The producer for the 70th annual Academy Awards is due to be named any day now and the rumored favorite is veteran Gilbert Cates, who has produced the three-hour-plus extravaganza seven of the last eight years--and won an Emmy Award for the 1991 show.
As always, whoever gets the job is in for a lot of hard work--and a lot of Tuesday morning quarterbacking.
While an estimated 1 billion people around the world reportedly love to watch the Oscarcast each year, a huge chunk of that audience also loves to gripe about it.
The academy didn't ask for any advice, but in the spirit of holiday giving, here's some anyway.
Calendar asked other veteran producers how they would put on the Oscar show. One thing nearly all agreed: They would solicit advice from Cates, that most expert of Oscar producers. That aside, what they say:
Longtime producer of the Grammy Awards and producer of the Broadway musicals "The Will Rogers Follies" and the current "The Scarlet Pimpernel":
I would move the Oscars to Madison Square Garden in New York City. Movieland was New York first and then it was Hollywood. It would be a shot heard around the world. We would have 16,000 screaming fans and when the stars talked, you would be able to hear a pin drop. It's the communications center of the world and this would be the biggest Oscar celebration in history.
It would be the same show--the same general kind of show--and the set would be every bit as beautiful, if not more beautiful. I did this last year with the Grammy Awards. Of course, with the Oscars, they would take on a lot more opulence because that's the nature of the beast.
If I did a theme, I would base it on a granddaddy theme. New York is the granddaddy of music, vaudeville, of concerts, of radio, of motion pictures, of writing, of television and publishing. It's where it all started.
There will be a lot of motion picture people who will faint when they read this. "How can you take it out of Hollywood?" Doing this from New York would be a very, very strong idea and someone would have to unsell me because that is exactly what I would do.
GARY L. PUDNEY
Producer of "The World Music Awards" and a former senior vice president in charge of specials at ABC:
The public is interested more than anything in the stars, so the more stars the better. I would maybe try to encompass methods and ways to get more star power up on that stage. I would try to have a reunion of past Oscar winners, so that you would do a parade of stars.
The arrival ceremony of the stars is something that could be elongated slightly. You can't get enough of that kind of thing.
I'd double up on presenters. The gimmick there really is that it gives you two or three more stars on stage. I don't think viewers are as interested in what movie won as in the stars making these presentations.
I would try to retain Billy Crystal as host. Billy is terrific. When I was at ABC, one of the things I was most proud of was I was able to persuade Johnny Carson to host the Oscars. Here is a guy who reacts incredibly on his feet to anything that happens. Billy is the same way.
I think the nonproduction musical numbers work better. You would certainly highlight the nominated songs. I would like to have major, important vocalists perform the songs, like Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, and if the songs warranted it, I would ask Luciano Pavarotti.
A theme always helps with the formation of the show. Let's face it, the theme of the show is the movies. Clips are wonderful.
I would certainly prefer if I were doing it to have it in the Music Center, as opposed to the Shrine. I think it's a more elegant center. I'm not so sure it wouldn't be an interesting idea to have a live satellite feed from New York, too. There are always Oscar parties and Oscar functions in New York. It would be interesting to give it a little texture.
Producer of "The American Comedy Awards" and of the series "Laugh-In" and "The 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon":
I think if somebody put the Oscars in my lap, the first thing I'd do is hire Gil Cates to produce and then I'd try to convince Billy Crystal to host it and then I'd hire writers Hal Kanter and Buz Kohan and Bruce Vilanch and I'd give them a chance to do what they could do.
The problem is, unless the Oscars change the structure, it will stay as it is--and it should. The big dilemma would be: Is this a television show or an industry event being televised? As it is, it's being broadcast on television. If you did it as a television event, it would still celebrate the Academy Awards, but it would be written, paced and staged and presented more for television.
I'm not sure they should, though, because I'm a big fan of the Oscars. I enjoy it and I realize a huge group of very talented, intelligent, passionate people really work very, very well, and maybe it just ought to be left alone.