The Oscar show always seems to be a mix of time honored tradition and off-the-wall experimentation (remember that Cirque Du Soleil thing last year? Pharrell playing in the balcony of the Dolby Theater?) and 2013 was no different. While the Academy tried to court younger viewers by choosing “Family Guy” creator and “Ted” director Seth MacFarlane to host, the decision to pay tribute to movie musicals appealed distinctly to an entirely different demographic. So no surprise, the show was a mess.
So as we continue our assessment of the ceremony last night (see the list Oscar Snubs & Surprises right here) we’ve decided to run down ways things can be improved for 2014. Listen, anyone who declares they’re never watching the Oscars again is kidding themselves, and it will never be perfect, but it can certainly be much better than what we got last night. And if you really want to see what everyone was talking about, you can watch the entire broadcast right here. And if you have your suggestions, hit us up in the comments section.
1. Pacing. Hand out the awards right off the top, and keep things moving.
The signs that we were in for long, long night were apparent right from the moment Seth MacFarlane stepped out on stage. His opening monologue actually wasn’t too bad until it decided to never end, not only adding an unfunny, repetitive gag with a totally random William Shatner, but then continuing with an equally tedious musical number. It probably took about 15 minutes before the show started proper, but by then the energy had been severely deflated. In 2014, give the host 5 or 7 minutes at the most off the top, cut any extraenous sketches or gags, and kick things off by handing out a major award. That’s how you guarantee keeping ratings up, and audiences interested enough to prevent them from changing the channel.
2. Musical numbers kept to a minimum, if not cut entirely
Running with a theme that paid tribute to movie musicals, the concept was never fully intergrated or even well executed but moreover, it was a sign that the Academy has quickly forgotten mistakes from the past. For years, the musical numbers were often cited as a major reason behind the Oscar show running far too long and killing the momentum, and last night they accomplished both of those tasks. We got extended numbers for “Dreamgirls” and “Chicago,” which also had the added factor of being completely strange choices, particularly as both movies were honored extensively at the Oscars in their respective years (were there no classic movie musicals they could have chosen?). And that’s not mentioning sequences devoted to Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger,” Adele belting out “Skyfall” and the cast of “Les Miserables” singing their hearts out. For a moment, we thought we were at the Grammys. And oh yeah, capping things off with another MacFarlane number, this time joined by the irritating Kristin Chenoweth was a thumb in the eye. Learn (again) from your mistakes guys: (generally) musical numbers don’t connect, and last night, they were big factors in dragging the show down. For every Adele moment, we got three more that severely tested the limits of our patience.
3. Don’t give the host free reign
Though they were likely going for a sense of the unexpected anarchy he brings to his own programming, the seemingly hands off approach by the producers on host Seth MacFarlane unfortunately allowed him to indulge in his worst tendencies. There is nothing MarFarlane likes more than to take a joke and beat it into the ground, and much of his opening Shatner gag felt like that, a sentiment that was pretty much confirmed when it was followed by the “We Saw Your Boobs” song. And his attempts to be edgy — an orgy joke, Ted’s riff on Jews in Hollywood, the Rex Reed/Adele zinger — felt desperate and fell flat. A firm hand needed to come in and be brutally honest with MacFarlane and toss out whatever didnt’ work and force him to come up with better material. Next year, the Academy can’t be afraid to tell a host “no.”
4. Let ’em talk, don’t rush the Oscar speeches
It’s been months of campaigning, interviewing, hoping, dreaming and more, so how about letting the Oscar winners have a bit more time in the sun? While the Oscar telecast was more than happy to keep Seth MacFarlane’s terrible skits and gags and the extended musical numbers intact, it’s a shame that the actual winners were the ones rushed off stage. The acceptance speeches often create some of the most memorable moments for years and decades to come, so let’s give those folks a bit more time to cry, celebrate, collect their thoughts and truly express their gratitude. Sure, some of the speeches will be boring, but we guarantee even more will create the kind of movie magic that the Academy wants the show to be remembered for.
5. Find a way to go backstage with the winners during the show
This is will probably be the hardest to implement while keeping the Oscar show moving, but it could also be the most radical. While viewers are treated with literally hours of brainless, empty red carpet coverage, for some reason, we have to wait until the next day to see the winners truly let loose when they get backstage. The press scrum that each Oscar winner dives into when they walk off is massive, but here’s a way for the Academy to own it. Choose someone to anchor that stuff, and talk with each winner as they step behind the curtain in midst of the chaos and record it. If you get something truly special, do a quick edit, cut it and punch it into the show later on. Why? Just take a look at Jennifer Lawrence completely freaking out at randomly meeting Jack Nicholson backstage. This is the kind of truly warming, spontaneous, hilarious stuff the Oscar show needs more of and it’s more entertaining than 90% of what the MacFarlane and the Academy spent months working on.