It's been a hell of a week for the Oscars: Brett Ratner quit, Eddie Murphy quit, and everyone had some bright ideas about who should host. Sadly, Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal were quickly hired. And even though the once and future king of the Oscars has been anointed, some of you people are still carrying on about the damn Muppets. Knock it off!
As soon as Murphy quit, thousands of fans of the indefatigable felt monsters took to Facebook and Twitter to see if they could Betty White this old corpse back into existence. (Even I made a joke about the movement when I posted about the Billy Crystal news.) Sorry, everyone, but this is a bad idea.
First of all, it would be logistically difficult. How do you get the puppets and the puppeteers on stage and have all of those cameras and moving set pieces and various assorted stairways? It would be a nightmare. One easily surmounted by the geniuses in Hollywood, I'm sure, but an added consideration in what is going to be a tight production schedule now that the show has been derailed by a few months.
Secondly, it's the same sort of nostalgia trap that Hollywood keeps falling into. Hiring Billy Crystal is no better. It's wishing for those good old days when we were young and wearing footie pajamas and your mother would put Life cereal in your Star Wars bowl for you. It's like only green lighting sequels and remakes. It's like only putting on TV shows that originally aired in the '70s.
Yes, some of this is the scaredy-cat suits in Hollywood afraid to back the wrong horse so always betting on a sure thing. But the problem with a sure thing is that it only has 1:1 odds. Yes, you get a victory, but you don't pocket that much to take home. When you gamble on something unexpected, something actually new, something with 1:100 odds, you might go home with a pocket full of cash. In this instance the cash is a new audience or cultural relevance or doing something new and inventive with the awards show all things that both the public and the Academy claims to want. When it comes down to it, though, we keep getting the same old thing.
That's one thing I'll say for Ratner and Murphy. While I was down on them from the start, at least they had the potential to flame out spectacularly. The groundswell behind the Muppets shows the collective displeasure with the way things are going. It wants to buck the status quo so much that it doesn't even want a human in the hosting slot. But choosing something from the warm and cozy past isn't the solution. In 20 years are we going to have people wanting Yo Gabba Gabba to host the Oscars? Or Sponge Bob? Why don't we enlist Doug and Patty Mayonnaise? Do we keep going back to those things that made us happy in the past and try to carve a future out of them?
No. If we continue to hold the sure bets of the past above something riskier, something that is about the present or—god forbid—the future, then we'll just have a cultural stagnation. Sure, you say that the Muppets are relevant because of a new movie, but isn't that just going back to the same poisoned well? If we elect the Muppets, we'll be recycling the same old touchstones over and over again. We'll be listening to Beatles records, wearing bell-bottoms, and watching the reanimated corpse of Bob Hope host the damn Oscars. Say no to the Muppets. Say no to it all!