HOLLYWOOD — This year, more than ever before, Academy Awards addicts can get their fix without leaving the house. Cable television offers a month of Oscar programming that should satisfy even the worst Oscar obsession.
ABC has the official broadcast of course, and it wouldn’t be Oscar night without another Barbara Walters special. This year, Walters will get up close and personal with Halle Berry, Tom Cruise and Sarah Jessica Parker. East Coasters will see Walters and company before the network preshow begins, and later, the net’s live “After Party at ‘The View’ ” will wrap things up.
But Los Angeles, of course, has a different schedule. L.A.’s Channel 7 will provide an extra 90 minutes of arrivals coverage, syndicated throughout the West, with Roger Ebert and KABC entertainment reporter George Pennacchio on the carpet. Angelenos will see Walters after the ceremony, then more locally produced coverage from the parties, before a tape-delayed presentation of “After Party at ‘The View.’ ”
On cable, E! boasts that it has the most comprehensive coverage, and it’s hard to refute that claim. “E! News Daily” will expand to an hour, with in-studio Oscar guests. A week of specials will feature “Red Carpet Rank Episodes,” including “Favorite Red Carpet Moments.” On the big day, March 24, E! will carry 15 hours of live coverage, leading to Joan and Melissa Rivers’ “Live From the Red Carpet.” The Riverses will critique this year’s Oscar fashions in a one-hour special March 27.
CNN, of all outlets, threatens to one-up E!, with Daryn Kagan covering the festivities live for 24 hours straight. Kagan will co-host a red-carpet pre-show, cover after-parties and provide live cutaways through March 25. The news net also will focus on nominees in a one-hour March 16 special edition of “People in the News.” Even “60 Minutes” may jump on the Oscar wagon; a profile of actress nominee Judi Dench is tentatively scheduled for March.
Cable also will be offering mondo Oscar movies. Turner Classic Movies’ eighth annual “31 Days of Oscar” will air 339 Oscar-winning or -nominated movies 24/7. This year, the pics are grouped into themes, such as “Oscar Goes to New York,” and “Oscar Gets in the Ring” (boxing movies). American Movie Classics devotes March 18-24 to “AMC’s Everything Oscars,” with a slew of Academy Award-honored movies, and special editions of AMC’s “Behind the Screen” and “Cinema Secrets,” as well as a series of three- to four-minute interstitial “Inside the Academy Awards” pieces throughout the week.
For hard-core cinephiles, Sundance Channel will shine with a retrospective on Robert Altman, and its “Anatomy of a Scene” will dissect sequences from “Memento,” “Monster’s Ball” and “Gosford Park.”
In a completely different universe, toon hero Johnny Bravo will host “The 1st 13th Annual Cartoon Network Fancy Anvil Award Show Program Special… Live! … In Stereo” on March 23. The world’s greatest animated luminaries will gather to see who takes home the Anvil. One toon is sure to go home happy, though: The incomparable Scooby-Doo will receive a lifetime achievement award.
Something entirely different
Of course, many nets will offer counterprogramming for those who opt out of Oscar hype. Fox has tentatively scheduled the seminal humor of “There’s Something About Mary.” A&E will run a “Law & Order” marathon, while History Channel will focus on its reliable World War II programming, including the debut of a “Time Machine” special on the B-29 Superfortress.
PBS isn’t specifically counterprogramming, but it might as well be, offering “Nature,” “The American Experience,” and a special on the Shakers. It’s a smart choice; by the end of the night, the simplicity of Shaker life may look like just the ticket for some award-weary viewers.