After a tumultuous run-up, the host-less Oscars went off without a hitch last month, and ABC and the academy might be subscribing to the ol’ “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage for next year.
“We’re having those conversations with the academy right now,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke told The Hollywood Reporter of going host-less for the 92nd ceremony in 2020. “We are extremely happy with how the show went. Odds are you’ll see us repeating what we consider to be a successful formula.”
The 91st ceremony opted to eschew a host for the first time in 30 years after the Kevin Hart fiasco that saw him step down from the gig after he refused to apologize for old homophobic jokes. Burke joined ABC in November, weeks before that controversy unfolded, which she called “unnerving.” “Never before have I had the illusion of so much responsibility and yet felt quite powerless. If the Oscars can serve as a harbinger to how we approach things in my tenure here at ABC, I will be very happy,” she said. “Expectations might be low but everybody here made bold choices, did risky things, had each other’s backs and pulled it off.”
Between not having a host and undoing every idea they had (Best Popular Film, presenting below-the-line categories off air, only having two song nominees performed, not inviting last year’s acting winners to present), many expected the Oscars to be, as Burke puts it, a “train wreck.” But the ceremony, which opened with Queen and a mini-monologue from presenters Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler, went smoothly and efficiently. Ratings also improved 12 percent, which Burke attributes to three of the Best Picture nominees, “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born,” being box-office hits.
“They deserve a lot of the credit. And so many people tuned in to see Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sing,” she said of the duo’s showstopping performance. “Every time that clip is watched, it’s got the ABC bug in the corner. I love that. It’s going to be in every promo reel I do. People tuned in expecting to see a train wreck and got a good show instead.”
It’s not surprising nor is it a bad idea for the Oscars to go host-less again. We did get a brisk show, with it only going 23 minutes over three hours, and thanks to the shortened calendar next year — the ceremony will move up two weeks to Feb. 9 — there’s even more of a time crunch to lock in a host for the most thankless job in Hollywood before it gets too late. Plus, ABC and the academy likely want more data on host-less ceremonies to see if this is a long-term format they want to employ. Was this year’s show a success because it was host-less or because of the hit movies and A-listers nominated? Or both? Or neither?
It should also be noted that the academy’s original choice to host this year’s show was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who was down to do it, but scheduling conflicts with his films ultimately prevented him from signing on. Will the academy go back to him if they want a host next year? Even if The Rock or anyone else can’t or won’t host next year, it’s also got to be comforting for the academy to know that its host-less backup plan works.