In a smart post this morning, Zeitchik laid out his case:
The common belief is that Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wants to freshen up the show to reel in young viewers. But the truth of it is that the Oscars have already tried a youth movement, and it hasn't worked.
Back in 2006 and 2008, it tapped Jon Stewart, a paragon of campus comedy, to host the show. The move flopped: His 2006 [reviews] were middling. And while they were better in 2008, the show drew the worst ratings (31.7 million total viewers) of the modern era. Whoever came because of Stewart was more than offset by those who tuned out.
And as for last year's James Franco/Anne Hathaway show, well, we don't have to tell you how that went, right?
If any of the show's younger hosts had delivered killer ratings, we wouldn't be having this discussion. (Honestly, if Franco had done what he'd done this year but brought in a 40 share, the Academy would have had him and Hathaway back in a heartbeat.) And while there's an argument to be made that the show's ratings have as much to do with what's nominated as who's hosting -- incredibly popular movies like "Avatar," "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" will help land you more viewers -- it does seem obvious that the Academy isn't concerned that Crystal is largely irrelevant to people under the age of 30. (And when he tries to appeal to them with a Funny or Die video, it doesn't go well.)
The reason why the Oscars want to hook younger viewers isn't because they want to impress them, of course. To continue to thrive, the film industry desperately needs teens and 20-somethings to go to lots of movies -- they're the industry's most loyal customers -- but there are some possible signs that "the kids" just aren't as devoted to the theatrical experience as they used to be. Likewise, getting young people interested in the Oscars firmly establishes them as lifetime viewers. But by picking Crystal, the Academy seems to be deciding, at least for this year, that they don't care that their primary audience is only getting older -- or that younger viewers might only know Crystal as "the unfunny guy in 'Tooth Fairy.'"
With Billy Crystal hosting, have the Oscars given up on youth? [24 Frames/Los Angeles Times]
- Billy Crystal