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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were among the best things on Sunday's Oscars.

In Movies & TV Commentary

NBC says Sarah Palin's laughs were real.

In Movies & TV Commentary

Danny Pudi's due back for a second season of "Community."

OnMedia: Four ways to improve the Oscar telecast


It's always amazed me that the movie industry can't produce a truly fine TV show. And Sunday's Oscar Awards hasn't changed my mind.

There were some great moments -- from Steve Martin's ad libs to Sandra Bullock's Best Actress acceptance speech: "Did I really earn this, or did I just wear y'all down?"

Martin and co-host Alec Baldwin were funny throughout, but Martin had the best line after the screenwriter of "Precious" stumbled and fumbled through his acceptance speech.

"I wrote that speech for him," said Martin.

But as is routinely the case, the show was unnecessarily, almost arrogantly, long. It was scheduled to go on for three hours, already a half-hour or so too long. But Sunday's telecast stretched 33 minutes longer, moving past the 11 p.m. hour in the Central Time Zone.

Here's what I would've edited out of Sunday's show:

1. That dance number. It only went on for about six minutes, but the interpretive dances designed to highlight the best original scores seemed twice that long. The dance had no connection to the movies. And, frankly, most of the scores are experienced as background music by movie-goers, not as something recognizable.

2. The speeches telling best actor and actress nominees how great they are. That was about 16 minutes of buttering up folks who don't need buttering up, followed by a presenter going down the list of names one more time.

3. The awards for shorts. I know, I know, lots of great directors got their starts doing shorts. But the vast number of Oscar viewers have little opportunity to view them. These are insider awards that shouldn't be eating up nine minutes of valuable primetime real estate.

4. Think about the ending. Moviemakers spend a lot of time planning for the ending of their films. But with all the fluff and baloney stuffed into the Oscar telecast, the climactic moment of the TV show appeared jammed together.

Last night's best picture award, the final Oscar handed out, featured 10 nominees for the first time since 1943. But a hurried Tom Hanks didn't even have time to do a quick run-through of who was nominated, almost slipping in the fact that "The Hurt Locker" had upset "Avatar," just seconds after Kathryn Bigelow won best director honors for her Iraq war movie.

The show closed with a line from Martin that may not have been ad-libbed. "The show is so long that Avatar now takes place in the past."

Cutting last night's dancing, shorts and testimonials would have been enough to bring the show in on time and made the surprise best picture win seem more than an afterthought.

On TV: NBC says it didn't juice the laugh track for Sarah Palin stand-up comedy debut on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" last week, despite a report to contrary rom an audience member published by the Daily Kos.

  • NBC says "America's Got Talent," with Howie Mandel replacing David Hasselhoff, will be back on Channel 4 starting June 1. "Last Comic Standing," hosted by Craig Robinson, launches its summer season on June 7.
  • ABC says "The Bachelorette" will return May 24, at 8 p.m., following the final performance show of "Dancing with the Stars." This run, featuring failed "The Bachelor" contestant Ali Fedotowsky, will move to 7 p.m the following Monday, and will be followed by the summer season of "True Beauty."
  • There's no confirmation, but Star Magazine is reporting that Brooke Burke will join Tom Bergeron as "Dancing with the Stars" co-host.

"Community" gets a pickup: The cast and crew of NBC's "Community" got the word on Friday that the sitcom will get a second season, along with two other Thursday night shows, "The Office" and "30 Rock."

Amy Poehler's "Parks and Recreation" already got word that it would be back for another season.

"Community" was created by Milwaukee Dan Harmon, a veteran of ComedySportz, and features Marquette grad Danny Pudi.

Here's how the cast found out:


Talkbacks

cuprisin | March 9, 2010 at 11:10 a.m. (report)

stollsez, I don't mean to turn this into a back-and-forth, but the Oscars are tinkered with annually. That's why Jon Stewart isn't still hosting, or David Letterman, It's why the best songs aren't performed, it's why they tried the interpretive dance. It'll be tinkered with again next next year. If it wasn't, it would still be 15 minutes long, like the first Oscar ceremony on May 16, 1929.

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stollsez | March 9, 2010 at 10:59 a.m. (report)

Tim, I think the key word here is "event". The Oscar show is event television, and the more the medium tinkers with it, the less an event it becomes and the more it becomes just another made-for-tv program. I believe that lessens its appeal. Too much tweaking to satisfy a certain demographic I believe will hurt in the long run. I liken the Oscars to the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies. They're long-winded and overblown, but you have to watch. It's history. It's an event. I think the Oscars are much the same. Tune away if you dare, but you may miss something priceless.

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cuprisin | March 9, 2010 at 10:29 a.m. (report)

stollsez, While the Oscars were up this year -- likely thanks to both the wisdom of picking 10 best pic nominees and the success of Avatar -- that bucks the trend. These days, network TV is increasingly depending on these big-ticket events to pull in not only a big, but a desirable audience. And the Oscars is good gender wise, meaning that the audience is more female than male, but it skews old. Which part of the audience has the short attention span and which part of the audience is sought by advertisers? Yep, the answer to both is the younger end of the spectrum. To continue to be the dominant force it is, the Oscar producers have to recognize who they're targeting. This is real issue, not a fake one, precisely because we're in a period of enormous change in how we watch TV.

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stollsez | March 9, 2010 at 10:16 a.m. (report)

Tim, I agree with you that the dance number and the gratuitous actor intros should have been deleted. Break dancing to the theme from "Up"? Ludicrous. That said, I think the annual make-Oscar-shorter campaign is a solution in search of a problem. Is the show too long? Maybe. But millions of people are still watching. Ratings were very strong this year. I also would strongly disagree with efforts to leave out some of the technical awards or the shorts as you suggest. These awards give us an inside look at the industry, one that we don't often get from TV's obsessive red carpet coverage. So the show is a little long. Tough. It's pop culture history. Deal with it or go to bed. Besides, part of the fun is talking about the awkward, boring parts of the show the next day.

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ajesse | March 9, 2010 at 8:08 a.m. (report)

I couldn't agree more about the glad handing "introductions" of the best actor nominees. I want to see their performances, not other actors blowing sunshine up their *$$es. I just don't see the point. Yes, I'm sure they're all fine people, and a pleasure to work with, blah, blah, blah. But so is Steven Baldwin, I assume. What have they done to get HERE? Why should I go out and see "The Blind Side" or "Crazy Heart", if I haven't already. Let the performaces speak for themselves. Just unnecessary.

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