Given that he absolutely nailed the Tonys and the Emmys, hopes were high that Neil Patrick Harris was going to be one of the better Oscar hosts in recent memory. But the consensus from last night’s show seemed to be that Harris was something of a disappointment. He was obviously at the mercy of his material, some of which would likely have been rejected by Bob Hope (Christ, that predictions-mystery-box running gag), but he was also just a little off: a little too earnest in a way that suits Broadway, but not the Oscars opening so much; surprisingly snide in some of his asides (the Edward Snowden treason “gag”); and visibly draining in confidence as the night went on.
It’s feasible that Harris could return for another shot (and, with better writing and concepts, knock it out of the park), but with ratings down — more the fault of the lowest-grossing group of nominees in a long time than anything, but someone has to be a scapegoat — it’s unlikely to be for the 2016 ceremony. Which begs the question: who will host? Below, we’ve run down ten possibilities that we like. Take a look and let us know who you’d pick, and who else you think deserves consideration, in the comments.
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler
Pros: As everyone knows, the improv vets and sitcom stars have hosted the Golden Globes the last three years, and have killed each time (even if they’ve often been underused in the show itself). Smart, funny, and feminist, they were able to actually poke fun at Hollywood and its stars without alienating anyone (well, maybe Bill Cosby, but WGAF). They’re experts in live broadcast TV thanks to their ‘SNL‘ years, they’re hip enough for younger crowds but welcoming enough to the older ones, and with co-starring vehicle “Sisters” due for release at Christmas, are looking to conquer the big screen again.
Cons: They don’t want to do it. People have been clamoring for them to take over for the Oscars since their first Globes, but they made it clear that they’re retiring from the latter after last month’s ceremony, with Fey saying a few years ago “I would never want to do it. I think that’s just a much harder, more time-consuming job and a much more intimidating room.” And in fairness, the Globes is looser and more irreverent, a much better fit for the pair than the stodgier, more respectful Academy.
Pros: Besides Fey & Poehler, the most-touted potential hosts are one of the two late-night Jimmys: Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Fallon. The pair are now talk show veterans, and arguably sit atop that particular tree right now. Kimmel’s star-mateyness, mixed with slight edginess, has made him a stalwart, while Fallon’s re-invented a well-worn form with his informal manner, musical capabilities, and love for silly games (he’s proving increasingly influential on late-night and beyond). Kimmel seems to fit in more neatly with the big names (jokey Matt Damon feud and all), and as an ABC host, would be very on-brand for the network, but Fallon’s arguably the bigger name (his ratings have been impressive since taking over for Jay Leno), probably has a younger appeal, and could lead to a looser, more inventive show.
Cons: Well, ABC have seemed to be resistant to Kimmel, at least so far. Is he too valuable as the host of the regular “After The Oscars” special for them to send him over to the main show? Or was he too much outside the wheelhouse of musical-happy producers Zadan and Meron? Meanwhile, the big obstacle with Fallon would appear to be that he’s on a rival network, in this case NBC. It’s not been unheard of for someone to temporarily defect for the Oscars (see David Letterman in the ’90s, or Jon Stewart more recently), but if ABC can avoid plugging a rival’s show, they’ll probably do so. Also, neither have ever been particularly associated with the movies.
Pros: The late-night newcomer, British export James Corden takes over Craig Ferguson’s old slot in just a few weeks. The actor wasn’t an obvious choice for the gig (though neither was Ferguson, who became quickly beloved), but he seems like a solid go-to guy for something like the Oscars. He’s funny, but can be earnest too when needed, he’s got musical skills, as “Into The Woods” displayed, and is generally charismatic. He’s still relatively unknown in the U.S., but ‘Woods’ and “Begin Again” have helped to increase his profile, and that’ll only shoot up once his show begins. Plus, unlike Kimmel and (to a lesser extent) Fallon, he’s part of the movie world already.
Cons: He’s on a ‘Late Late’ show, rather than a ‘Late’ show, and it might be premature to see him doing the Oscars already. He’s also again on a rival network, which is problematic because of all the reasons stated above. It’s also relatively unheard of for a Brit to host (though an Australian’s done it in recent memory, so that’s not necessarily a huge problem). And though he has awards experience hosting the Brit Awards (essentially the U.K. Grammys), it wasn’t a rousing success. Corden can come across as a little smug with the wrong material, so it’d be very execution-dependent.
Hugh Jackman (again)
Pros: Hugh Jackman hosted the best recent telecast, back in early 2009, he’s a legit A-list star who’s hugely charming, has Broadway charisma, comic chops, and looks great in a tux. He can make fun of people in the opening, but in an inclusive way, and can also pull off the gravitas needed for the more serious portions of the show as well. He’s seen as one of the best-ever hosts by many, and it’d be a huge coup to get him to do it again.
Cons: It’s really difficult to get him to do it again. With regular Broadway gigs alternating with his movie schedule, it’s tough to squeeze in the weeks of rehearsal for the job. And 2016 looks particularly unworkable with a busy schedule that includes “The Greatest Showman On Earth” and “The Wolverine” sequel. Even if he was available, he might not do it. Jackman’s reportedly been approached most years since he first did it and has repeatedly turned it down. Perhaps he’d rather have the one great one rather than risk tainting it with a lesser return appearance? Also, it’s worth noting that Jackman’s year was one of the lowest rated in history, though that was likely not his fault.
Pros: It’s been a long while since we had a group-hosted ceremony (the 1989 ceremony didn’t have a presenter, and there were several instances in the ’70s and ’80s with multiple hosts), but if ABC wanted a way to boost the ratings, surely getting the stars of the biggest franchise around to team up to do it would be a great way. Most of the Avengers have presented awards, often memorably (Robert Downey Jr. usually kills it), and their group dynamic is proven. We’re not saying they need to do it in character, but it’d be a real coup if ABC were able to get everyone in to do a great opening sketch/shared monologue together, then handle a few awards each, and by splitting the duties, it might not need as much rehearsal time either. And it’d mean that even in a low-grossing year like this one, one of the year’s biggest movies would be headlining to draw audiences in.
Cons: Several. It’s hard enough to get the schedules of the stars together to make an Avengers movie, let alone host an awards ceremony, and many of the cast are likely to have other commitments that would preclude getting the whole line-up (which grows extensively over time) together. While Disney-owned ABC would love the idea from a corporate synergy point of view, it’s likely to be politically difficult with other studios, who’d be furious at the idea of a ceremony providing an extended commercial for a rival’s biggest franchise. It’s a nice idea, but pretty much an unworkable one.
Pros: Justin Timberlake’s another guy who’s been something of a triple threat: starting off as a singer, he’s become increasingly respected as an actor, working with David Fincher and the Coens. Furthermore, he’s a proven host, having become one of ‘SNL’’s most reliable and popular guest hosts (he even opened, with Fallon, the 40th anniversary special). Charming, debonair, and funny, he’s another guy who could unite the generations. He’s still big with the millennials, but has an old-school entertainer vibe that makes him perfect for something like the Oscars. Maybe he wouldn’t want to do it solo, but it wouldn’t be too hard to pair him with someone like Fallon, or a female co-host, especially given that he has chemistry with pretty much everyone.
Cons: Rumor has it that Timberlake has a new record on the way. He hasn’t appeared in a movie since last year, and doesn’t have anything firm lined up, so could be seen as returning more to the music world than to film. Maybe more importantly, is he seen as a little too new-school still for the relatively fusty Academy (the shadow of James Franco and Anne Hathaway remains a long one). Still, a pretty solid choice if you ask us.
Pros: Like Timberlake, Anna Kendrick’s also a triple-threat: Broadway-trained, blessed with killer pipes and supernatural comic timing, and an acclaimed (and Oscar-nominated) actress. She’s a big star who’s huge with the tweens thanks to the “Pitch Perfect” franchise, but also has respect from the old’uns thanks to “Into The Woods,” “Up In The Air,” and co. It seems like the Academy producers know that too: Kendrick was used twice this year, both in the opening number, and then presenting with Kevin Hart, proving to be one of the few people who could make the awkward writing sing. It’s almost like she was being tried out for the gig…
Cons: Kendrick’s very in demand, though right now at least, she’s not attached to any franchises with release dates far enough in the future that she’d be ruled out of the gig next year. It’s be an imposing task for one so young (at 30, she’d be one of the youngest hosts ever), and while we’re sure she’d be more than up to the task, again, the Franco/Hathaway year might make AMPAS and the producers reluctant to go with hands as untested as these. After all, Hathaway looked perfect on paper too — though in fairness, she was sunk by her co-presenter rather than by her own capabilities.
Pros: With all the deserved criticism of the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees, the Academy are likely to want to do whatever they can to fix, or look like they’re fixing that (indeed, there were a number of presenters last night that seemed planned as a corrective). It’s now a decade since we had a non-white host, with Chris Rock in 2005, and Kevin Hart, as one of Hollywood’s hottest new stars, seems like a tempting offer. Hart’s become box-office gold (go and see how much “The Wedding Ringer” has quietly grossed in the last month or so), is hugely popular, particularly among African-American audiences who were very much not tuning in last night, and he’s a terrific stand-up, but also one with a broad appeal. On paper, it’s a great idea, and he has awards-show experience having hosted the VMAs in 2012.
Cons: Hart’s still relatively new on the scene, even compared to Rock when he hosted, and the Academy might want someone who’s seen as more of an insider at this point. Also, Hart was tried out as a presenter last night and he seemed to fade into the background a little, decidedly overshadowed by Kendrick. Was he nervous? Not given enough to do? Either way, he might need to make more of an impression before being promoted to the bigger job.
Pros: Ellen hosted last year, but the Academy’s record of female hosts is still not a great one, and and it’d certainly be good to address that sooner rather than later. One of the more obvious choices might be Amy Schumer. A stellar stand-up who’s broken out on TV recently thanks to her Comedy Central show, she’s more than got the chops to pull off the gig, and perhaps most importantly, looks likely to crack the movies soon, with Judd Apatow-directed comedy “Trainwreck” hitting this summer. The success of “Ted” was all it needed for Seth MacFarlane to get the gig — surely if her movie lands, Schumer would deserve the same?
Cons: Schumer’s a button-pushing, taboo-busting comic, more alt-comedy than Catskills, and that’s potentially alienating for the Academy and their aged demographic. Perhaps more importantly, Schumer’s hosting the MTV Movie Awards this year, and it’s unlikely that AMPAS will want to be seeing as copying another rival ceremony so close to the fact. Schumer could be an option down the line, once time’s lapsed from that and she’s more established int the movies, but a 2016 gig seems very unlikely.
Key & Peele
Pros: We’re not gonna lie, these guys would be our absolute first choice. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have rocketed to fame in the last few years with their Comedy Central sketch show, gaining more and more fans by the year, even reaching the point where they were the subject of a New Yorker profile this month. That’s the kind of respectability stamp that puts them in contention for something like this. Their whip-smart comedy unites older and younger audiences, picking them would defuse some of the criticism the Academy faced this year, they’re making in roads into movies (Key’s got “Tomorrowland” coming up this year, for instance), and more importantly, they’re big film-geeks. One recent sketch saw them riffing on Oscar snubs and making insidery jokes about “Into The Woods,” while they also popularized the term “Liam Neesons.” And their amazing “Continental Breakfast” sketch concludes with a great homage to Stanley Kubrick. If given the chance, we suspect they’d knock it out of the park.
Cons: Sketch comics would be a somewhat unconventional choice for hosting something like this (though it didn’t hurt Fey & Poehler at the Globes, we suppose), and while Key, who’s trained as a dramatic actor, seems particularly well-suited, Peele’s more of a chameleon, comfortable in character more than as himself, as the framing segments of their show sometimes makes clear. If they can find a a way to make that work at the Oscars, they’d kill, but it would require the show to be built around them. Also, they’re still mostly a cult concern for comedy nerds: they’re not going to be a hugely ratings-boosting choice. Still, we’d love to see them get the shot.
Honorable Mentions: Who else? Well, previous hosts like Jon Stewart (who has a lot more free time suddenly), Chris Rock or Ellen DeGeneres are all viable, though both reportedly turned the job down this year (as did Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a somewhat more offbeat choice). Other talk show hosts like Conan O’Brien and Seth Myers are possible too, but have the same disadvantages as the ones above. Among the A-list movie stars, people like Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, or Chris Pine could all do well, but again, the Franco/Hathaway factor may make people hesitate. Ben Stiller and Jack Black normally do well in presenting bits, but could they sustain a whole ceremony? Still, they’re more likely than newer faces like Melissa McCarthy, or her “Ghostbusters” co-stars Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Cecily Strong, though that’d be a fun combination to see involved. Bill Hader seems fun, but like Jordan Peele, is arguably more of a Spirit Awards kind of guy. Anyone else? Let us know in the comments.