The 2019 Oscars were left without a host when Kevin Hart withdrew two days after being named to the job over controversial decade-old tweets, and efforts to get him back failed. The Academy and ABC forged through with no host for the first time since 1989, betting on big-star presenters and big moments instead. While they fell onto that setup by necessity, not by design, it worked. Now The Academy and the Oscars’ producers are considering doing it again — though possibly with a twist.
A Queen medley followed by a set of “not hosts” Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph got off the 2019 ceremony to a hot start, with the Lady Gaga-Bradley Cooper performance of “Shallow” providing that “moment” Oscar producers dream about.
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Having Fey and Poehler — major stars and accomplished hosts, having emceed the Golden Globes three years in a row to strong reviews — was a key ingredient to the host-less 2019 Oscars’ success.
The Academy is believed to be following a similar blueprint this year, going after top entertainers to give the show the burst of energy a good opening monologue by a host provides. Depending how that search goes, current plans for the upcoming 92nd Academy Awards could change, insiders stress.
While the 2019 Oscars were labeled host-less, sources caution that calling the upcoming ceremony that would be misleading. While there may bot be a traditional host like Jimmy Kimmel was in 2017 and 2018, the Academy reportedly is looking to evolve the show from last year with a bigger presence by A-list entertainer(s). Nobody has been set yet, and no announcement is expected until after the holidays, sources said.
The more streamlined 2019 ceremony, which was 30 minutes shorter than the 2018 telecast, saw a 12% uptick in viewers and 13% in the adults 18-49 demo over the 2018 show hosted by Kimmel, which had hit an all-time low in total viewers.
“We’re extremely proud of how the show turned out creatively,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said in May, hinting that the network is OK if the Oscars go without a host again in 2020. “We’re not messing with that format, to the best of our abilities.”
The Academy Awards ceremony is controlled by AMPAS. ABC, which plays a lot of money to broadcast it until 2028, can give advice and make recommendations, and has done so recently — including an insistence to keep the show to 3 1/2 hours. (It clocked in at 3 hours, 23 minutes this year vs. 3 hours, 53 minutes the year before.)
Possibly fueled by curiosity and Hart’s highly publicized exit, the host-less Oscars did well in February. But when the Primetime Emmys went the same route in September, ratings sank to a low.
There was chatter over the past couple of months that the Academy was exploring returning to a hosted format, with Hart and Tiffany Haddish’s names being floated as possibilities, but that did not seem to get a lot of traction. Hart had turned down previous overtures, and he is still recuperating from a major back surgery after a car accident.
The 2020 Oscars producers, Stephanie Allain and Lynette Howell Taylor, are also facing a compressed time table, with a shorter awards season leading to a February 9 date for the Academy Awards live on ABC.
On the bright side, there a lot of popular movies in Oscar contention this year which always helps to spark viewer interest for the telecast — those include Joker, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood and The Irishman. And a slew of A-list actors are getting awards attention, which could make for a star-studded list of presenters.
It also could include someone who almost hosted the Oscars before and has been on the host wish list for years: Eddie Murphy.
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