Maybe the Oscar Telecast Won't Be Terrible This Year

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Four reasons to hold out hope that Sunday's ceremony will entertain.

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Much like the Super Bowl Halftime Show or a typical episode of Glee, it's impossible for the Academy Awards telecast to please everyone. But for the past few years, it's found ways to displease most everyone. Facing pressure to make the ceremony exciting!, and different!, and, for the love of James Franco, youthful!, Oscar producers have tinkered with the show so much that after years of bad reviews last year's awards finally earned the branding "worst telecast ever."

But it doesn't have to be that way. Against all odds, this year's Academy Awards producers seem to be learning from the show's past mistakes. And, more importantly, they seem to be learning from past triumphs. Early information leaked about Sunday night's telecast indicates that the telecast will be borrowing from the greatest hits of Oscar shows past. For the first time in years, the show might not suck. Here, four reasons to be optimistic:

Comedy is back...

Years after any given Oscar telecast is through, people aren't fondly remembering that seven-and-a-half-minute montage chronicling the history of romance in cinema. They're raving about the ceremony's classic comedy bits, which is why Billy Crystal's iconic opening has been replicated so many times. In a four-hour night where awards are handed out in categories like Best Sound Mixing and Best Documentary Short (really boring things!), those scattered humorous moments represent the few times viewers can remember actually enjoying themselves while watching the world's most popular awards show. That's why this year's show seems promising.

"Comedy" at the Oscars recently has meant Taylor Lautner and Nicole Kidman attempting witty banter, instead of those who do it best.

In an interview earlier this week, the show's Executive Producer Don Mischer revealed his plans for the telecast: "We need more comedy." Yes. From Bob Hope to Jimmy Carson to Billy Crystal, the consummate Oscar hosts are known comedians. They've been invited back the most because they do their job well: They make us laugh. In recent years, producers seemed to abandon that mantra by hiring actors like Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, and Anne Hathaway to host instead of comedians like Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, and Whoopi Goldberg who had been hosting modern ceremonies. Thankfully, Billy Crystal is back. Allegedly, Oscar's sense of humor will be too.

...And so are the comedians

"Comedy" as an idea hasn't exactly been absent from the awards over the years. It's just that recent years have brought us Taylor Lautner and Nicole Kidman attempting witty banter, instead of those who do it best. This year, that's not the case. The list of presenters announced so far is not only packed with Hollywood's funniest stars, but those responsible for some of the best moments from recent Academy Awards shows.

Smartly, the cast of Bridesmaids was among the first presenters announced. The sextet of actresses boasts sketch-comedy veterans Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, and Wendi McLendon-Covey, all of who know who to work a live audience—and who already proved at the SAG Awards to be MVP presenters this awards season. Another awards show MVP invited back this year is Tina Fey. At both the 2009 and 2010 Oscar ceremonies (not to mention any awards show she's called on to present at), the 30 Rock actress stole the show while presenting Best Original Screenplay alongside Steve Martin and Robert Downey, Jr., respectively. Best of all, the humor was right in her self-deprecating, quirky wheelhouse, a refreshing change of pace from the tired puns and "this is why cinematography is important" dialogue that defines other presenters' banter.

And the encouraging news keeps coming. Chris Rock will return to the Kodak Theatre for the first time since his controversial hosting stint in 2005. Rock's go at emcee is best known for a comment about Jude Law being in a lot of movies that for some confusing reason agitated Sean Penn, but that faux scandal has overshadowed the fact that the comedian was the most brazen host in Oscars history. He infused a little bit of danger and discomfort into the staid proceedings, roasting the Hollywood elite in attendance before Ricky Gervais made doing so cool. The show's best stunt presenters will also be back this year: Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller. Ferrell, who will present this year alongside The Hangover's Zach Galifianakis, helped make the woefully unexciting Best Makeup category the highlight of the 2010 awards when he and Steve Carell demonstrated the ramifications of actors taking the stage without the help of a skilled makeup artist:

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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