Oscars try the buddy system for host this year
Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will host the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Sunday, March 7 on CTV.
Constance Droganes, entertainment writer, CTV.ca
Published Monday, February 1, 2010 3:17PM EST
The laugh men cometh and it’s good times once again for Oscar viewers say new show producers, Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic.
Steve Martin, 64, and Alec Baldwin, 51, may not be Hollywood’s “sexiest men alive.” They also cannot sing, dance and fill a tuxedo like 2009’s dashing Oscar host, Hugh Jackman.
But, trading foxy for fun has it advantages.
Pairing the witty Martin and the pugnacious Baldwin as co-hosts of the 82nd Academy Awards is rather like teaming a pithy schnauzer with a testy bulldog. Which mutt will whiz the most is anyone’s guess. But, they’ll sure have their fun trying.
Such unfettered, fast-on-your-feet play could score big laughs and boost ratings during CTV’s live Oscar telecast from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre on March 7.
That’s just what the Academy Awards need say new show producers, Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic.
“We think the team of Steve and Alec are the perfect pair of hosts for the Oscars,” “Hairspray” director Shankman and “Coraline” producer Mechanic announced in November of 2009.
“Steve will bring the experience of having hosted the show in the past and Alec will be a completely fresh personality for this event,” they said.
This rational may not be surprising. But, it is strategic.
Martin hosted the Oscars in 2001 and 2003, earning an Emmy nomination for his first turn at-bat.
The “Father of the Bride” star has also been an Oscar presenter on several occasions, most recently in 2009 when he appeared with Tina Fey to hand out a trophy.
Factor in numerous hosting gigs on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (Martin has hosted 15 times, Baldwin 14) and a timely collaboration Nancy Meyer’s 2009 comedy “It’s Complicated,” and Shankman and Mechanic got a package deal that could get the job done.
"Adam and I, from our first meeting on, knew we wanted an emphasis on comedy," Mechanic said in 2009. "If we err in any one direction, we want to take a show that can feel long and boring at times and make it feel shorter and more fun."
"The two of them have a fantastic, ongoing comic relationship," Shankman told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published on November 3, 2009. "And I know that they really adore and respect each other. Plus, I know that they’ll be hilarious."
Buddy system builds on tradition
This clever pairing also fits in with the producers’ broader strategy.
The last time multiple hosts graced the Oscar stage was in 1987, when Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan shared hosting duties.
The Martin-Baldwin combo, however, marks an Oscar first in the modern television era.
The only time two hosts have shared the same locale on Oscar Night was at the first ceremony in 1929, presided over by Douglas Fairbanks and William C. DeMille.
“I want the show to feel that we are continuing to build on the Oscars. I’m not trying to make the MTV Movies Awards. I want there to be some level of tradition that is respected by the community,” Shankman explained to Entertainment Weekly.
In an industry that values “young” and “hot” above tradition, this desire to blend the old with the new might seem out of step.
But, according to Steven Zeitchik of The Hollywood Reporter, “Younger hosts tend to draw lower ratings, while older ones bring in strong numbers. This is hardly surprising when you consider that the median age of the Oscar viewer last year was nearly 50 (49.5, to be exact).”
Current statistics also reveal that younger viewers will not necessarily come running if the Oscars feature a young show host.
“All it does,” says Zeitchik, “is alienate some older viewers. So, from a pure ratings standpoint (not, of course, an ad-demo one) it’s actually smarter to go older and at least solidify the base.”
Only Oscar night will tell if Martin and Baldwin can sail past Ricky Gervais’ performance at this year’s Golden Globes, or kick other suggested Oscar hosts (Tina Fey, Robert Downey Jr.) to the curb.
As Baldwin has said, “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
As for Martin, “I am happy to co-host the Oscars with my enemy Alec Baldwin.”
Let this puckish quip be your first clue to what lies ahead.