How to change things up—stat:
1. Go Back to Five Best Picture Nominees: Since expanding to as many as 10 films in the category, the show has lost the Original Song performances, lost a reason to invite Beyoncé to sing the Original Song nominees, and lost whatever flow it had. Imagine if on Sunday night, Billy Crystal's "Oscar! Oscar" serenade was four verses shorter. Imagine if Crystal wasn't under orders to mine comedy from films that, one, nobody saw, and, two, nobody believed had a shot at winning.
2. When the Academy Gives You Lemons, Make What Jimmy Kimmel Did: No matter what films Oscar voters nominate (or don't nominate), no matter how many films Oscar voters nominate (or don't nominate), just round up Charlize Theron, Samuel L. Jackson and Gabourey Sidibe, and give them something funny to do, regardless of whether that funny thing ties directly to a nominated film. Or, to restate a theme of the last item: Go Cee Lo Green on War Horse.
3. Make the Show About the Year in Film, Not the Year in Awards Season: If space aliens and/or the general public watched last night's show, would they know Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was 2011's most-popular movie? Would they learn anything about The Hangover Part II, Fast Five or Thor? They would if the telecast made relevancy the mission, and not the butt of its jokes.
4. Old Flim Clips: Just Bury Them at Sea Already: And do not unearth them, save one annual exception: The "In Memoriam" package, which, oddly enough, didn't used them enough last night.
5. More Sacha Baron Cohen: Or, in the event he's busy, then more of Angelina Jolie's right leg. Either way, the telecast should find a way to get the big buzz moments on the show, and not leave them behind on the red carpet. (Not that E! minded. Its ash-accented Live From the Red Carpet went down as the franchise's most-watched Oscar edition ever.)
The Bottom Line: Yes, people love complaining about the Oscars as much as they love concocting ways to fix the Oscars. And, yes, all by their lonesome, Crystal and the show did just fine, TV ratings-wise. But just as Crystal's appearance on the 2011 show reminded that the James Franco-Anne Hathaway edition lacked a steadying hand, Chris Rock's appearance on Sunday's show reminded that the Crystal edition lacked a sharpness, if not Seth Rogen's monologue from the Independent Spirit Awards.