Oscar producers bank on 'funny, very kind' host Ellen DeGeneres
By Mary Milliken
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Now they know how big the show is and how much people care, but the producers of the Oscars aren't making any apologies for their maiden effort running Hollywood's biggest show last year or the provocative humor of its host, Seth MacFarlane.
Despite some harsh reviews from TV critics, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron pulled in the largest U.S. audience in three years, a ratings bump in the 18-49 demographic coveted by TV networks and, perhaps most importantly for them, a second chance to show what they could do.
"I would say this year we are undaunted," Meron told Reuters backstage at the Dolby Theatre from where ABC will broadcast the Academy Awards on Sunday. Last year, 40.3 million U.S. viewers tuned in to watch the film industry's top honors, a glamorous event broadcast to 200 countries.
For this year, the producers have teased a homage to movie heroes, like Erin Brockovich, Harry Potter and Nelson Mandela, and a heavy dose of hit Oscar-nominated songs by hot artists, including Pharrell Williams and U2. There will be surprises, they promise.
But the single biggest reason to tune in on Sunday in their minds? Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, day-time talk show maven and soon-to-be two-time Oscar host.
"She is funny and yet in her way she is very kind as well, and I think it's a great blend," said Meron.
"We are very proud of last year's show and we love Seth," Meron added. "Seth represents current comedy as does Ellen. They are both experts in the their field."
But Meron bristles at the notion that the 56-year-old DeGeneres is a safe choice, someone who won't offend like MacFarlane, the creator and star of TV series "Family Guy" who pushed boundaries with his risque jokes about female nudity and zingers about gays and Jews. The Los Angeles Times called the change in hosts from "naughty" to "nice." Continued...