It was a whirlwind week for Oscar. Between Brett Ratner’s hasty resignation as the Oscarcast producer followed immediately by Eddie Murphy bowing out of his hosting duties and Brian Grazer stepping in to join forces with Don Mischer to rescue the show, the Academy has barely had time to catch its breath, much less take proper notice of the @MuppetOscars campaign on Twitter. This afternoon’s announcement that Billy Crystal will host the 2012 Academy Awards effectively dashed any remaining “Rainbow Connection” Oscar remix dreams.
In the wake of Oscargate, Academy president Tom Sherak has stepped forward to assure Hollywood (and the Oscar viewing audience at large) that everything is thoroughly under control. “If this happened in January, I would be hiding under my desk,” he told Deadline in one of a number of interviews today. “Look what has happened. We are actually two and a half weeks ahead of where we were last year, in terms of naming a host.”
Crystal is a good choice as a host at this stage of the game. He is tried, true, and classic (read: In no way a dangerous risk taken in the hopes of enticing a younger viewing audience). Frankly, I have a deep affection for Crystal and believe he will deliver a solid and entertaining performance that illustrates that the Academy does indeed recall its place and purpose in the grander scheme of entertainment.
As to the details of this week’s controversy, there’s been a fair amount of speculation about the actual order of events surrounding Ratner’s resignation. Sherak had issued a statement in support of Ratner the very morning that the “Tower Heist” director’s lascivious, kiss-and-tell-all Howard Stern interview aired.
“But I didn’t hear Howard Stern into that night,” Sherak clarified to the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t listen to that show…I think I’m out of the demographic. I got an email. ‘Have you heard Howard Stern?’ Later in the day I went home. I put it on and I started listening to it. Next morning he resigned.”
The Academy president admitted that after he heard the particulars of Ratner’s exchange with Stern he recalled exactly why he doesn’t listen to the shock-jock on a regular basis. “I felt appalled,” he said. “Thank God my wife didn’t hear it…Brett called me the next day. He said, ‘Tom, I need to resign.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to hurt the Academy or you and I have to fix it. I have to resign.’”
Ratner made said call while Sherak was in the midst of an officer’s meeting that had been planned two months ago rather than the “emergency” board meeting that many assumed had been convened to discuss Ratner specifically. But despite the events of this past week, however, Sherak asserts that he does not regret his initial decision to hire Ratner, "one bit" and would do it again based on the interview he originally had with Ratner.
Sherak contends that Ratner is human and flawed, as we all are, but that he ultimately, “went a step over the line in the accumulation of the things he did.”
As the dust begins to settle and Sherak, Grazer, Mischer (and now Crystal) piece together what will likely be one of the safer Oscarcasts that we have seen over the past several years, Sherek assures reporters (repeatedly) that “the Academy isn’t panicked." Brian Grazer and his team were in fact among the first to offer support, saying simply, “You need our help, we are in.”
As the producers put their heads together to devise a plan we once again ask them to consider @MuppetOscars. Perhaps Billy Crystal, who is known to both sing and dance, wouldn’t mind sharing the stage (if only for a moment) with Kermit, Piggy and the gang. Nothing says a return to innocence and good, clean, comedic fun quite like The Muppets after all.
It is somewhat interesting to note the differences in tone and subject matter in Crystal and Murphy’s early comedy routines. The Academy was not surprised by Murphy’s departure, and seems, in a sense, to be taking it back to basics with Crystal. And in evaluating the takeaway from the past several days, Sherak had the following to say to The New York Times:
“The next person who tells you the Oscars are irrelevant, have them call me.”