Can this awards show be saved?

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The Oscars telecast was a ratings disaster this year. Twenty-one percent less of America tuned in Sunday night than did last year, and in even worse news for the academy, the awards were abandoned by a full 25 percent more of the coveted 18-to-49 demographic compared to 2007.

We aren’t certain that the Oscars can be saved (or that they should be saved), but we agreed to ask our favorite entertainment bloggers, followers and commentators to tell us what they would do to get eyeballs back on the movie stars receiving accolades. Some of the suggestions include getting Gary Busey to host, and throwing some lie-detector magic into the show. Maybe they can be saved after all!

Q: Can the Oscars be saved?

A: “Easy: Shorten the ceremony and spice it up. Get Gary Busey to co-host with Miley Cyrus, and allow America to vote for at least one winner (ideally Ryan Seacrest would announce this award with some random high-pitched 14-year-old kid chosen by YOU). The cast from ‘High School Musical’ should perform all musical numbers, and, halfway through, they should allow Michael Bay to blow something up outside. Oh, and Jack Nicholson should be replaced in the front row by whatever character Pixar is pimping that year.”


-- Erik Davis, editor in chief,

A: “Clearly, it needs ‘more cowbell.’ By that I mean I would seriously consider adding some categories that the TMZ audience would find relevant: best original use of collagen-injections (Ms. Garner, take a bow!), or most likely to be found catatonic in a hotel hallway (‘Lindsay, sit down; we have good news: You’re going to the Oscars, sweetie!’).”

--Claude Brodesser-Akner, Los Angeles bureau chief, AdAge

A: “I actually think the ratings are toast no matter what you do. Films no one sees will never make for engaging TV. But if the Oscars website can be improved -- add more real-time video that can then be embedded elsewhere, bring in posts from outside blogs and Twitters that are commenting on Oscar winners and allow for on-site chat -- you can still up the audience involvement. The difference is they’ll be involving and engaging the same sort of niche audience that is drawn to those sorts of movies. So they need to be willing to trade mass reach for passionate engagement, which is a trade worth making.”

--Chris Thilk,

A: “I thought this year was pretty good. Funny host, limited musical numbers and only a few minutes over. Still, there are too many montages. So much so that the comedic montages were even a drag.”


--Paul Goebel,

A: “The ratings are going to drop a bit more each year because the Oscar show reflects the cares and passions of industry-ites (filmmakers, distributors, academy members, press, Web savants) who at least pretend to care about movies that emotionally engage or arouse or deliver insights about the human experience. This is pretty much what the ‘Gorilla Nation people’ in the malls -- the ones who just want to watch stuff like ‘Transformers’ or the ‘Hannah Montana’ concert movie and who basically prefer films that provide surface thrills or happy-pill highs--do not want to see. (Although they will occasionally.) The only way a big audience will come back is if some movie version of a ‘Barack Obama’ comes along, and that’s not very likely. ‘Titanic’ was the last time this happened. The Oscars can’t go home again because the homogenous America of the 20th century is pretty much gone. Except when something magical happens, and it returns.”

--Jeffrey Wells,

A: “They need to spend less time on the retrospectives and give people time to speak. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime dream to win an Oscar, give them time to say their thanks. Move the boring awards like editing and makeup to the technical night, and add in some crowd-pleasing categories -- best nude fight scene, best sex scene, best stunts. Or better yet, have the nominees duke it out in a celebrity death-match -- winner takes the trophy. C’mon, who wouldn’t have wanted to see Diablo Cody duking it out with Tamara Jenkins for the win?”

--Kim Voynar, managing editor,

A: “The Oscars are the ultimate TV game show, so they should add one or all of the following:

“1. Adorable polar bear cubs.

“2. Lie detectors.

“3. Spandex.

“4. Fire.

“These four things make any televised competition more interesting. Right?”

--Amelie Gillette, staff writer, AV Club.

A: “‘South Park’ boys and former Academy Award nominees Matt Stone and Trey Parker should be recruited to co-host the Oscars and mock the losers. To Ellen Page: ‘See you at the Teen Choice Awards!’”

--Mark Ebner,