Kicking Oscar Out of the Bingo Hall: Creating February Madness for the Academy Awards

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I knew last night seemed familiar as the Academy Awards dripped by.  I was once again trapped in the living room of my grandmother’s 1974 Florida mobile home.  The room was stuffy; there was nowhere to go, even shuffleboard or laps on the awesome giant tricycles were forbidden to all under 65–and the pond had gators, reportedly.

Why Jack's never been asked to host...

Why Jack’s never been asked to host…

Last night I watched my 40th consecutive Oscars.  It began when I was in fifth grade with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sweeping the major awards.  With the advent of cable TV’s 400 more channels, Twitter-feeds and on-demand viewing a lot has changed.  Except for the Oscars.

Stuck in Lawrence Welk-Land

It still starts at 8:30 pm, still runs past midnight due to the the Death Valley of songs, oddball tributes and eternal commercials somewhere half-past “It’s-gotta-be-over-soon” o’clock.  There is still the same generally awkward monologue/opening number—with a brief 1990s hiatus of Billy Crystal between rotating comedians who all get trashed the next day.  Every year there are minor tweaks—for example, last night there weren’t any montages except for Sound of Music highlights.  But after the usual In Memoriam section, there was the bonus tribute song to the fallen–which used to sometimes happen during the slide show.  Then in the last 15 minutes we are rushed through Best Director, Actress and Picture—as if it’s our fault that ABC is out of time.

Fighting against Hope

Fighting against Hope

My favorite part was when they queued the band to not so gently nudge the winners that their second-language thank-you time had expired because they needed to hurry to Neil Patrick Harris strolling the aisles talking to seat-fillers.

Oh well, maybe Oscar is too much like my grandma—just too set in her ways and needing to get to the hairstylist on Tuesdays at 4:30 for Bingo at 7 pm.  Fat chance they’ll have a Best Comedy award.  Too many great comedies are bypassed by the Life Cereal Academy–if people enjoy it too much, something must be wrong with it.  MMD Contributing writers Kale Davidoff and Sheri Horwitz have even suggested they add Best Trailer, Best Animated Voice-Over–or at least Best Agent; after all, they do get thanked enough in the speeches just ahead of parents and children and they sometimes even make the casualty montage.

February Madness?

Perhaps the Oscars might reinvent itself like two successful sporting events have successfully done since the Gerald Ford era—the Olympics and the NCAA Tournament.

"Before we get back to table tennis, a closer look at what makes these athletes so special..."

“Before we get back to table tennis, a closer look at what makes these athletes so special…”

NBC has done its homework and realized that broadcasting on multiple channels over two weeks hits all of its various audiences, with the women’s vote (like the Oscars) carrying the most weight—thus the prime-time slots going to swimming, gymnastics, figure skating and skiing.  You can always switch to CNBC if you want to catch badminton or curling.  And Bob Costas is perenially there, braving even pink-eye, to offer an up-close and personal story of a weight lifter who is surrounded by rescued dogs and flips large tractor tires in his farmyard.

CBS has realized the juggernaut ratings of its opening weekend of March Madness, partnering with Turner Sports to allow homes and happy bar-owners to have all 32 games on Thursday and Friday playing from noon to 1 am.  Imagine the same captured audience if the Academy could somehow string along its Sunday night glacier-movement into bite-able chunks for us mavens–so 11:15 doesn’t feel like Mile 11 in a marathon.

"It's Oscar-time, Babyyyy!"

“It’s Oscar-time, Babyyyy!”

Sadly even this Oscar-junkie found himself yawning last night, unbelievably during Lady Gaga’s amazing pipes as she sang, in record-commercial style, the greatest hits of the The Sound of Music canon (“Edelweiss” gets one line?) followed by the classy Julie Andrews.  Was my 50 years finally succumbing to techno-ADD and a need to check my email, my blog’s Oscar pool along with snarky Twitter and Facebook posts?

The Detroit Institute of Arts offers Michigan’s only venue to watch all ten nominated shorts in one sitting.  In its first five years, this program has become a sell-out must-see event in Detroit—all for the category nobody previously had access to.  There’s obvious an interest to see these films—yet they’re still given the bum’s rush at the ceremony due to ratings.  So perhaps what we need is a February Madness—or at least one weekend devoted to the Academy Awards…

Here’s what would hook me, anyway.  ABC is welcome to adjust, of course…

Friday

  • 7 pm – 11:30 pm: Nominated Documentaries (Part 1)

Saturday

  • 10 am—1 pm: Nominated Documentaries  (Part 2)
  • 1 pm -4 pm: Short Documentaries
  • 5 pm – 8 pm: Science & Technology Awards
  • 8 pm – 11 pm: Animated Shorts & Live-Action Shorts

Sunday

  • 1 pm – 7 pm: Special Mini-Docs on Nominees (like Costas’ Olympic profiles)
  • 7 pm – 9:30 pm: Production Awards (makeup, sound, editing, cinematography, etc.)
  • 9 pm – 11:00 pm: Music, Acting, Directing, Films

The Super Bowl pre-game show that lasts at least 12 hours is testament to the unquenchable thirst people have for the evening’s main event–thus the awful red carpet hours on E!  Why not use those six hours to show us what those nominated hair-dressers on a set do–or at least educate us on how Sound Mixing is different from Sound Editing.

The above schedule allows for not only great binge-watching, but adults could host slumber parties or even arrange weekend trips with pals.  My wife and I went with five other couples to just see the Shorts last weekend at the DIA and had a blast-imagine how much fun an entire weekend could be?

And think, ABC, of the money you could reel in by selling off tickets to us junkies–like on-demand boxing matches.  It might be too much to expect that all of the above scheduling might happen for “free” on ABC’s family of channels–but you never know.

About Kevin Walsh

Before creating MyMediaDiary.com, Kevin taught high school video productions and language arts for 25 years. He is the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at www.mmdphotovideo.com which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His text, "Video Direct," is used in 40 states. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two teenagers. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kwteacher
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7 Responses to Kicking Oscar Out of the Bingo Hall: Creating February Madness for the Academy Awards

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  5. David Morrow says:

    I was right there with you, being bored by it all. Did you see Birdman yet?
    We saw it, but didn’t get it. You may. Don’t think it deserved best picture though.

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      Hi Dave. I did enjoy Birdman–mostly for the acting and for the interesting camerawork and pace–it reminded me of Robert Altman’s “Prairie Home Companion” very much. But my favorite film was “Grand Budapest”–lots of heart, humor and beautifully designed and edited. But quirky comedies seemed doomed for only victories at the Golden Globes and seem to have no place at the adult’s table.

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