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Oscars Debating Whether or Not to Have Host

Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder
Michael Buckner/REX/Shutterstock

The Oscars producers are weighing whether or not to go host-less for the second year in a row. For now, it’s unclear where the broadcast will fall on that debate, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and broadcaster ABC are currently exploring a compromise solution, insiders close to the show told Variety.

Producers for the Feb. 9 telecast are said to be searching for the middle ground between having a single A-lister handling hosting duties and opting for no emcee at all. That could manifest as a crop of big-name talent sharing duties instead of having one star forced to shoulder the pressure of cracking jokes and welcoming a global television audience over a more than three-hour program.

This year, the Academy opted to go without a host after controversy around master of ceremonies Kevin Hart’s past homophobic remarks resulted in him stepping down. The resulting telecast received strong reviews and solid ratings.

With just a month and a half to go before the Oscars, even if a host were to be announced now, that would leave them little time to put together a team and prepare for the show. Last year, Hart was revealed as host on Dec. 4 — and that was considered late.

Additionally, promotion is already underway for the 2020 Oscars; ABC ran a spot on Wednesday night during its “Live In Front of a Studio Audience” special. As part of a series of retro-themed promos (in honor of the classic “All in the Family” and “Good Times” episodes that are being re-created), the Oscar spot used footage from the 1975 Oscars. Coincidentally, that year, the Oscars was multi-hosted by Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra.

Other teams that have hosted the Oscars in years past include Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in 2010; Paul Hogan, Chevy Chase, and Goldie Hawn in 1987; Richard Pryor, Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore and Walter Matthau in 1983; and, infamously, James Franco and Anne Hathaway most recently, who shared the duties in 2011. The production team, led by Academy Award-nominated producer Lynette Howell Taylor and Stephanie Allain, refuse to settle for one or the other approach at the moment, sources said.

Prior to the 2019 telecast, the last time the Oscars had no host was in 1989, a show known for including the wildly reviled duet of “Proud Mary” between Rob Lowe and Snow White.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC had no comment.

The 2019 Oscars saw an uptick in viewers, as over 31 million viewers tuned in to watch. Hulked-up presenter groups like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph were trotted out, directly addressing the host-shaped hole in the evening.

The host question is increasingly urgent, thanks to a shortened awards season timeline and the business of promoting the telecast- – which will likely see top contenders like “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story” and “Parasite” duke it out. There’s also a lingering odor from this year’s Emmy awards, which followed suit by going hostless and saw a disastrous 32% ratings drop from the previous year.

The SAG Awards also has yet to announce a host, while the Golden Globes is returning for a fifth time to comedian Ricky Gervais, who will once again emcee that telecast on Jan. 5.

Michael Schneider contributed to this report.