Awards season is in full swing. We’ve had the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and a variety of others, with the long trophy parade to continue for a couple of months. But the ultimate, the Big Kahuna, the Granddaddy of all the prizes is the Oscar.
The Oscar nominations have just been announced and Jimmy Kimmel will host the 90th Academy Awards on March 4 broadcast worldwide on ABC. This is Kimmel’s second shot at the job, having presided over last year’s ceremony that was notable because La La Land was mistakenly announced as best picture instead of Moonlight. That was not Kimmel’s fault, but it did give him a lot of great comedy material for his nightly monologue on Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC’s popular late-night chat show.
At ABC’s panel during the recent Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, Kimmel reflected that despite the kerfuffle, “99 percent of the show went pretty well. So, I don’t think of it as the Titanic caliber disaster that most people do. And ultimately, it’s just a bunch of celebrities handing each other trophies. Let’s be honest.” Then he joked, “If it happens again, literally everyone that works at ABC should be fired, right? Because, it happens one time, I think that’s understandable. But if it happens a second time, no one is competent enough to be running a television show or network. I don’t think it’s going to happen again. But if it did, I have to admit it would tickle me deeply.”
Kimmel said that he will prepare for his gig by watching screeners of the nominated movies. “I will try to know every movie. It helps me write jokes and figure out what the tone of the show will be. I like to be very well prepared. The downside to that is, as I learned last year with a couple of jokes I made, sometimes I think the people in the room haven’t seen a lot of the movies that they voted for. In fact, I made a joke about the movie Moonlight that fell somewhat flat, and it’s because people didn’t get the reference. I thought that was interesting.”
Kimmel praised that there are some great movies out this year, both big and modest budget indie films. “I’m hesitant to say which movies I like better, especially this year when the credibility of who wins is in question. I don’t want there to be any kind of idea that I’m pulling for one movie over another movie. The truth is I want movies that people have seen to be nominated. I want the best movies to be nominated, but I also don’t want to go make a bunch of jokes into a vacuum.”
Most of the TV audience may not have seen the movies that are nominated. So, is Kimmel writing more for that TV audience or the people in the room or both? Kimmel said he will figure out how to balance his material. “You don’t want jokes that people don’t get. One of the positive things about Donald Trump is that when you make a joke about him people understand the reference. You don’t have to go back and explain anything. That would be great about having a popular movie nominated, that people have seen it and you can take a shortcut to the punchline instead of setting up the plot of the movie beforehand.”
He added, “I think it’s important to make the people in the room laugh, and because we’ve been conditioned to react to laugh tracks since probably the ’50s, the audience at home hears people laughing, making them laugh themselves.”
After the Golden Globe Awards, he praised host Seth Meyers for the way he handled sexual harassment in jokes. Kimmel said, “I had to see what Seth said and how it was received. My wife and I laughed and I do thank him for being that litmus test. His monologue was like sending the first dog in space to see if it came back alive. But as far as how I will handle it…it’s two months from now, so it’s almost like getting into a hot tub. You can’t really know what the temperature is until you get there.”
The 90th Academy Awards will air Sunday, March 4 on ABC. Tune in.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.