Billy Crystal replaces Eddie Murphy as Oscars host

November 10, 2011

Billy Crystal is replacing Eddie Murphy as host of ABC’s Feb. 26 Academy Awards broadcast.

The eight-time Oscars host was tapped Thursday to take over for Murphy by Brian Grazer — the movie mogul who was tapped a day earlier to produce the 2012 Oscarcast, replacing Brett Ratner.

Yes, that is, in fact, a double accidental upgrade — in just 24 hours. Way to go, motion picture academy!

“I’m thrilled to welcome Billy back to the Oscar stage,” academy President Tom Sherak said. “He’s a comic legend and Oscar icon, and it feels good to have him back where he belongs.”

“Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions,” Crystal tweeted Thursday afternoon. He added, “Looking forward to the show.”

After Murphy (who has never hosted the Oscars) stepped down Wednesday, TV industry navel-lint pickers had been wondering who would be willing to become the academy’s “second choice.” And the academy was looking for a way to recover from its disastrous decision to hire loose cannon Ratner in a naked grab for the young viewers whom advertisers lust after. The academy apparently had learned nothing from its last naked grab for young viewers: James Franco, whose co-hosting of the 2011 Oscarcast is considered one of the show’s most epic flameouts ever.

Meanwhile, Crystal had been quoted as saying he was itching to host again.

It is a match made in heaven.

Crystal first emceed the Oscars ceremony in 1990 — the year “Driving Miss Daisy” was named Best Picture. For that, he got such rave reviews that he was asked back the next three years. Then he took a break, and Whoopi Goldberg took a whack at it, followed by the best-forgotten David Letterman year, then back to Whoopi.

The academy handed the show back to Crystal in ’97. When he hosted in 1998, it became — and remains — the most-watched Academy Awards broadcast ever, clocking a whopping 55.3 million viewers with the potent combination of Crystal and “Titanic.”

Crystal came back in 2000 and hosted again in 2004 — the year of “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Only Bob Hope has hosted more Academy Awards ceremonies than Crystal; Hope did it 19 times between 1940 and 1978.

Murphy resigned as host in an apparent show of support for moviemaking bad boy Ratner, who resigned Tuesday when word got out that he’d said — at a screening of his new flick, “Tower Heist” — that “rehearsing is for [homophobic slur].” After which, he went on Howard Stern’s radio show to prattle on happily about masturbation, the size of the family jewels and how he insists that the women he wants to sleep with first get checked out by his doctor to make sure they don’t have any sexually transmitted diseases.

Ratner is the director of “Tower Heist,” in which Murphy is hoping to make his career comeback. Hosting the Oscars was also going to be part of that comeback trail. But the movie got trounced at the box office in its first weekend by the second week of the animated “Puss in Boots.” And now, Murphy’s not hosting the nation’s most-watched trophy show, either.

So much for career comebacks.

On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Murphy’s resignation, the academy announced that it had replaced Ratner with Grazer — whose Imagine Entertainment produced “Tower Heist.” That caused some speculation that Murphy — whose closest brush with Academy Awards fame came in 2007, when the “Dreamgirls” nominee stormed out of the hall in a huff after losing in the Best Supporting Actor Oscar category — might be coaxed into returning.

And now we know that’s not happening.

When Charlie Met Gayle

CBS News’s two new-ish chiefs, Chairman Jeff Fager and President David Rhodes, have been indicating for a while that they thought their network’s “The Early Show” needed nuking, because why should the NBC, ABC and CBS morning infotainment shows all look exactly alike?

On Tuesday, the CBS News division will unveil a new program for the mornings, featuring Charlie Rose and Gayle King (a.k.a. Oprah Winfrey BFF).

Reports that Rose and King were taking over CBS’s morning news block have been circulating for weeks now, along with reports the show would be heavy on hard news — with such correspondents as John Miller, the sometime journalist/sometime law enforcement-cum-counter terrorism official — because that’s how Fager and Rhodes roll.

All those reports appear to have caused a certain amount of freak-outage and arm flapping at the other networks, from whence the suits have been anonymously advising The Reporters Who Cover Television to mention: The presence of Rose suggests that CBS is conceding the point and going after an old demographic with its new program.

But on Tuesday, CBS is not going to announce a new “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in the morning, and we hear there will be “plenty of entertainment” on the new program — as evidenced by the presence of King.

That said, the show that the network will trot out, at a gathering in New York, will definitely consist of less fluff and more substance than “The Early Show” — which, let’s face it, won’t be hard to accomplish.

The new show will not be based in the GM building at the southeast corner of Central Park.

Rose has a long and cordial relationship with CBS News, including a 1984-90 stint as anchor of “CBS News Nightwatch” and, more recently, a correspondent’s gig on the “60 Minutes” franchise

King did a syndicated talk show with CBS back when that did not do real well. Oprah’s enormously successful syndicated show was distributed by King World, which was purchased by CBS.

“The Early Show” is running third among the three broadcast infotainment shows. But you already knew that, because otherwise why would CBS News be nuking it. In CBS’s defense, it got into the morning infotainment later than NBC.

In recent years, CBS’s morning show has been a revolving door of hosts, including Bryant Gumbel, Jane Clayson, Julie Chen, Harry Smith, Hannah Storm, etc., with little ratings success.

So, stay tuned for Tuesday’s announcement.

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