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What Oscar Could Learn from Grammy

Dave Randall

Posted on February 10, 2019 19:32

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As far as telecasts are concerned, Grammy has solved one problem that dogs Oscar, still.

Before we suggest The Academy of Music Arts and Sciences has come upon solutions to problems the Motion Picture academy has yet to conquer, remember awards from all organized academies seem to miss the mark from time to time, the Grammys more others. This is an academy that, in the last 20 years alone, has awarded Santana, Steely Dan and Herbie Handcock with Album of the Year trophies--awards they should have won decades before, in their prime, not in competition with artists making game-changing contemporary music.

Let's leave that fight for another day, and focus on what Grammy has done right--settle on one genre of host, and a mainstream audience demo that won't complain about it. 

Grammy ceremonies started airing live in 1971, with as benign a host as could be, the late Mr. Christmas, Andy Williams. Those first couple of years, even the major winners were benign: Simon and Garfunkel, then Carole King's Tapestry. The show's defection to CBS led ABC to commission Dick Clark productions, and create the American Music Awards, with winners determined by polls, and a trophy that could easily impale a disgruntled loser.

The Grammys' forward movement has been incremental. Inch by inch. One move has meant, as this century has advanced, ditching comics as hosts. As the Oscars have learned, making an increasingly divergent crowd laugh is a difficult task. Watching Jackie Mason, as a guest, years ago, roasting the Black music icons seated in the front row was seat-squirming, uncomfortable TV.

After decades of pros like Garry Shandling, Jon Stewart, and Ellen Degeneres, et al, the recording academy settled on Queen Latifah, no host at all, then LL Cool J.'s Street gravitas. The exception being CBS Late night host James Corden, who is more vaudevillian/British music hall- influenced than actual comic, his karaoke bits playing well with pop artists.

This year's host was Alicia Keys, again, evoking NYC street cool and hard R&B cred that straddles the radio formats. Save Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood for the CMAs and the ACMs. This works for Grammy, and it's target demographic. It allows the music academy to concentrate on taking incoming for all the rest of its misfires.

Is the Motion Picture Academy paying attention? Bob Hope and Johnny Carson have passed away. Billy Crystal is, unfortunately, passe. No single comedian seems to have a spotless enough Twitter feed to take on this mammoth telecast, let alone keep from stepping on important toes while the show is live. 

Perhaps having no host is the answer for now, as it was for Grammy. Don't futz around with the categories; ditch the pizza parties and group selfies, the field trips. This is the high point of the Entertainment calendar. Do we have to watch celebs in outfits that cost 7 figures nibble pepperoni?

Oscar, be the big deal you are. Be entertaining, be dignified, and be not afraid of that. It can be done. Follow the path provided. 

Dave Randall

Posted on February 10, 2019 19:32

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