As the Oscars go back to the tried and true Billy Crystal for hosting duties (his ninth appearance!), let's look back at the last 20 years' worth of folks who have hosted the awards only once. The Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 26, beginning at 8 p.m. EST.
A blatant attempt to entice younger viewers, this experiment failed on that count: ratings dipped 10 percent from the already-anemic numbers of 2010. To be fair, Hathaway did fine: She was energetic, twinkly and seemingly game for anything. The issue was that the normally charming Franco came off so apathetic and low-energy that many viewers thought he was stoned.
Alec Baldwin (82nd Academy Awards, March 7, 2010)
Baldwin was co-hosting with Steve Martin, who was making his third trip to the Oscar stage. Unfortunately, the combination was a misfire, as the longtime friends didn't seem to be able to mesh on stage. More to the point, the co-hosting felt like product placement for the Nancy Meyers film It's Complicated, in which Martin and Baldwin starred. However, Martin's sardonic charm is perfect for the Oscars: he should host more often!
Hugh Jackman (81st Academy Awards, Feb. 22, 2009)
First-time host Hugh Jackman garnered widespread praise, and for good reason: the good-looking and charismatic Broadway vet gave one of the best hosting performances in recent years. He was failed by the show itself, though. The '09 show featured a rather dull slate of nominated films, with the divisive Slumdog Millionaire the night's big winner, keeping the casual film fan away from the couch. Too bad, because I'd love to see Wolverine come back sometime.
Ellen DeGeneres (79th Academy Awards, Feb. 25, 2007)
OK, by now it should be obvious: We love Ellen as a daytime talk show host. And really, not so much when she does anything else. American Idol judge, sitcom star ... heck, I was never even that crazy about her stand-up comedy back in the early '90s. That weirdly specific skill set of hers failed her as Oscar host, too. Her lengthy improvised bit with director Martin Scorsese (who won his first Oscar that night) dragged into embarrassment for them both.
Chris Rock (77th Academy Awards, Feb. 27, 2005)
From his opening monologue, Chris Rock's signature brash style seemed an uncomfortable fit with the staid Academy Awards. A running gag about the then-currently ubiquitous Jude Law went over poorly. It later moved straight into deeply uncomfortable when a sanctimonious Sean Penn chose to dress down Rock and praise Law at the beginning of his presentation. Awkward.
David Letterman (67th Academy Awards, March 27, 1995)
Letterman was a peculiar choice for host, but in actuality, it wasn't nearly the disaster that it's since been made out to be. The thing is, Letterman loves it when a joke bombs, because it gives him a chance to re-tell it repeatedly. But when his opening "Uma, Oprah" introduction fell flat, his evident delight in that early failure just puzzled an audience that wasn't used to his self-effacing, meta comedy style.
Should any of these folks be invited back? Who should get to host the show 19 times, like Bob Hope did?