It’s time for what’s sure to become an annual debate since the last Oscar ceremony did fine without an emcee. What do we do this year: Host? Or no host?
Or do we finally get serious about an idea that’s been bouncing around the Internet at least since Kevin Hart ditched the gig after flirting with it in December of 2018: Why not a RoboHost?
Really. If robots can build cars, flip hamburgers, and have sex, they can certainly prance across a stage and tell pre-programmed jokes for three hours. Given the current state of AI technology, this wouldn’t even be a challenge; and it would certainly save the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a lot of grief when its governors next meet, on October 22.
No more fretting about gender. A sexually ambiguous robot host can start the show as a man, end up as a woman, and transition in between. Something for everyone, with no messy arguments about inclusiveness and gender balance.
Pay is not an issue. In fact, the host job will be a branding opportunity for ambitious tech companies. The Academy can put it up for sale, and give the spot to the highest bidder, assuming compliance with minimal specs that may or may not have been met in the past by James Franco and Anne Hathaway.
But programmers can already start working on the laugh lines. They can open with a gag about too many white guys. That should be safe, given the big cluster of seasonal films with white male leads – Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt (twice), Benedict Cumberbatch (also a couple of times), Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jake Gyllenhaal, Colin Firth, Michael Shannon, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, and heaven only knows the rest.
RoboHost could arrive in a self-driving Tesla: More branding, and a pre-written joke about The Current War. Mid-show, he-she-they could one-up Ellen’s Samsung selfie by robo-calling stars in the front row, maybe leaving fake messages about stolen Social Security numbers and IRS liens. Maybe Verizon will buy in.
With a little promotion, ratings should be through the roof. Who wouldn’t tune in to see a robot do Billy Crystal impersonations?
RoboHost should be almost infinitely reusable. As tech improves, you drop in a new circuit board, and the jokes just get funnier.
Even better, the host can have a three-button kill switch. The show producer can have one. Academy chief Dawn Hudson gets another. Bob Iger of Disney, which owns ABC, gets the third. One false step, and RoboHost starts spouting dialogue from Star Wars.
Robotics might still be a bit cold. But they’re safer than a song-and-dance from Seth MacFarlane.
And even artificial intelligence is better than none at all.