pink is a Grammy-winning artist with over a decade of best-selling albums and hit singles. So make sure that you’re not being hypocritical in your analysis of who’s a flavor of the month, a liberal who might ruin the show and who could add something positive to the telecast.

  6. Ellen de Generis was the best Oscar host ever. Her Twitter bit, and her pizza bit, provided upbeat and charming and even hilarious interludes to the boring droning thank-you speeches, all of which went on way way way too long. Ellen should be the host every single year. Next to Billy Crystal, she is THE BEST.

  7. Please don’t ever do what you did to Mr. Poitier and Ms. Novak again. They were both obviously in a physically weakened and confused condition. To see them publicly exposed to their former colleagues and the world in their condition was heartless, cruel and heartbreaking to those of us who remember them in better days.

  8. The show was a mess, but it had little to do with DeGeneres and everything to do with the producers. The songs from Pink and Midler were a waste of airtime. Why honor Judy Garland — one of the greatest voices of the 20th century — with a mediocre singer from the 21st century? Why honor the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz and snub all of the other films of 1939, considered the seminal year in film history? Why snub 1939’s biggest winner — Gone With the Wind — just because of its controversial and inaccurate depiction of slavery? Instead of throwing the enormously popular and historic GWTW to the wind, which the Academy did, the Oscars should have embraced their own flawed history, talked about it, celebrated all the outstanding films of 1939, including GWTW and Hattie McDaniel’s historic Oscar win, and noted the difference between then and now. History took care of itself with 12 Years a Slave winning Best Picture, a natural conclusion to the context of 75 years passing. Dealing with that would have made for a very, very powerful show instead of the milquetoast mess it turned out to be. If the Academy and these producers learn anything, let it be to stick to the celebration at hand — CINEMA — and leave the texting, tweeting, cell phones, rock singers, and other marginal media mishugas at home and concentrate, the way the Oscars once did, on FILM and its players, history, and presence.

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