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Could We Be In Line For The Worst Oscar Telecast Ever?

It gives me no pleasure to write this, but as voting for the 2019 Academy Awards ends today, the actual upcoming ceremony may end up being unwatchable. Every change that the powers that be have instituted, hoping to drum up a bigger audience, has instead only alienated those who actually love the show and tune in to the Oscar telecast religiously. Hollywood’s biggest night has a devoted following, but more and more, the decision makers within AMPAS are ignoring them, in favor of chasing a phantom audience that doesn’t exist. More on that later, but there’s a distinct possibility that the show we see produced will be among the worst ever, and that’s an utter shame.

How did we get here? Well, Academy President John Bailey has seemingly been on a tear, looking to make sweeping changes to the Oscars, especially in terms of the actual broadcasted show. He, along with the Board of Governors, have been determined to bring in new viewers to the telecast, which is a fools errand. Audiences either watch or don’t watch the show, with the differing number being mostly due to if they’ve seen the nominated titles or not. With ratings declining everywhere, due to streaming services and other viewing options, this is a dumb thing to pursue. They should be catering to their hardcore fans, not the casual viewer who may or may not return.

This is what the Academy initially said, when they first made the announcement in a press release that they were going to tinker with the Oscar telecast:

“Dear Member,

Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.

The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.

Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.

2. New award category

We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars

The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.

The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.

We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.”

So, we now know that there won’t be a three hour ceremony this year, realistically. We know that past winners were initially being snubbed for “bigger stars” before backing off that. There was the whole Best Original Song snafu with only certain nominees getting to perform. Don’t forget about the host debacle, leaving the show host-less in the end. Plus, lest I remind you about the whole Best Popular Film category that was tabled until at least next year? Throw in how they were planning to present four bizarrely selected categories under tape delay and this is an absolute mess, to say the least.

Maybe this will end up being much ado about nothing when all is said and done? That’s certainly possible. Perhaps the Oscar telecast will resemble all of the previous ones? The concern is just that too many cooks have decidedly spoiled the broth. Time will tell, but there’s no reason to hold out hope. We’ll see what happens. For now, I’m sure you’ll look forward to the Academy Awards like I do, simply because it’s in our nature. Quality wise, that’s way more up in the air. Sit tight, as all will be revealed in a manner of just a few short days…

Stay tuned to see just what the Oscar telecast is like at the end of the month!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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