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Posted at 10:39 AM ET, 01/18/2008

Oscar: The Benefits of Plan B

By Jen Chaney

The 2008 Academy Awards ceremony: It ain't dead yet.

Yesterday members of the Directors Guild announced that they have reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. That contract could -- key word: could -- finally lead to a new deal between the Writers Guild and the Hollywood studios. And what does that mean? Well, among other things, that the Oscars could go on as usual, with no protest from picketing scribes. George Clooney could walk the red carpet in front of the Kodak Theatre without fear of reprisal. Ryan Seacrest could again ask Clooney inane questions during E!'s pre-Oscar ceremony coverage. Viewers could again complain that the Academy Awards broadcast was way too long and boring. All would be right with the world.

Of course, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Thus far, the writers have only pledged to carefully "analyze and evaluate" the directors' contract. No one has gone back to the table yet. Also, in recent weeks, the writers have taken a particularly hard stance against the awards shows, vowing to bring down the Golden Globes (mission accomplished: see Billy Bush debacle), Grammys and the Oscars if that's what it takes for their needs to be met. Still, it's hard to imagine a scenario with no Academy Awards. After all, Gil Cates, producer of the Oscar telecast, was the lead negotiator for the Directors Guild. I have to think he's working hard to influence the writers and producers to resolve things. Why? So he can produce a real Oscar telecast and receive yet another Emmy nomination for his efforts. It all comes back to the awards, people.

Still, let's pause for a moment and consider, what if? What if the writers' strike remains unresolved and the Oscar planners have to resort to the mysterious Plan B alluded to in recent days? If this year's ceremony relies on, say, pre-taped segments and movie stars (gasp!) writing their own remarks, would it be so bad? I say maybe not. In fact, here are a few reasons why the alternate version of the Oscars could be the best thing to happen to the ceremony in years.

1. If Jon Stewart Hosts, He Might Actually Get to Improvise

It's unclear whether "The Daily Show" maestro would even emcee a reimagined Oscars. But if he did it without a carefully crafted script, imagine how much better it would be. I once asked Wanda Sykes if she would ever consider hosting the Oscars. Her answer: Something to the effect of "Hell, no." After serving as one of the writers for Chris Rock when he hosted the show in 2005, Sykes said she saw first-hand how the comic's voice was diffused for the purposes of the oh-so-important telecast. (Of course, now that Sykes is currently acting as the voice of an apple in an Applebee's commercial, she may want to rethink ruling out a hosting gig.) With traditional preparations thrown out the window, maybe a host like Stewart could finally play faster, looser and funnier.

2. Pre-Taped Could Mean Better Speeches

No offense to the writers, but the scripted banter between awards presenters is usually cringe-inducing. If each presenter -- say, the Will Ferrells and Jack Blacks of the world -- gets to decide what to say, that, too, could make things much more interesting. And if the winners have to accept their awards via satellite without standing in front of such an intimidating audience, maybe they'll even say something inspiring instead of mumbling their way through the most important moment of their careers (I'm looking at you, Alan Arkin).

3. An Unpredictable Oscar Night = Higher Ratings?

We all know the ratings for the Golden Globes plunged because of the strike. But the Globes aren't the Oscars. And no one at Academy Awards Central is stupid enough to put Billy Bush in charge. Last year's Oscar ratings were up a teensy bit over 2006, I think partly because moviegoers had actually seen "The Departed." This year, as good as many of the films are, they're not exactly blockbusters or crowd-pleasers. "No Country for Old Men"? "There Will Be Blood"? Neither is attracting the masses. So the last, best hope for the telecast to see a ratings bump could be the buzz of controversy that picketing will bring and the notion that, for once, everyone involved in the show really is flying by the seat of their high-end designer pants.

It almost makes an awards show junkie wish the strike would continue, if only for curiosity's sake.

Guest blogger Jen Chaney is the movies editor for washingtonpost.com and hosts the annual online chat on Oscar night. She also is embarrassed to admit that she teared up a little when Gwyneth Paltrow blubbered her way through her Oscar acceptance speech in 1999.

By Jen Chaney  | January 18, 2008; 10:39 AM ET
Categories:  Awards Season  
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Comments

oh my, aren't you the brave one, jen chaney, for admitting to weeping during gwyneth's acceptance speech when it's so very clear that insouciance would be the order of the day should anyone else receive an award.

Posted by: methinks | January 18, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I watch the Oscars only to see beautiful clothes and smart, hot men( like George Clooney). The rest I can do without.

Posted by: Lisa1 | January 18, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

What's all this Oscar talk? I thought Walter Matthau passed away years ago.

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | January 18, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I LOOOOOOOOVE the Oscars & will be very sad if they don't go on in some form.

I agree w/Jen, an improv Oscar telecast may be just what they need for ratings.

Posted by: Bored @ home | January 18, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Walter Matthau is gone, but we still have Jack "Oscar" Klugman.

Posted by: just sayin' | January 18, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I like the "who are you wearing" portion of the Oscars, everything else is absolute boredom.

Posted by: anony | January 18, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

lol, methinks

Posted by: rachelt | January 18, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Even the clothes at the Oscars are no longer interesting given that the female wardrobes are to a large degree put together by stylists in "consultation" with the show's producers.

I don't think any female shows up without the producers already knowing exactly what that person will be wearing.

It gives the awards an overall look of being calculated and manipulated.

I wish they would just leave it alone and let people turn up wearing what they themselves have chosen in their idiosyncratic glory.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

The problem here isn't just no writers, it's a writers' picket line that the pretty people (actors / SAG members) are not going to cross. Perhaps Carson Daly can be prevailed upon to accept all awards on behalf of those not present.

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | January 18, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

4:19, remember when Cher wore the bird on her head?...Good times.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Beyoncé says she'll be at the Grammies, strike or no strike. Guess she doesn't belong to the WGA.

Posted by: The Grammies | January 18, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

They put a stop to the actresses showing up in all their "idiosyncratic" glory for a darn good reason. The fools didn't know how to dress themselves and looked terrible. Cher, as always, being the exception.

So, TPTB demanded that the stars get lessons on how to dress elegantly. Some did better in their lessons than others.

Brit definitely needs how to dress herself lessons. Step one -- wear panties.

Posted by: ep | January 18, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I think Bret deserves an Oscar, for his good looks, and I like his style.

Posted by: Rhonda | January 20, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

How about some unscripted realism to give the Oscars a much-needed ratings boost?

Katie Holmes, in her sexiest designer duds, could get her drink on a little early and tell the cameras what it's really like to be married to Scientology Stooge #1.

Sean Penn and Robin Wright could arrive together, smiling and reconciled, and announce that Oprah was entirely to blame for their temporary split, as well as for global warming.

Sherri Shepherd could appear in a lovely lady's tux with extra-long sleeves that wrap around and tie in the back, claiming that Michael Jackson couldn't have killed O.J., because he was giving birth to the Olsen twins at the time Colombus' ship sailed off the edge of the world.

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