New Oscar hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway have one important thing in common

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Let the Monday morning quarterbacking begin! Judging from my texts and e-mails, the instant reaction to James Franco and Anne Hathaway being named as co-hosts of next February’s Academy Awards is pretty much the same. In a word: incredulous. Or as one industry executive put it: ‘How many people do you think turned ‘em down before they got to Franco and Hathaway?’

It’s true. Franco and Hathaway are likeable and talented, but they surely don’t fit the traditional model of an Oscar host, who has almost always been a comic personality (except for the choice of song-and-dance-man Hugh Jackman in 2009). However, I think there was an obvious method to this madness. If you wanted to describe, in a word, the whole modus operandi behind the Oscar host choices, it would be: young.


The key stats for the new Oscar duo are that Hathaway is 28 and Franco is 32. (I’m sure some Oscar blogger is already digging through the Academy history books to see if anyone that young ever pulled a hosting assignment.) At any rate, guess what has been killing the Oscar’s TV ratings, year after year? The show’s inability to draw young viewers. The Oscars skew old. So the Academy was faced with little alternative. It can’t force its membership to vote for younger actors as nominees. But it can at least put younger faces out in front for its TV show, even if they don’t possess anything that would resemble TV hosting experience.

But hey, at least their ages could give the Oscar writing staff some good material to work with. Why not start with a skit revolving around the 1992 awards show, when Franco and Hathaway bullied their parents into letting them stay up late to see if ‘Silence of the Lambs’ would beat out ‘Bugsy’ for the best picture statuette? (Not that either of them would’ve been old enough back then to see either film.) I’m not complaining, but going young isn’t going to help the Oscars woo more younger viewers, not when it’s the whole concept of an elite awards show that no longer matters to anyone under 30.