How to Revamp the Oscars: A Genius Plan This year's Academy Awards got the worst ratings in ceremony history. Madeleine Brand talks to comedy duo Frangela, former Seinfeld writer Peter Mehlman and others about how they'd fix the show. Prince, gambling and bare midriffs are part of the plan.
NPR logo

How to Revamp the Oscars: A Genius Plan

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
How to Revamp the Oscars: A Genius Plan

How to Revamp the Oscars: A Genius Plan

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Back now with DAY TO DAY.

If you watched the Oscars this past weekend, you weren't quite alone, but the ratings do show it was the least watched Academy Awards ceremony ever, or at least since they started keeping the figures back in 1974. Even lower than the dismal showing in 2003 when the event was hosted by Steve Martin. With us now is Frangela, our Frangela, Frances Callier and Angela Shelton, our comedic translators of current events. And you are here with a prescription for how to make things better for the Oscars.

Ms. FRANCES CALLIER (Comedian): I'm gonna tell you. The Oscars have been getting worse and worse every year.

Ms. ANGELA SHELTON (Comedian): Yes.

Ms. CALLIER: It's too dull, especially when you've got the Golden Globes where everybody's drunk.

Ms. SHELTON: Mm hmm.

Ms. CALLIER: You know, they serve booze at the Golden Globes and they don't at the Oscars.

Ms. SHELTON: I missed it.

Ms. CALLIER: The Oscars, they're pretty white, and maybe that's a problem with the boring factor.


Ms. CALLIER: My eyes were blinded by the Oscars last night. It was like a white out. I was like, is it snowing on stage? It's, they get a little dull. That's why, you know what? Last year the coolest part was when the rap group - when Three 6 Mafia won, that was exciting.

Ms. SHELTON: That was fun.


Ms. SHELTON: They were excited. It was cool music, it was hip.

Ms. CALLIER: Mm hmm.

Ms. SHELTON: And you miss that with a lot of these stars, especially you're looking at people like Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And they're phenomenal actors, they've been nominated, you know, tons of times, they've won, and it's kind of like, wah, wah. There's Hillary Swank.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah, been here done that. That's what the Oscars needs, it needs more of that. So my number one thing, it needs to feel live.

Ms. SHELTON: (unintelligible)

Ms. CALLIER: Like this is something that hasn't been practiced 13,000 times.

Ms. SHELTON: ...times, yeah.

Ms. CALLIER: You know? That's why they have Jack Nicholson up front.

Ms. SHELTON: Right.

Ms. CALLIER: 'Cause they're hoping...

BRAND: That they'll do something crazy.

Ms. CALLIER: Exactly.

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah, yeah, you know, that he's gonna feel some chick up or a kiss on the lips or something.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah, and everybody can throw a comment to him when they come up there.

BRAND: Well, let's say the producer Gil Cates goes into early retirement and someone anoints you two...


BRAND: the new producers of the Oscars.

Ms. SHELTON: Okay, okay.

Ms. CALLIER: Oh, first of all we have to get started.

Ms. SHELTON: Exactly.

Ms. CALLIER: Today.

Ms. SHELTON: Yes. Number one, I'm hiring back Debbie Allen. We're going to have some Debbie Allen dance breaks coming. We need some dance breaks.

Ms. CALLIER: Yes, we do.

Ms. SHELTON: We need some big choreography.

BRAND: "Flashdance."

Ms. CALLIER: Flashdance.

Ms. SHELTON: We need some choreography.

BRAND: Okay, that's one thing.

Ms. SHELTON: We need to start there. Remember those kids from "Step Up."

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah.

Ms. SHELTON: Get some of those kids out there and like, you know, midriffs, you know.

Ms. CALLIER: Mm hmm.

Ms. SHELTON: You know, we need some sexy back.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah, sexy back.

Ms. SHELTON: We're gonna have booze.

Ms. CALLIER: Mm hmm.

Ms. SHELTON: We're gonna have waitress cocktail service, for sure.

Ms. CALLIER: For sure.

Ms. SHELTON: Our house band is going to be Prince and the Revolution or whoever he happens to be working with now.

Ms. CALLIER: Mm hmm.

Ms. SHELTON: No more Bill Conti.

Ms. CALLIER: No more.

Ms. SHELTON: He's a fabulous man, but dead done, over it.

BRAND: Early retirement for him too.

Ms. CALLIER: Early.

Ms. SHELTON: You know what? We'll give him one of those lifetime awards, no problem.

Ms. CALLIER: Yup, yup, yup.

Ms. SHELTON: We're moving all those technical awards to that other crappy night.

Ms. CALLIER: That's right. They're gone, gone, gone.

Ms. SHELTON: Those are gone. And all the mixing, you know, costume. Maybe one costume and set design, but that's it.

Ms. CALLIER: But that's it. And you know what? And some of that writing stuff too. 'Cause I don't really care, Adapted Screenplay, plays adapted by...

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah, and the super short documentaries, short documentaries, super short foreign documentaries.

Ms. CALLIER: None of us follow it.

Ms. SHELTON: Mm mm, mm mm.

Ms. CALLIER: We just guessed on the pool, you know? You know what I would make? I would make a behind-the-scenes DVD, behind-the-scenes at the Oscars.

Ms. SHELTON: Because that's what we want to see - people backstage being like, I knew it, I deserved it, it's me.

Ms. CALLIER: Mine. Yeah.

BRAND: Sounds like something a little edgier, quicker, live, more live feeling.

Ms. SHELTON: Live.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah. It's got to feel live. This felt like there was no reason to make that a live show. You could've taped that.

Ms. SHELTON: Absolutely.

Ms. CALLIER: I mean when you bring out the 98-year-old man, that's lovely. Please, and I'm happy and proud and...

Ms. SHELTON: But that's Thursday last week time.

Ms. CALLIER: That's a Thursday last week time.

Ms. SHELTON: And then you put (unintelligible)...

BRAND: You are harsh. So you would relegate him lifetime achievement to Thursday night.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah. We don't know who he is.

Ms. SHELTON: No, we don't.

Ms. CALLIER: Don't act like you did either. You didn't know who he was either.

Ms. SHELTON: And you know what? And you know what? And at first you were going, oh, this is lovely and sweet. And then he kept on being like...

Ms. CALLIER: And then he kept talking.

Ms. SHELTON: He kept talking, he kept talking, he kept talking, you were like, come on now, 98-year-old man. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah, yeah.

Ms. SHELTON: You got a lifetime achievement award, you don't get to talk about for a lifetime, let's hurry it up. Tell it to your family.

Ms. CALLIER: Thank your mama. They're the only people who care.

Ms. SHELTON: Let's go. Come on, you had your moment.

Ms. CALLIER: Come on.

Ms. SHELTON: I'm not saying don't honor the man.

Ms. CALLIER: Just not that nice. Not on Oscar night.

BRAND: Not on your night.

Ms. CALLIER: Not on my night.

Ms. SHELTON: Because then you could open up the speeches and make it go longer and then we could hear George Clooney and like, somebody go...

Ms. CALLIER: That's a really good idea, Angela.

Ms. SHELTON: You could, like, have a little moment.

Ms. CALLIER: Exactly. If we can get rid of these some of these lesser Oscar moments and we could give them more...

Ms. SHELTON: Oscar light moments.

Ms. CALLIER: Oscar light moments. Then we could give more time for people to say what they really are thinking. That is a night.

Ms. SHELTON: That's a night.

Ms. CALLIER: That's a show.

BRAND: Well, what do you think about that, you know how they used the music as kind of the cane to get people off stage? What do you think of that? Get rid of it? Keep it?

Ms. CALLIER: You know what? Kill the music, I want to see the Sandman from the Apollo just shooing people off. That's what I'd want to see.

Ms. SHELTON: Well, admit it. It would be so much more fun if Frances, you just heard us yell up, that's, wrap it up. Wrap it up, it's over, come on now.

Ms. CALLIER: That you would like.


Ms. CALLIER: You would enjoy that. We're like, let's go, Nicole Kidman, we get it, good job, good job, come on.

BRAND: So really what you're saying is that the Oscars should be all about you. Frankly I don't feel like doing it, but as a gift, as a gift to this country, the viewing public.

Ms. CALLIER: To the world.

Ms. SHELTON: I feel it's our responsibility to offer a service...

BRAND: You are just too generous.

Ms. CALLIER: We just love the Oscars.

Ms. SHELTON: It's for the art.

BRAND: Angela Shelton, Frances Callier are comedic translators of current events and redesigners of the Oscars. Frangela, thank you.

Ms. SHELTON: Thank you.

Ms. CALLIER: Thank you.

BRAND: And now for some other ideas about how to make the Oscars more watchable. Here's former Seinfeld writer, Peter Mehlman.

Mr. PETER MEHLMAN (Writer): When they announced the winner for the Oscar they should let you know what the total number of votes was.

Ms. LAURIE PIKE (Los Angeles Magazine): They need have a crawl, a text crawl at the bottom of the screen.

BRAND: And that's L.A. magazine's style director Laurie Pike. Laurie, Peter, and our contributor, '50s historian Charles Phoenix, have some ways to put some life back into Oscar. Listen up, Academy.

Mr. CHARLES PHOENIX: Have Cher sing all of the nominated songs in medley form while changing in and out of costumes designed by Bob Mackie.

Mr. MEHLMAN: You should know whether it was a really close one or whether it was a blowout.

Ms. PIKE: The only fun I had watching the telecast was listening to hysterical cracks that people in the room were making.

Mr. MEHLMAN: And you know, if they did that, then you know, there would be more gambling involved because you could have point spreads on every category instead of just winner, loser.

Mr. PHOENIX: Why not have it outside around a swimming pool and have the winners swim up.

Ms. PIKE: Viewers should type in comments and they should have a very sharp person just looking at those comments and posting things live.

Mr. MEHLMAN: Once you have points spreads, then you'll mobsters coming in, and then the awards could be fixed.

Mr. PHOENIX: Have the whole thing at a drive-in movie theater.

Ms. PIKE: I mean I just kept drinking and drinking, hoping it would get better and it didn't.

Mr. PHOENIX: And have the winners drive up to receive their awards.

Ms. PIKE: Just funny.

Mr. PHOENIX: And then it would be about who has the best car, not who has the best dress.

Mr. MEHLMAN: It makes it really much more exciting.

BRAND: Comedy writer Peter Mehlman, '50s fanatic Charles Phoenix, and fashion editor Laurie Pike, with a few ideas for making the Oscar broadcast a little more fun.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.