Reaction to the out-of-nowhere announcement that Anne Hathaway and James Franco will host the 2011 Oscars went something like this: Huh? Hmm. Well … and finally, the Han Solo response: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
]]>Zap2it, and while we’re as curious as anyone to see how they’ll do on Feb. 27, we like the idea of them hosting very much. In other venues, both have shown themselves to be performers who are comfortable in front of a live audience and able to roll with whatever might come their way. But of course, we have some thoughts for Hathaway and Franco on what they can do to ensure their hosting gig goes smoothly. For instance: Don’t listen to the clucking. The general theme of the chatter from those who don’t like the academy’s choice is “They’re not Steve Martin/Billy Crystal/[comedian’s name here].” No, they’re not comics by training. So what? Comedians have a pretty mixed record at the helm of the Oscar telecast over the past 10 years or so. So why not try something different? (Also? We don’t recall this much hand-wringing when non-comic Hugh Jackman was named as host of the 2009 awards, and people seemed to think that went OK.) See if Judd Apatow‘s available. The Oscars could do a lot worse than bringing in Apatow — who helped launch Franco’s career with “Freaks and Geeks” — and some of his cronies as writers for the show. Apatow is smart enough to know that the Oscars aren’t really the place for crude jokes, and he can be funny regardless. Don’t worry about the nomination factor. The other this-won’t-work notion that’s been making the rounds Monday has been, “But what if they’re nominated?” To which the answer should be, So what? At the moment it looks like Franco is the more likely nominee (for “127 Hours”), but we don’t see how or why this should affect his duties as host. Heck, if he’s nominated and doesn’t win, it’s one more opportunity for a live-TV moment in the telecast, which is part of why we watch anyway. (See also: Harris, Neil Patrick at the 2009 Emmys; O’Brien, Conan at the 2006 Emmys, et al.) Don’t overreach. We know Hathaway has a great singing voice, as she showed during the opening number of the 2009 Oscars with Jackman. And we know that Franco has no problem winking at himself (two words: “General Hospital”). But this is probably not the stage for either of them to try to prove they can do even more than we previously knew. Few things are more uncomfortable to watch than someone trying too hard to connect to an audience. And finally, remember it’s not all about you. Ultimately, what drives viewers to the show is what’s nominated. Were Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin 14 percent better as hosts this year than Jackman was in ’09? Did adults 18-49 like the duo 8 percent better than Jackman solo? Because that’s how much the overall audience and 18-49 numbers increased last year. If the right mix of critical and audience favorites are in the running this year the way they were last time out, the show will be just fine. What do you think of Franco and Hathaway as hosts? What are you hoping to see?