Complaining about the Oscar host is an annual tradition. If the Academy makes a weird, edgy-seeming choice like Anne Hathaway and James Franco, it often backfires. If it wheels out a traditional pick like Billy Crystal, critics make snoring noises. Neil Patrick Harris, who will host the 87th Academy Awards, bridges both categories.
On the one hand, he’s a groundbreaking pick—the first openly gay man to host, an actor who worked his way from largely mocked teen TV stardom to a legitimate multi-quadrant career. He has succeeded as a sitcom star, as a Broadway actor, on the big screen this year in Gone Girl, and, probably most relevantly for the Oscars, as an awards emcee.
Which is why the news of his selection is a little underwhelming. Do people need to see Harris helm an awards show for a sixth time? His work with the Tony Awards (which he hosted in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013) was a case of severe diminishing returns. Diminishing returns, in fact, is an unavoidable issue with awards hosts. Sure, it’s nice to celebrate Billy Crystal’s enduring legacy at the Oscars, but his shtick got very old over the years. Steve Martin, who offered a jolt of energy at the 2000 Oscars, felt like a re-run in 2010 (where they paired him with Alec Baldwin). Harris has never yukked and sung a musical medley about movies before, but how different could it possibly be from his previous hosting roles? Won’t he be bored?