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Should Jay Leno host next year's Oscars?


Why Jay Leno Should Host the Oscars

Watching Jay Leno chat last night on The Tonight Show with old school Hollywood legend Robert Wagner was another reminder that the 58-year-old comedian could be the perfect host for the 2008 Academy Awards. Harkening back at various points to the 1950’s to tease Wagner about the wig the actor wore for the Medieval action adventure Prince Valiant and the Elvis-like moves he adopted for a TV performance of the song “Honeycomb”, Leno laid down essentially a blueprint for the kind of good-natured ribbing Academy members prefer.

He’s got more outright energy than 2006 MC Ellen DeGeneres (by coincidence, last night’s first Tonight Show guest) and less innate crankiness than 1994 jokester David Letterman. Not to mention the fact that since Leno entered the apparent final year of his NBC contract, he has had an extra bounce in his step. As others mentioned in the wake of that ridiculous recent Ricky Gervais rumor, a February Oscars gig on ABC-TV would prove to be the perfect bridge to perhaps joining Kimmel there next fall.

Equally important is the fact that Leno would embrace what has kept Jerry Seinfeld for example from saying yes, and that is the notion that if you do well, the Academy is going to ask you back year after year. The New Rochelle, New York native is already the hardest working man in talk show business, so what’s one more stand-up gig? Especially one that is just a hop, skip and a jump from his Hollywood Hills home.

Some of Leno’s trademark comedy bits, with NBC’s permission, could be used as perfect springboards for the kind of recurring Carson and Crystal humor that has colored the show in the past. For example, he could periodically throughout the broadcast pick off some of the funnier headlines from 2008 that appeared in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

Another reason to hire Leno is that as the reigning late night TV ratings king, he could probably inject some much needed life into the annual broadcast’s moribund overnights. Heck, if the Academy really wanted to go all out with this idea, they could put Kevin Eubanks in the orchestra pit and hand over the announcing chores to John Melendez. Seriously, who needs another weird actor VO choice or classically trained orchestra conductor? At the very least, you can bet Eubanks would come up with some far more energetic play-the-acceptance-speech-off music.

While we’re at it, why not arrange for the more than 80 cars and 70 motorcycles owned by Leno to be used to ferry the 2008 nominees to the Kodak Theater rather than a cavalcade of limos. The effect of such a move on the red carpet chatter alone would be worth it; Kate Winslet hopping out of a 1937 Bugatti Atlantic, Russell Crowe in black helmet and tux for his trek on a 1962 Honda 305 Superhawk, and so on.

Leno’s got the cars, he’s got the juice and, to boot, he knows every one of these A-listers better than any other talk show host. So, let’s do it Academy; assuming Jay is open to the idea, give him the keys to the 2008 edition asap.

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