The reviews weren’t exactly kind to Billy Crystal after he hosted the Oscars for the ninth time this past February.
The Hollywood Reporter called the telecast a “safe, unfunny, retro-disaster.” A Variety critic wrote that “the whole introductory sequence [including a Crystal-sung medley about nominated movies] felt like a pallid sequel, a ghost of Oscars past.” The Times’ Mary McNamara noted that the Oscars “wound up seeming much more bittersweet and, yes, boring, than retro-cool.”
But a key writer on the show said Crystal didn’t get a fair shake.
“It was frustrating because for the 10 years that Billy was away, every review for every host came with ‘Bring back Billy. Where’s Billy? Where’s the opening song and movie?’” said Dave Boone, a writer on the 2012 (and many previous) Oscars and head writer for the Tony Awards on Sunday. “It’s a tough situation, and it’s tougher on the host.”
Boone added, “You’re always going to find people who the next day say, ‘Same old, same old.’ But those are the same people who were writing for 10 years to bring him back.”
The medley was a particular bone of contention for some critics. Crystal turned it into a trademark when he hosted in the 1990s and early 2000s, but some reviewers felt it harked back to a comedy that has gone out of fashion.
But Boone said the decision to include it -- after much internal debate -- was a direct response to fan interest.
“Billy would be in Gelson’s and people would come up to him and say, ‘I hope you do the medley,'” Boone said. “So we felt we owed it to the people who wanted to see it.”
The motion picture academy likely won’t choose the 2013 producer and host until later this summer, after a new president is elected. It’s unclear what direction it will go in — ratings were up in 2012, if slightly, over the previous year.
Boone said he hoped to be collaborating with Crystal on the telecast next year but also believes there's a creative reason to take time off. “You get to the point where you try to capture lightning in a bottle if you try to do things the same each year," he said.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Billy Crystal with Oscar statues. Credit: Getty Images