Don't be shocked if the show of shows falls back on the tried and true.
Ratings for the Oscars have not been consistently healthy in recent years. We have yet to floss our brains clean from last season's Hathaway-Franco incident, in which viewership free-fell by 10 percent versus the previous year. The more decrepit among us also can remember that bleak night in Nineteen Hunnerd and Ninety Five, when David Letterman tried to merge his (rather fine) brand of comedy into a night of traditional schlock and self-congratulation.
It did not end well. Letterman has not hosted since.
So who has delivered big numbers for the Academy Awards? Well, if you believe that hosts even have anything to do with viewership, know this: In 2009, the all-singing all-dancing Hugh Jackman delivered some of the highest Oscar ratings the show has ever seen.
Per Variety: "One year after the Academy Awards telecast tumbled to its smallest audience on record (32 million), viewership surged by 13 percent to 36.3 million."
It should be noted, however, that the world had lost Heath Ledger shortly before; as Variety notes, "Audience peaked during the 10 p.m....half-hour, which included Heath Ledger's posthumous victory."
So will Jackman return? What about someone like Ellen DeGeneres or Monsters, Inc. star Billy Crystal, who has hosted eight times? Or Chris Rock? All of those folks are well respected and have turned in decent-to-awesome hosting performances in the past.
Well, don't be shocked if we see one of them again, says Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University.
"If they're smart, they'll go back to Billy Crystal," Levinson tells me. "He is far and away the best host they've had, at least, going back to Bob Hope."
Of course, the Academy, like everyone else, seems to be obsessed with the elusive 18 to 30 demographic, and Crystal is now 63. But then again, there's also the 46-year-old Rock, who Levinson says, "is still as funny as ever" and who hosted the telecast in 2005.
Still, Levinson says, "I think they're going to go for Billy Crystal. They don't have much time now, and he's a safe choice. That would be my best guess."
As for the Academy itself, yes, I did reach out to those people. If they've approached Crystal or anyone else, they're keeping the info to themselves.