After what feels like the most dramatic award season in recent memory, the biggest show of the season, the Academy Awards, seems like it is on its way to not have a host for the first time since 1989.
On December 4th, 2018 comedian and actor Kevin Hart was announced as the host of the 2019 Academy Awards. Many fans and critics of the show seemed excited for Hart to take over the hosting duties. After last years all time low ratings (26.5 million viewers), the Oscars desperately needed something to help bring in huge numbers like they saw back in 2014 (estimated 43 million viewers). However, almost as soon as he was announced, the Academy decided to remove Hart as host on December 7th. The firing came just days after past tweets and stand-up performances were brought to the light showing Hart’s previous homophobic routine.
Hart would eventually apologize. Even appearing on Ellen to discuss the matter, seeming to get the out comedian and daytime talk show host’s seal of approval. However, nothing has changed as of today and the Oscars are set to air without a host.
The last time the Oscars went without a host was in 1989. This telecast is most known for Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White (honestly check it out on YouTube, it is a mess). The show was so disastrous that previous winners such as, Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, even wrote a letter to the academy criticizing the show for how embarrassing it was.
On the other hand, the telecast has been criticized in recent years for running over on time. Perhaps forgoing a host would keep the show from being longer than its three hour time slot. The host typically has an opening monologue plus additional cut aways for jokes throughout the show. Throughout the past few years it has felt as though the host has gotten lost in the shuffle of the show. Maybe abstaining from having a host will dismiss that critique.
The main purpose of the Oscars is to reward the winners and give them an acceptable amount of time to thank whomever they need to thank. For many winners this might be the first time in their career to experience this highly-regarded moment. Let them have more time to bask in the moment and give more meaningful speeches.
Despite that, it is important to not underestimate the effect a host can have on ratings. Not only do they promote the show through interviews and photo ops but also in commercials for the broadcast as well. In 2014, Ellen DeGeneres hosted the show to its highest ratings of the decade, it was not due to the fact that a stand out film was nominated. It was because DeGeneres used what she knew about how people were watching television, one eye one the tv and their fingers on the pulse of social media.
As of today, the Oscars still look to have no host on the horizon. It has been 30 years since the Oscars went without a host, much has changed in those years. Perhaps now is the time to experiment with a new way of doing things. Either way tune in to ABC on February 24th to see what happens on Hollywood’s biggest night.