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The Academy Needs to Finally Decide What It Wants in a Host

What does Eddie Murphy bring to the Oscar table? The answer depends on which Eddie Murphy we’ll be getting


By now everyone has heard the news that Eddie Murphy is going to host the next Oscars. I, for one, am excited by the possibilities. Considering how bad Anne Hathaway and James Franco were at hosting last year's awards, the bar isn’t set that high. Almost any moderately competent host would be an improvement.

From Hathaway’s manic energy to Franco's stoner dude mellowness, the lack of chemistry between the two created a noticeably awkward situation. The chance for a new host to come in and make their mark on Oscar history represents a great opportunity. The question is what does Eddie Murphy bring to the table?

The answer depends on which Eddie Murphy we’ll be getting.

Is it the over-the-hill comedian who’s been relegated to such millstones as "Imagine That," "Meet Dave" and "The Haunted Mansion"? Or is it the expletive-loving stand up comic channeling his greatest hits from "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop"? Both exist in some form in Murphy today, although many would say that Eddie’s best days have long passed.

For any host to succeed, the Academy finally needs to decide what type of person it wants running the show. Does it want a host that will play it safe like Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal and Ellen DeGeneres did? Or does it want one that will spice things up, for better or worse, as Chris Rock, David Letterman and Jon Stewart did with varying levels of success?

If there was a host who had the gravitas of a Bob Hope or Johnny Carson, I’d be content to go the "play it safe" route. But with the possible exception of Billy Crystal I don’t think such a host exists. To put Eddie Murphy in such a position is a recipe for a ratings disaster.

My excitement in choice stems from some recent sightings of the old Eddie Murphy. The trailers from his latest film, "Tower Heist," suggest Eddie is back in touch with his "Raw" comic form that led him to stardom. And since Brett Ratner, the "Tower Heist" director, is producing the 2012 ceremony, one could conclude that Ratner might give Murphy some leeway to liven things up. Although the Academy might be worried what Eddie might say, I believe Murphy can be very funny without filling ever sentence with expletives. You have go way back to his "Saturday Night Live" days to find that, however.

Kudos to the Academy Awards for trying to change things up in recent years but they haven’t gone far enough. There’s still a lack of energy and excitement on stage. Some shows feel like it could be an award ceremony for your HOA, assuming your neighbors lived in Beverly Hills.

Excitement comes from inspired casting and allowing a free rein during the show. After all, taking chances is the reason Ricky Gervais and his performance on the 2011 Golden Globes were one of the most talked about TV events of the year. Viewers like to see hosts that take chances on the stage, for better or for worse.

Which side will Murphy favor? Or, the better question is: Which side should Murphy favor? Let’s hope the Academy is willing to take a bit of a risk and let Eddie run free. Otherwise we might be getting an approximation of Murphy’s character in "Shrek" … and a Donkey of a show.

Kent Youngblood is a producer, creative director and blogger who writes on film, television and the media. Focusing on the business side of entertainment, Youngblood examines the incongruity of everything from the over-the-top hype of showbiz to the cutthroat nature of an industry that is struggling to find its way. As executive producer at Movie Mogul Productions, he spearheads business development and creative development on all original productions.