It's easy to speculate that this year's Oscar producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, are worried about what the reaction to Seth MacFarlane will be. You can say that when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler showed (a little late) how a real hosting strategy should be planned for every award telecast. It may explain why Zadan and Meron are digging into the musical superstar files and bringing them to the Oscars for some luster during the possibly wide comedy chasms.
And if there's any way to steal thunder away from even the crooner status of Seth MacFarlane, it's bringing Barbra Streisand onto the show to sing. Adding Norah Jones and Adele to the mix only makes the Oscars look a little too much like the Grammys or Tony Awards rather than an extravaganza about movies. Not that a musical concept is poison when all the other elements look a little iffy, especially in the predictability of the winners.
You could say "Argo" winning at the Producers Guild Awards and at the Screen Actors Guild Awards gave it away that the Oscars are going to give the Ben Affleck film the best picture prize. The Oscars are becoming a disadvantage in being so late in the movie season that any surprises are evaporating. All that's left is turning the Oscars into a general entertainment show the producers can only hope mainstream audiences will tolerate.
With Zadan and Meron at the helm, they know the philosophy of the stage where everything has to go on, no matter the problems. We only have to question whether a specific awards show can safely become something else for once just to save face. The advantage of the Golden Globes is that it can rely strictly on star power (and those schmoozing cutaways) to keep people transfixed.
An Academy Awards telecast almost always has too many lulls, instigating one too many bathroom, kitchen, grocery store, or vacation breaks for viewers. Whether musical performances this year can be strategically placed into the show to prevent those breaks will show us how perceptive Zadan and Meron are in understanding audiences at home. They should do what was done before: Have the musical performances scattered throughout the telecast during times when the show is slowing down.
It may turn out that Adele, Norah Jones, and Barbra Streisand will provide more water cooler talk the next day than anything said by MacFarlane or the winners. In fact, don't be surprised to see something unexpected with these performances, especially with Adele's ability to slip in four-letter words, Jones singing a song from a profane comedy, and Streisand perhaps doing something all her own. The only thing left would be something happening akin to what happened at a 1959 Oscars as full circle to the Broadway-inspired Zadan and Meron touch.
During the above 1959 broadcast, the show miraculously ended twenty minutes short, forcing all the winners and nominees to go up and stage and start dancing en masse to "There's No Business Like Show Business" as filler. The irony in all this is that a comedian was hosting: Jerry Lewis. He ultimately took the brunt of snark from critics on this improvised ending gone wrong.
Yes, that could be a warning to Seth MacFarlane if Barbra Streisand's segment moves along a little too fast.