Ah, the role of the Oscar host: to entertain without being offensive, to crack jokes that aren’t too insider-y and to think on one's feet. Sounds simple in theory. But when it comes to practice, it can be a whole other story.
To concoct the perfect Oscar host formula, the Academy has tried it all. It's gone with one host to two hosts to four hosts. It's tried young hosts and old hosts. It's even run the show without a host -- does 1989 year ring a bell for anyone?
The telecast that year raised the curtains to a singing Rob Lowe and a dancing actress as Snow White. Things only got stranger as the evening progressed. But strange proved to be prosperous -- the program earned the title as one of the highest-rated Oscars of that decade.
After that go-around, the Academy hit the jackpot with comedian Billy Crystal. Considered to be one of the best Oscars hosts, Crystal began his run in the 1990s and continued to host on and off through 2004. After a slew of odd hosts cropped up after Crystal, the Academy asked the funnyman to return as its prime entertainer in 2012. Those stalwart Oscar viewers sure were nostalgic for the Crystal years. But somehow Crystal’s take as host just didn’t work, and he earned less-than-stellar reviews.
Still, Crystal goes down as one of the classic Oscar hosts. Add to that comedian Bob Hope, who held the honors a record 18 times. Hope was the first host to take the stage solo. And comedian Whoopi Goldberg was the first woman to do the same.
Most recently, “Family Guy” comedian Seth MacFarlane took the helm and certainly became one of the most memorable, or should we say naughtiest, of them all. But again the unexpected prevailed, and the show averaged 40 million viewers, giving the program its best ratings in years.
Also unexpected were hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco. The duo was deemed “of the moment.” It was the Academy’s attempt to reel in younger viewers. Hey, it takes trial and error. Only thing is, the pair didn’t have much chemistry. Hathaway? Too much energy. Franco? Not enough of it.
But when it comes to energy, this year the pendulum swings back to comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who reprises her role as Oscar host after 2007. A safe choice, a reliable choice. And a pro, who has hosted the Emmys and Grammys -- twice apiece.
As we’ve learned, a great host or pair of hosts can boost a telecast’s ratings. The Golden Globes have been cranking in record ratings for the past few years, and one of the reasons is that the jamboree has spun in the same always-funny, always-consistent hosts time and again. From 2009 to 2011, Ricky Gervais ran the show. And for the past two years, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler took the helm, with another year on their contracts. Viewers like it.
Now let’s see what they think of DeGeneres, take two.
Before that happens, though, you many recall the hosts you personally came to love or loathe. Take a look at our photo gallery above to read about the hosts who’ve taken the stage since the Academy Awards premiere telecast in 1929, with Academy president Douglas Fairbanks as host. Boy, have times changed.
Follow Christy Khoshaba on Twitter @ChristyKhoshabaCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times