With Billy Crystal confirmed as host, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences can finally put a week of controversy behind it.
It can look forward to smooth sailing for the 2012 Oscarcast, too.
Crystal, who’s emceed the ceremony eight previous times, is by far the safest bet — he last hosted the Oscars in 2004, when 43.5 million viewers tuned in; the biggest year over which he presided was 1998, when 55.3 million viewers watched “Titanic” sweep the Oscars.
But while ABC and the Academy crave a return to those kind of ratings, Crystal alone won’t bring them. Most observers note that the variety and caliber of the nominated films affect viewership more than the choice of host.
Crystal’s comedic skills fit with the plans that producers Don Mischer and Brian Grazer, who signed on Wednesday, have for the show.
“Humor and comedy are going to be our tentpole,” Grazer told Variety . “We’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel. Our obligation to the Academy is to respect it.”
Though Ratner and Murphy had already put together a writing staff, Grazer said Crystal “will probably go in a different direction with writers.” Grazer also said his next big hires will be a music director and choreographer.
Mischer, who said this week’s staff changes were not a setback, said the real planning for the ceremony will begin after noms are announced Jan. 24. He noted that after the time to hand out all the awards is allocated, there are only 32 minutes of discretionary time to play with in the telecast.
“You’ve got to present all 24 awards live on the air,” Mischer said. “Within that context we are going to try to do some bold things. We’d like to have some surprises. We’d like it not to be predicable.”
Crystal was rumored to be interested in the gig from the moment that Brett Ratner’s exit caused Eddie Murphy to drop out. Imagine’s Grazer accepted the producing gig Wednesday.