Neil Patrick Harris as Oscar Host: Edgier Than You Think

Neil Patrick Harris Oscar Host: Edgier

Neil Patrick Harris was the perfect choice to host the Oscars — but maybe not for the obvious reasons.

When Variety broke the announcement of the host Wednesday, industry reaction was positive. He’s like the Sara Lee of performers: Nobody doesn’t like NPH. But some shrugged that he was a safe choice.

Here are three reasons why TV viewers and the Academy should be excited:

1. He actually IS edgy: True, he has proven his ability when hosting the Tony and Emmy Awards. But Harris is also capable of being edgier than that. On Broadway in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” he showed a demented energy, like a combination of Al Pacino in “Dog Day Afternoon” and Anna Magnani in just about everything she made.

At June’s Tony Awards on CBS, he performed a “Hedwig” number, which took him into the audience. The lap dances for Sting and Kevin Bacon were funny, but the key moment was when he took Samuel L. Jackson’s sunglasses and licked them. Jackson is not only the King of Cool, he’s also the King of Don’t Mess With Me. NPH has enough charm that he can get away that, so it would be great if he can take the Samuel L. Jackson moment and multiply it. Let NPH unleash his inner demons and push Oscar’s envelope beyond the slightly cheeky industry in-jokes.

2. He’s a celeb for the Twitter age: Harris is digital-savvy, an important talent when the Academy is increasing its digital push. The March 2 ceremonies generated more than 1 billion impressions on Twitter and 25 million interactions on Facebook. The selfie (in which Ellen DeGeneres huddled with several nominees) became the most retweeted photo of all time with 32.8 million views.

NPH understands social media more than most celebs, with 10.7 million Twitter followers. So he can work with producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to take this to the next step, and make the Feb. 22 Oscar ceremonies a deeper second-screen experience. Options include footage of rehearsals, special short films and conversations with viewers about the show so far and answering questions like “Is Hollywood out of touch?” and “Can you buy an Oscar?”

Harris is multi-talented, but no host can single-handedly overhaul the Oscars. But he can do a lot, and it may be OK that the reinvention isn’t radical.

3. Predictability has its fans: Some industry people — especially those who attend a flood of awards events every season — hope the Oscar format will get a facelift, but millions of TV viewers seem to LIKE the fact that it’s predictable. They grew up watching the show and want old-fashioned Hollywood glamour. They seem to like the Oscar tradition, even if part of the tradition is complaining about the show.

The Academy’s reluctance to experiment is understandable. It’s fun to imagine what Chelsea Handler or Dave Chappelle or Jimmy Kimmel might do as host. But the AMPAS-ABC group took chances with the James Franco-Anne Hathaway duo and Seth MacFarlane, and are still beating themselves up about it. Heck, they’re still beating themselves up about Snow White and Rob Lowe, and that was 25 years ago.

So they want to be safe. Neil Patrick Harris can provide that safety net while still pushing the boundaries – with an attitude that is more Hedwig than Doogie.

Here’s the rule of thumb: During pre-production talks about the show, if the question is “Could we get away with that?” then the answer should be, “Let’s do it.”

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  1. Diana says:

    Will there be any good movies that would want to have the audience watch the Oscar telecast? Last year was very bad. The Oscars used to be considered classy. Most adults do not like the same type of entertainment compared to teenagers. Most adults do not want to see rauchy type of humor at the Oscars.

    • Michael W says:

      Evidently you haven’t seen “Gone girl” or “Fury” yet! Not to mention Benedict Cumberbatch’s incredible turn in “The Imitation Game” (about WW2 code-breaker Alan Turing) or Eddie Redmayne’s phenomenal entry as Steven Hawking in “The Story of Everything”. And don’t forget, the all-A-lister “Into The woods” from Sondheim’s musical is due out mid-December. Obviously the Oscars won’t go to “Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles” or some of the other craps that’s been handed to us as “entertainment”, but be sure there are plenty of viable contenders in all categories. In fact, I won’t be surprised if NPH himself gets the nod in the Best Supporting Actor category for his work in “Gone Girl” Imagine him presenting the award to HIMSELF! And he could DO it too!

  2. Heres Lucy says:

    I look forward to the Oscars now NPH will add whats been missing for several yrs fun glamor and more. He will make us laugh and cry too all whats been missing for the biggest award show every year.

  3. Michael W says:

    I can’t imagine a better choice for Oscar host than NPH!!! He’s dynamic, attractive, witty, multi-talented and I have a feeling Tim’s correct in his assessment that he’ll be edgier than nay-sayers may believe. I hope he gets to present his OWN Oscar to HIMSELF as Best Supporting Actor for his subtle, brilliant turn in “Gone Girl” too! Next thing Neil needs to cross off his “bucket list” besides this is “Play a GAY man for a change”! Right? Since it’s no particular secret (unless you’ve been living under a rock for 10 years!) that he’s gay, let the actor be the man and vice versa. I’d love to see “Boys In The Band” updated to 21st Century sensibilities and watch Neil chew scenery as the NEW Michael! Whoa! Come on, all you old queens like me are itching for a more modern portrayal of a gay man’s Birthday party than what we were “treated” to in the original “Boys”, right? Michael’s closing line about “If we could only just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much” doesn’t hold much water today, does it? I know it didn’t for ME in the ’70s, and it certainly doesn’t now for most of us. Let’s let NPH let loose with a NEW “Boys” and less neurotic gay characters but all of the fire!

  4. Jamie says:

    While Jackman is my favorite, I enjoy and admire NPH. It would be great if we could get another duet like their wonderful Tony number.

  5. BrandtII says:

    Boring and safe. Capable as a host but enough already with him! He’s not the only person capable of hosting an wards show. He’s best left to the Tonys. His Emmy gig was not that great.

    • Michael W says:

      You’re a monster! He’s not a “safe choice” whatsoever, if only because he’s an out gay man, but also because he has wit, talent, charm and most important likeability. Give him a it more slack please…this is the Oscars, not the Nobel Peace Prize Awards, so I for one am delighted that someone you don’t MIND watching for 4 hours is hosting. What on earth more do you want?

      • frank markus says:

        I totally agree with him. They could do a better host. NPH is boring. He was better with Tony awards. I think Hugh Jackman is a better choice.

  6. Julia says:

    Nobody has done a better job of hosting than Huge Jackman. NPH is good, but not up to Huge Jackman standards.

    • Michael W says:

      Yeah, well get over it! Hugh Jackman’s NOT the choice, NPH IS, so don’t watch if you’re that unhappy with it…deal or leave!

    • CMarks says:

      Unless you’d got some inside information Mr. Jackman is usually referred to as Hugh (not Huge). And personsonally I didn’t find Jackman’s last go at the Tony’s anywhere close to his previous turns and nowhere close to NPH’s performance In 2013.

  7. Geri says:

    Jay Leno is safe. NPH is fun – something sorely lacking at the Oscars.

    • Michael W says:

      Here here! The only times the stodgy Oscars ever showed signs of life were when Ellen and Billy Crystal hosted them. Otherwise it’s 4 hours of big-name stars preening and strutting and handing false compliments to one another. We NEED someone like Harris to pump some fun into the proceedings.

    • Doogie Fan says:

      NPH is a likeable choice as host and should bring a fun vibe to the show.
      One caveat to any celebrity chosen to host any awards show: Too much drag is a drag.

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