The 2019 Academy Awards are scheduled for February 24, which is in less than three months. However, the producers of the telecast are yet to name a host.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Oscar host has become such a thankless gig that it’s now “the least wanted job in Hollywood.” Jimmy Kimmel hosted the show the last two years and was even praised for his handling of the infamous La La Land/Moonlight switch in 2017, but has elected not to return, and the producers are having trouble finding a new host.
At issue is that there’s little upside to taking on the Oscar-hosting job. Hosts of the Oscar telecast, no matter what happens, are blamed if ratings are lower than they were the year before, which has happened in each of the last four years.
Beyond that, the structure of the gig is such that very talented people, from David Letterman to Anne Hathaway to Chris Rock to Jon Stewart, aren’t able to make the best use of their talents. The Oscars have gone the musical route (with singing hosts like Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris), have tried shock comedy (Seth MacFarlane), and more feel-good comedy, including the famous movie star selfie (Ellen DeGeneres). But none of the above can be considered a widespread, highly-rated success.
None of the hosts have yet been able to find a perfect balance, as necessary at the Oscars, to mock the year’s films and the conventions of Hollywood itself, while also paying homage to both. And beyond that, they’ve been asked to keep the audience’s interest for the entirety of a show that can sometimes approach the four-hour mark.
While showbiz legends like Bob Hope and Johnny Carson hosted the Oscars numerous times in past years, and Billy Crystal hosted many times in the 1990s and 2000s, no one lately has emerged as signature Oscar host. Kimmel, who works for the same network (ABC) that shows the awards, looked like a possible perennial as host, but he won’t be back in 2019.
A lot has been written about the natural tensions in the Oscars between the artsy, critically-acclaimed movies that usually win Oscars, and the more popular films that sell a lot more tickets. The academy attempted to address the issue by launching an “Achievement in Popular Film” Oscar but ultimately tabled the idea. The awards audience has also begun to skew older as time has passed.