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The quest to find a host for the annual Oscar telecast is always an interesting one, but this year has been even more interesting than usual. After a longer than usual delay, it was announced that Kevin Hart would take on hosting duties. However, he stepped down within days of being given the role and now the search is on for a replacement. Two potential new hosts, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey, who have extensive hosting experience, have both now publicly taken themselves out of the running. Harvey said it best...
Hell, if they won't let Kevin Hart host the Oscars, how the hell are they going to let me host the Oscars? I don't want to host the Oscars because I don't want them digging up my past.
Oprah Winfrey is still one of the most popular personalities in the world, making her an ideal choice for an Oscar host if she was at all interested in doing the job. However, in a recent TMZ video, the former TV host and actress gave a pretty unequivocal "no" when asked if she would be interested in hosting the Oscars.
Steve Harvey has also hosted television shows, game shows and, most famously, the Miss Universe pageant, so he's certainly got experience, even if he isn't an A-list actor or late-night host, who are the types of people who generally get tapped for a job like Oscar host. However, since the Oscars are clearly having trouble finding a host, his name certainly may have come up. However, Harvey told ET he wouldn't host the show. It seems he feels that if Kevin Hart wasn't an acceptable choice, he knows he wouldn't be either.
Hart was given the nod at the Oscar hosting gig but almost immediately the choice was met with criticism due to jokes Hart had made in the past that were viewed as homophobic. Hart initially refused to apologize for the jokes, claiming he had done so on previous occasions, but eventually Hart did apologize, though he did so as part of announcing he was stepping down as Oscar host.
The initial announcement that Hart would be the host came much later in the process than such an announcement has come in recent years. This indicated to many that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was already having difficulty finding a host. Now that the original choice has stepped down, the Oscars now have to find a new host with that many fewer options.
One assumes that any and all previous Oscar hosts have decided not to return, as they would be the obvious first choices. This means no Jimmy Kimmel or Ellen Degeneres or Chris Rock.
The Oscars seem to have been looking for something "new" in recent years, leading to some outside the box thinking that led to choices like Seth MacFarlane or the double act of Anne Hathaway and James Franco. To that end, they probably didn't go back to any of the previous hosts at first, but after not finding any takers, they almost certainly went back to the well at some point.
Some recent rumors have indicated that the Academy may try to do the show without any host at all, but at this point, it seems like that may not really be a decision, it may be a result the show is forced into.
It's somewhat understandable why nobody seems excited about hosting the Oscars. I don't remember the last time that a host received universal, or even general, praise for doing the job. It seems that even the funniest comedian or host becomes unfunny while hosting the Oscars. Many are accused of playing things too safe. Seth MacFarlane did quite the opposite, but many were unimpressed with him as well.
Whatever the reasons, it's likely that the Academy will be digging deep to find a new host. Perhaps they'll offer more money for the gig or try to find some other way to convince somebody that previously said no to say yes.
Steve Harvey's reason for saying no is potentially telling. He seems to know that he may have said or done things in his past that, even if he's not proud of now, might put him in a bad light. It's possible there are many others who feel the same way. Simply being the host that replaced the guy who stepped down puts the new host in a dubious position, which might turn off anybody who might have previously said yes to the gig.
The 2019 Oscar telecast is barely more than two months away which leads to another problem. Whoever takes the hosting job now doesn't have much time to prepare whatever it is they want to do. With every day that passes, there's that much less time. In addition to writing the traditional monologue, the host usually puts together other musical or comedy bits. While the Oscars has several writers, the host doesn't actually do it themselves, there's only so much any of them can do without knowing who it is they are writing for.
The lack of host has led to a lot of interesting ideas from fans, including several suggestions on social media. I've seen everybody from comedian and serious movie buff Patton Oswalt to the Muppets being suggested as potential hosts. Honestly, either of those suggestions are perfectly solid and would probably result in some entertaining moments if nothing else.
Although, it's hard to guess how much either of them would be a serious TV ratings draw, which is a big part of the equation. The Oscars have had a hard time drawing in viewers in recent years, which has been a problem for both the Academy and ABC, the television network that has a deal to air the show for the next several years. This has led to numerous planned changes in the show, including the discussion of a new category specifically for blockbuster movies, as part of the problem is that the general audience hasn't seen many of the movies that tend to be nominated.
This is why the show doesn't simply need a host, it needs a host that will cause people to actually turn the show on. Oprah probably would have done that. There are lots of actors who could, but finding the one that works, who also wants the job, looks to be a difficult problem.