It’s not that the idea of Jimmy Fallon hosting the Oscars isn’t an inspired one. If you’re willing to bring a TV guy back to the film academy tent, there are few better picks out there today than the NBC latenight host who killed it as host of the 2010 Primetime Emmys. Fallon would be a guaranteed improvement over 2010 Oscar hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco and — call this personal taste — a fresh step up from another year of Billy Crystal.
But with the level of competitiveness among the smallscreen networks today, it would nevertheless be remarkable for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to compel ABC to put an NBC star front and center on its primetime extravaganza in February, as a Los Angeles Times report earlier today — denied to Variety by the Acad — said was being discussed.
“Saturday Night Live” guru Lorne Michaels, who also exec produces “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” would produce the kudocast, according to the rumored deal, which former Acad prexy Tom Sherak told the Times he was authorized by the Board of Governors (which includes new prexy Hawk Koch) two months ago to pursue.
It might surprise you that ABC does not have approval over the selection of the Oscar producer or host, a price it paid on top of the dollars it passed along when it extended its rights to broadcast the Oscars through 2020. So it’s not as if the Alphabet net can take its ball and go home anytime soon, Fallon or no Fallon. Nevertheless, ABC and the Academy are supposed to be partners on the Oscars, in theory and in practice, making the notion of Fallon to the Oscars just seem, well, weird.
This is a particularly unlikely week for ABC to feel magnanimous toward NBC, with the Peacock having poached ABC planning, scheduling and distribution exec veep Jeff Bader just a day ago. So for ABC to be on board with Fallon, rather than being an unwilling partner, would require the Alphabet net to believe that Fallon’s presence serves the greater good of Oscar ratings. And Fallon, while he certainly has a youthful fan base, isn’t necessarily a audience gamechanger.
If there were going to be a latenight Jimmy hosting the Oscars, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel — who has an annual post-Oscars special on the network — would make more sense, even if you think his hosting the upcoming Emmys counts as too much pre-Oscar exposure. (Recall that Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tonys and Emmys three months apart in 2009.) Never say never, but while there are precedents for NBC latenight stars like Johnny Carson and David Letterman hosting the Oscars on ABC, those moments of relative cooperation seem a hundred eras ago.