While word of this got out a few weeks ago, it’s now been confirmed via Deadline that producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan will not be returning to produce the Oscars next year. The duo has produced the last three ceremonies in a row, beginning with the disappointing Seth MacFarlane-hosted show in 2013, which was followed by the forgettable but inoffensive Ellen Degeneres-hosted ceremony.
I can’t say I’m sad to see Meron and Zadan go. Their obsession with music filled each telecast with performances that had nothing to do with any of the nominees (remember the Dreamgirls tribute?) and made for bloated runtimes, and their hosts didn’t really have a whole lot to do. But Meron and Zadon did bring a couple of new traditions to the Oscars that I hope continue: unveiling every single nomination on TV was a nice way to highlight categories that often get overlooked, and corralling all of the nominees for the non-acting, non-directing categories into a box on the side of the stage saved us from awkwardly long shots of people walking up to the podium from the back of the auditorium.
Meron and Zadan came in a year after the Academy had to scramble to replace producer Brett Ratner, who was let go after he made some rather tasteless remarks. His host, Eddie Murphy, also jumped ship, and Brian Grazer eventually came in and put together a safe, throwback ceremony returning Billy Crystal to hosting duties.
The Academy is always trying to find ways to lure young viewers into the ceremony, but it’s tough to get people to watch the show when they haven’t seen the nominated movies; this year’s ceremony was a prime example. We heard recently that the Academy will consider going back to 5 Best Picture nominees, which would narrow the field and give more weight to each film—a move that I would wholeheartedly endorse. A final decision on that front has yet to be made.
Whoever steps in to replace Meron and Zadan, I do hope they focus on the craft of filmmaking first and foremost. One of my favorite telecasts was the one in which the nominations were presented as if a movie was being created from scratch, beginning with screenplay and moving into the various technical crafts, with presenters taking their time to honor (and explain) the work that goes into each aspect of filmmaking. It’s a collaborative medium, and seeing that aspect take center stage would be a welcome change of pace. It also wouldn’t hurt to get Hugh Jackman back as host.
As we say goodbye to Meron and Zadan, let’s leave on a positive note by marveling at the Olly Moss poster they commissioned for their first ceremony.