The Oscars are a tricky beast. As much can be told by the annual agonizing over not only who wins, but what’s done right and — far more often — wrong during the ceremony itself. After all, the Oscars are a television event. They draw an audience consistently large enough to rank them among the Top 10 (or even five) most watched programs every year. The telecast itself is something worth breaking down, especially considering that so many people are tuning in for a three-and-a-half-hour broadcast.
This year, many critics, pundits and awards season vets were eagerly anticipating Chris Rock’s opening monologue and general opportunity to take Hollywood down a peg — even if everyone in the audience was likely on pins and needles hoping the camera didn’t cut to them for a reaction shot. So while #OscarsSoWhite trended all night, the actors, directors and other filmmakers in the theatre were consistently divided on whether or not to applaud, gasp or groan at the many ruthless attacks Rock made on their industry. And that’s just fine. Though he may not have gotten the doubled-over live reactions that a few past hosts earned, Rock was well-aware that the audience in front of him wasn’t the one he needed to please. Viewers at home had to enjoy and engage with every word he said.
And that leads us past his monologue to the pre-taped segments, including when he inserted himself (and other black actors) into Oscar-nominated films and when the comedian visited a theater in Compton to gauge reaction to the Oscars from a predominantly black audience. He even sold Girl Scout cookies for his daughters, harkening back to when Ellen DeGeneres bought pizza for the Oscar invitees a year ago. Frankly, Rock did just about everything right. At the very least, he did everything that was expected of him and then some, even if one or two jokes flopped (which is to be expected).
So why did the 88th Oscars still feel weighted down? What can be done to make the ceremony move a little bit faster even when the host is on point, and there aren’t any extra montages, honorary awards or other time fillers? That’s the topic of the week on Very Good TV Podcast with your hosts Liz Shannon Miller, Indiewire’s TV editor, and Ben Travers, the site’s TV Critic.
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