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Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody

The Oscars ceremony this year has been marred by controversy. Most of it, to date, has surrounded the host. Kevin Hart was an option, until offensive jokes from his past made it difficult for him to remain in the white-hot spotlight that comes with the Oscar host gig. Instead of squeezing in a replacement, the producers have opted to change up the format, and today at TCA, ABC President Karey Burke elaborated on the main reason why they went with a hostless telecast this year. She said:

There was an idea [after the Kevin Hart story] that we were just going to have presenters at the Oscars, and we all got on board with that idea pretty quickly. The main goal, which I was told was – the Academy came to ABC last year after a very long telecast – was to keep the show to three hours. The producers, I think wisely, decided to not have a host and to go back to the presenters and the movies being the stars. And that will be the best way to keep the show at a brisk three hours.

One complaint leveled at the Academy Awards telecast in recent years is that it goes on too long. Then again, for those who adore movies and the film industry, the show can go on for as long as it needs to, so long as everyone is properly celebrated. When it was suggested that certain below-the-line categories might be handed out during commercials, purists were outraged.

But ABC President Karey Burke, when speaking to TCA Members (including CinemaBlend’s own Nick Venable) at the ABC panel, said that it’s exactly this type of interest in the revamped show that has convinced network executives that audiences still care about the annual awards show. She explained:

I ironically have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept the Oscars really in conversation. And that the mystery has bene really compelling. People really care. I think it’s fascinating. I was actually at the Nominee’s Luncheon yesterday, and I can tell you, it was a very exciting room to be in. The list of presenters is phenomenal, and growing. And I, for one, am excited because in no time in history have there ever been three movies nominated for Best Picture, each having grossed over $200 million. I think we’re going to see a big turnout for this, because there are big, popular movies that are being nominated. And I think people really care to see who is going to win.

She might be right. At the very least, this year’s Oscars will be a trial run to see if a new format can succeed. Because the Host gig at the Academy Awards has become a huge lose-lose scenario for whoever take the role. And so, if a hostless show gets great reviews, this might become the norm.

The Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 24 on ABC.