Let Oscar Be Oscar

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and saying, "Told you so!"

The Oscars were last night. Today, everybody's doing post-mortems. And why should I be different? But here's the difference: I'm so sure about what we all saw on the 79th Annual Academy Awards, I went ahead and taped this commentary last week.

I don't mean to sound jaded. But watching Oscar telecasts as long as I have, by now I pretty much know what to expect. And I feel confident saying, in advance, the show we saw last night just isn't the show I wish it had been.

I hasten to add that, as I sit here playing prophet, I have no idea if Forest Whitaker scored Best Actor or Martin Scorsese got his due. I don't know which of the three amateur commercials for Dove Cream Oil Body Wash was selected for airing.

What I do know, or strongly suspect, is that for viewers like me this Oscarcast was yet another exercise in frustration. An enterprise at odds with itself. All because what we want from Hollywood's Biggest Night is a set of mutually exclusive blessings. At least, what's what I want.

Every year, what I want from the Oscarcast is elegance. I also want tackiness.

I want the broadcast to honor Hollywood's glorious past. I also want Hollywood to get over itself and give us a show that's hip, innovative, edgy. Even forward-looking.

I want good taste and class. I also want wretched excess.

I want a show humming with precision, with virtuosity in staging and production. I also want a microphone to fail, for presenters to miss a cue, to see someone famous behaving like they might not pass a Breathalyzer test. I want a do-you-believe-that moment where you know the producer is just freaking out.

Yeah, right. The Oscarcast has gotten so structured, so protected against anything out of the ordinary happening, it's as if the Department of Homeland Security was producing it.

If it's really gonna be Hollywood's Biggest Night (and that's how they bill it!) it should embody all that Hollywood is.

I want an embarrassment of great moments. Do you even remember how long it's been since Roberto Benigni treated us to his fit of euphoria, stepping across seat-backs to get to the stage and proposing to "Lie down in the firmament making love with everybody"? It's been eight long years!

And don't get me started on the incredible shrinking acceptance speeches.

Admittedly, I doubt if any Oscarcast could meet my all-things-to-all-viewers demands. But I think what would help the program is freedom to go wherever Hollywood's heart, and hubris, will take it.

A useful reference point? The fabled 1989 Oscarcast best remembered for Rob Lowe singing Proud Mary with a real-life, flesh-and-blood Snow White. That grandly, cringingly overblown musical number, and the broadcast overall, led to a show-biz commission being formed to investigate how Oscar could have gone so wrong -- and to take steps to prevent a re-occurrence. Maybe the commission did its job too well.

But what I just discovered is, you can see, once again, that never-to-be-forgotten opening number 18 years later on YouTube! And I invite you to check it out. Then compare it to last night's show, an Oscarcast that, unless I'm very wrong, will be vanishing from memory within days.

Watching television for KCRW and saying, "If I'm wrong, I'm apologizing right now, in advance," this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.