It’s now official. Chris Rock is hosting the 88th Academy Awards. This is Rock’s second stint having first emceed the granddaddy of all awards shows back in 2005. It’s also a big coup for new show producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill who will now have four months to seriously start planning the show.
Rock earned strong critical reviews the first time around, but its no secret his opening monologue didn’t go over well with the audience inside the (at the time) Kodak Theater (you can revisit it in the video embedded at the bottom of this post). The legendary comedian even joked about the experience with another host who had issues with The Academy, David Letterman. But, fans, TV critics and even those inside the Academy have been pushing for a Rock return for years. There were even serious rumors he might get the gig last year. That didn’t happen, however, and Neil Patrick Harris proved sometimes your window to host isn’t as long as you think it is. In Harris’ case his shtick would have killed four years earlier when it wasn’t so familiar to both viewers and the Academy membership.
The good news about Rock’s expected hire is that you can bet he’ll deliver the best opening monologue since…geez, it’s been a long time since the Oscars had a great opening monologue (does Hugh Jackman’s opening number count?) Moreover, he’s the sort of comedian who can keep the energy in the room up during the show’s predictable downturns. Now can he help boost the show’s ratings? That’s the biggest question and, likely, most important to the program’s longtime broadcaster, ABC.
Rock’s 2005 gig was viewed by 42.1 million and was the most watched telecast of the past 10 years besides the Ellen Degeneres hosted show in 2014 (43.7 million). America’s viewing habits have changed dramatically since then, but Oscar ratings have a lot more to do with big stars getting nominated and popular movies up for major awards such as Best Picture than anything else. At this point in the 2016 Oscar season Hudlin, Hill and Rock are going to be keeping their fingers crossed that “Inside Out,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and/or “Star Wars” find a way to dominate the show. Oh, and major nominations for Jennifer Lawrence, Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio wouldn’t hurt either.
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The 88th Academy Awards will be broadcast on Feb. 26, 2016 on ABC.