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Billy Crystal open to hosting Oscars again

March 18, 2011 | 11:58 am

Crystal Billy Crystal, who got a hero's welcome when he appeared briefly at this year's Oscar ceremony, wouldn't mind returning to host Hollywood's grandest backslapping ritual.

Crystal, who's been the emcee eight times already, told the Associated Press that "it might be fun" to take on that gig again. He'd insist on a shakeup, though.

"I think the show needs to change," he said. "There's too many awards and it has to sort of freshen itself up, and if I can be a part of that, that would be great."

Problem is, producers of the 83rd Academy Awards show had promised that the three-plus-hour awards marathon would change this last year. (And nearly every year, there's much chatter about new-and-improved, with critics afterward debating just how much reshaping actually happened -- often not much -- and how successful it was -- often not very).

Comedians usually tend to fare better as hosts -- see: Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, Ellen DeGeneres -- though there have been noteworthy bombs along the way -- see: David Letterman, Chris Rock. [For the record at 12:15 pm: An earlier version of this post originally listed Chris Tucker and has been corrected.] Deft song-and-dance man/stage-and-screen actor Hugh Jackman was one of the few non-comics to draw near universal praise for his hosting duties in '08.

2011 brought out the young actor combo, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, with producers specifically aiming at the advertiser-coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic. Reviews ranged from the mild -- the Times' Mary McNamara said the beautiful and talented pair "played it safe" -- to the scathing -- Roger Ebert called it "the worst Oscarcast I've ever endured."

It was plain to see that the show was in trouble, or at least wasn't inspiring any edge-of-the-seat moments, when Crystal came on stage as a presenter and the in-house audience went wild. The assembled stars gave Crystal a standing ovation -- those are usually reserved for acting legends like Kirk Douglas and beloved "best" winners.

Once the tallies from Nielsen came in, ratings were down 7% from the previous year, despite the sexy young emcees. (Numbers dropped slightly in the 18-49 demo too).

How about it, Show Trackers, should the Oscars pull a familiar face from the past or look for fresh blood for next year's ceremony?

-- T.L. Stanley

Photo: Billy Crystal at the 2011 Academy Awards. Credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images.