Oscar Arrivals: Can TV Hosts Please Ask About the Movies?

Roger Ebert

Red carpet banality is one more reason to miss Roger Ebert

There are a lot of reasons to miss the late Roger Ebert, but one of them was the authority and genuine love of movies that he brought to the Oscar red carpet, when he appeared on the local arrivals show for the Los Angeles ABC station, KABC-TV.

While there’s more time and coverage devoted to the arrivals than ever, both of those aforementioned commodities are in painfully short supply, as the coverage has shifted almost entirely to banality and fashion, where the most probing question one is apt to hear – over and over again – is “Who are you wearing?”

Granted, much of the audience that tunes in for the Oscars is preoccupied with how everyone looks, even if it’s unlikely they’ll ever go out and buy a Tiffany bracelet, much less one of those designer dresses or ornate pieces of jewelry on display.

Still, the Academy Awards represent a celebration of the best (hopefully) that movies have to offer. And while an element of celebrity ass-kissing is inevitably part of the territory, there ought to be at least some space to talk about the films themselves.

Ebert – at heart a newspaper critic – certainly recognized this. Before someone says that’s too inside baseball, though, it’s worth noting there’s a rich industry on TV devoted to interviewing actors and the occasional filmmaker about their work, eliciting anecdotes, funny stories or interesting tidbits.

These are called latenight talkshows, or network morning shows. Somehow, those programs manage to entertain an audience without focusing squarely on which designer outfitted the talent that particular day.

Even Barbara Walters’ annual Oscar special, while something of a “Will she get them to cry?” joke, contained genuine content about movies. Yet that’s been replaced by more arrival fluff, albeit with new bells and whistles to zero in on everything from shoes to hemlines from every conceivable angle.

ABC will again enlist its “Good Morning America” team to handle the 90-minute arrivals telecast, and if history’s any guide, movies will be an afterthought.

This is the Oscars, after all – the granddaddy of awards season. If you want to focus strictly on something other than the work, why not pick a showcase where nobody really cares who wins – like, say, the Golden Globes? (NBC’s Matt Lauer looked so embarrassed to be seen at the Globes he couldn’t bring himself to remove his sunglasses.)

Several years ago, media wags began labeling the Oscars the “Super Bowl for women” — a story the Wall Street Journal recycled this week — primarily based on what a huge platform it’s become for a certain kind of advertiser. As stereotypical as that sounds, the heavy tilt of the audience gender-wise has fed an emphasis on style in the surrounding hoopla that practically ensures the male-female ratio stays imbalanced. (The Los Angeles Times reported the female skew as roughly 5-3 last year, and that was with Seth MacFarlane hosting — an overt attempt to pander to younger males.)

Nobody is saying the pre-Oscar festivities must turn into an American Film Institute master class. But there is a serious business underneath all the glitz – providing studios incentive to campaign for these honors, with careers impacted by the results – and frankly, simply telling Jennifer Lawrence or Matthew McConaughey how great they look isn’t exactly new information.

So please, could someone carve out a few moments to remember why everyone’s there by at least asking a few questions about the movies – and in the process, after the weekend’s cleaning downpour, shampoo a little of the fashion-soaked froth out of the red carpet?

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  1. Sarah T. says:

    I don’t even really mind them asking about the fashions, though “Who are you wearing?” is worn out. I enjoy the fact that the attendees dress as if it’s a special occasion, which it is. I'[m happy to wait for a later report, however, to know who the designer was, if I even bother to find out.

    What bothers me is that the interviewers appear to be total babbling idiots who sound like they are still in junior high school. Ugh!

    As much as I like seeing the actors, directors, etc., interviewed, I just cannot bear to watch them have to pretend not to find most of the questions and those asking them to be gibbering nitwits.

  2. The reason I stopped watching award telecast pre-shows was due to the parade of idiots who host these things – the low-IQ talking heads, concerned with fashion rather than the movies themselves. Unfortunately, for years it’s been nothing but a mind-numbing freak show. The worst offender being E! (natch!) – home of King Putz, Ryan Seacrest. Not only does E! have a “Live From The Red Carpet” special, but also a companion FOUR HOUR countdown TO that “Live At The Red Carpet” show! Is America that brain dead that they would park their proverbial asses in front of the worst network on TV (sorry, Bravo!) for umpteenth hours to see which actress will wear what designer gown? Yep – apparently so.

  3. Daniel says:

    It´s like asking someone at a party their opinion of the meaning of life, it is not the place to ask about the films they appear in or have seen. The casts and crews want to arrive, have an enjoyable night, and socialize. Only someone who hasn´t attended one of these things on the receiving end wouldn´t have a clue, otherwise.

  4. Annual Telecast Watcher says:

    Ohhh, how I miss the days when Army Archerd would quickly and congenially interview arrivals before the show, asking them questions on how they were feeling, thoughts on their nominations, on the competition. Pithy and punchy and professional he was – and not a single darn question about what designer his subjects were wearing. I think the Oscars are fun in their grandiosity – even with the boring and lame parts and often excessive length – but all these red carpet pre-shows are mutating out of control.

  5. david t. krall says:

    from: david t. krall
    email: truthatlarge@hotmail.com

    Excellent points…It’s a pre-academy award show…not a pre-fashion award runway show…
    It’s Hollywood not Paris…I’ll bet the hosts of these pre-Oscar shows don’t do any real research or any background work on past, recent and upcoming works for most, if not all of the actos and actresses they talk to and exchange bantor with on the “red carpet”. Instead of a pre or post red carpet show examining the shoes and clothing of all the stars and actors, why not have fun discussing who was and who was not nominated, who lost out,
    who decided not to screen test for a major part & why, who competed and read/tested
    for major parts, etc…now that would be interesting…the whole point of this event is to show
    recognition and to honor actors, not what they are wearing to that event…whats next?
    a red carpet before a Pres. State Of Union, or an NFL playoff game? The only reason to focus on the clothes and shoes is because they know nothing (and are not required to
    know) about the actors they are speaking with on “The Red Carpet”…makes sense?

  6. Lemon says:

    They can’t because most of them have not seen any the movies themselves and they are idiots to begin with.

  7. Virtually Real says:

    Brian Lowry, you are so right. Who cares where their clothes come from? And why aren’t they talking movies? I’m so glad you said it.

    • Michael Anthony says:

      He may be right, but TV is only doing what find do. That is, making the TV show into what delivers the best audience. While I wish they would talk about movies more, I do realize its a business too. They are only chasing the ratings like everyone else.
      They also may not be able to get the designer dresses and jewels, audiences do go after the cheaper imitations.

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