Oscars 2011: Joke-Free Hosts? Less Filler? Is Jack Back? Eggs?! Burning Qs Answered!

It’s almost time for the annual conundrum: Many of us love to watch the Academy Awards, but by some accounts, last year’s telecast only ended, oh, about a week ago.

But maybe (he said optimistically) this year’s Oscars ceremony – airing Sunday, February 27, on ABC — can liven things up by tightening things up, bringing back one dissed category, and even hatching a Gaga-like egg in front of millions of viewers.

Bruce Cohen, a producer of the 83rd annual Academy Awards telecast, and Bruce Vilanch, a longtime/Emmy-winning writer for the show, answered TVLine’s burning questions about TV’s biggest night… about movies.

Do This Year’s Oscars Have a Theme? | “We are trying to put our imprint on the show by celebrating a lot of the great moments in Oscar history, and some of people’s favorite films and performances from the past,” Cohen says. In other words, he admits, “It’s a unique and original imprint by stealing lots of other people’s imprints from over the years! So the theme is ‘Great Moments In Film History and Oscar History, Past and Present, All Happening Live On the Kodak Stage February 27.’”

Every Year, Academy Award Execs Talk About Dropping Extraneous Production Numbers… and Yet, Groan, They Persist. Necessary Evil? | “No,” Cohen maintains, “and hopefully we’re not having any extraneous production numbers.” That said, Cohen is jazzed to resurrect a feature dropped from last year’s telecast: live performances of the Best Original Song contenders. “We got very lucky this year because we have four great songs and four great performers — and hopefully we’ve done it an entertaining way that will feel fast yet also very beautiful.” Original performers include Randy Newman (with Toy Story 3’s “We Belong Together”), Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi (Tangled’s “I See the Light”), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Country Strong’s “Coming Home”), while, because of Dido’s unavailability, A.R. Rahman will perform 127 Hours‘ “If I Rise” with Florence from Florence +The Machine. “It should be a great moment,” Cohen promises.

Will Nominees In the Lead Acting Races Still Be Introduced By Friends/Peers? | This year’s Oscarcast is doing away with that time-consuming pleasantry, yet retaining the “personal tribute” aspect by dipping into the show’s past. “In one of our proudest ‘steals,’ we found a way, from a 1970s [Academy Awards telecast], to do that without bringing out all these extra people,” Cohen shares. “We’re using that, baby!”

How Are James Franco and Anne Hathaway Shaping Up as Hosts? | Vilanch, who is used to putting clever words into the mouth of the annual emcee, says this year’s twosome is “wonderful.” “They’re not stand-up comics, so they don’t come out and do joke, joke, joke, but they’re very funny actors with really big personalities, so there’s a different energy.” And since Franco (nominated for 127 Hours) and Hathaway each have winningly hosted Saturday Night Live, “They know how to work live, with short rehearsal time and lots of rewrites — and lots of pressure.”

Speaking of Hosts: Would Ricky Gervais Have Passed Muster At the Oscars? | In a word (or two), hell no. “He’s outrageous and he’s shocking, but he doesn’t really hit funny,” Vilanch opines. “He wouldn’t [work] on the Oscars because he’s not in front of a room full of drunks hoping to get an award from the 83 wine stewards and valet attendants who have voted for them.”

Will Jack Be Back? | Jack Nicholson, Hollywood royalty and the Academy Awards director’s usual go-to guy for reaction shots, has been MIA from recent ceremonies – and could be again. “Most years that Jack comes it’s because he has a reason to be there – he’s nominated more times than any other male actor in history, or he’s supporting a film he was in,” Cohen points out. “Sadly, he doesn’t have that reason this year to attend.” Still, Jack has yet to officially RSVP no.

Will There Be, You Know, Eggs On the Red Carpet? | À la Gaga, “Everyone will be arriving in eggs, and Joan Rivers will hatch them,” Vilanch promises. “It will be like Invasion of the Body Snatchers – the pod people are here!” But seriously, folks…. Between the Grammys and the Super Bowl, “There seems to be a lot of momentum for these iconic shared experiences where the audience gathers around the television,” Cohen says. “We hope to continue that.”

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  1. sp says:

    Why get rid of the introduction of Friends/Peers ? That has been the highlight of the past few Oscar telecasts.

  2. steve says:

    I hope they get rid of all the pointless clip montages that just take up time and space and have little to do with matters at hand. Give us the roll-call of those who died in the past year and that’s it. I don’t care about great moments from Westerns or Great Screen Kisses or Great One-Liners. That would cut down on the show considerably.

  3. David Baxter says:

    “He’s outrageous and he’s shocking, but he doesn’t really hit funny”

    Wow Bruce Vilanch has seriously tempered my enthusiasm and made me doubt everything else he said. Also he says there will be nothing extraneous and yet is reinstating the interminable best song performances.

    • Mikos says:

      What’s odd is that how he described the golden globes is the funniest thing Vilanch has uttered in his life.
      This is the guy responsible for joining the words “awards show presenter” and “forced humor”.

    • DL says:

      Normally, I’d agree with you. However, I’m game for anything that lets me see Florence perform live. She rocks.

    • Ew says:

      100% agreement. It’s okay to not like Gervais, but Vilanch’s comments just make him sound really bitter and out of touch.

      When it comes down to it, the Academy is no more “qualified” to decide best anything then “83 wine stewards and valet attendants” anyway.

  4. Aiden says:

    I’m actually excited for the Best Original Song performances this year. Most of all, though, how the hosts do will probably be the most exciting to see.

  5. topoopon says:

    Vilanch is an overrated writer, mostly known for these awards shows and Hollywood Squares. Ricky Gervais has had at least 6 successful TV series, been the star of 3-4 of them, been in films, and is a funny stand up comedian as well. In a word Ricky is, brilliant. Vilanch on the other hand, for looking like Sweetums, has somehow amused enough celebrities, to convince the industry he’s somebody, so they let him use some recycled jokes every year at the Oscars. Vilanch: hackneyed.

  6. Drew says:

    Vilanch lost me when he said Ricky Gervais is unfunny. Comparing resumes I’d say he is the unfunny one, by a titanic margin. I’m looking forward to the live songs – the ones from “Once” a couple of years ago made everyone I know go and see the movie immediately – well worth it. Sadly the quality is not up to that this year, but hope for future years and the chance to see Florence again will make it worth it. I also liked the personal introductions of the best actors – mostly genuine moments that drew me in as a viewer more than best-of clip montages. In this Youtube-ed world we don’t need them to show us what we can find in a few seconds online. More focus on the nominees and winners would be great! Interested to see how James and Anne handle it this year…

    • Amber says:

      I too loved the introductions, but you made a point I totally agree with. It seemed the most genuine part of the ceremony. By the time the Oscars roll around, we’ve all seen the same clips over and over, (especially for the R-rated features, because often there are only a select few that can be used for television), so we feel a “get on with it” sense of annoyance. The personal introductions felt interesting, new, and real. I’ll miss that part.

  7. Samantha says:

    I am beyond pumped for I See the Light! I <3 Tangled and I am super excited to see Zachary Levi in a different light!

  8. dee123 says:

    This years ceremony looks like the perfect cure for insomnia.

  9. Rae says:

    I too am going to miss the personal introductions. I really liked them, thought they were touching and respectful. That’s a tradition I thought they would keep. I would rather see actors really honoring their peer with the introduction than watch the same clips from old movies again. The only other part aside from the award itself is the in memorium. I hope it is as respectful and poignant as it has been in the past.

  10. can anyone else suggest other topics i can search for related information.

  11. Invogue says:

    Why watch the Oscars? They’re a joke, nobody who wins deserves to win and everyone knows it. They just give it to whoever is “due” for an award regardless if they make a good film or not. It’s pure useless garbage, just like Hollywood.