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We think we want some exciting Oscar host, but when things fall apart, we want Billy Crystal. That's because you don't need an Oscar host who's a hot star. And you don't need someone who will draw in demographics you're not getting, as if you were picking a vice-presidential candidate. The Oscars screwed up last year by hiring James Franco and Anne Hathaway to pander to young people. They screwed up by hiring Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and David Letterman to pander to straight guys. They screwed up by hiring Eddie Murphy to pander to Eddie Murphy.
The Oscars are a celebration of movie glamour. That means the target audience is women, old people and gay men. If the Oscars make a high-quality show for women, old people and gay men, we younger straight men, who will be forced to watch, will appreciate it. Producers are usually so desperate to re-create the megaevents of the three-channel broadcast era that they try to craft bits and pieces of their product to suit each cohort. But that's not why everyone saw Roots, bought Thriller and watches the Super Bowl. It's because those things are well made. Forcing something like the Oscars to be something it's not results in inferior quality. It's why my columns are the worst when TIME editors try to get me to write about stuff I don't know about, like the news.
Grazer heard the wisdom in all of this and agreed to stick to soft, warm nostalgia. "I want to celebrate the collective social experience of the movie theater," Grazer told me. "We all have moments that were much better experienced in the movie theater. That's going to be the central driving force." What he's saying is that all of us--gay, straight, young, old, male, female--have gotten some action in a movie theater. Billy Crystal can make a Jack Nicholson joke out of that, easy.