Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
When it came to major television events, it used to be that you could count on the Super Bowl and The Academy Awards to deliver big audiences. This year's Super Bowl drew more than 100 million viewers. This Sunday night on ABC at 8pm, the Oscars audience will be significantly smaller. When did people stop caring?
Award shows have always been about the glitz and glamour. Our favorite stars in entertainment congratulate themselves on a job well done. The proliferation of social media and celebrity accessibility has diminished the exclusive nature of these events. This used to be the only place to see movie stars other than on the big screen, and that simply isn't the case anymore.
These types of shows have taken quite a hit since COVID crashed the party, but this golden statue celebration has been slumping since Titanic. There are still lots of great films being made, but the magic and mystique seems to have slipped away.
The funny trio of Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall will take their turn at the hosting gig no one seems to want. Jimmy Kimmel seemed to have a stranglehold on Billy Crystal's old job, but the Academy decided a host wasn't necessary for a few years. Hosting the Oscars is like being an umpire — you only get noticed when you mess up. But the hosts are back, and I hope they have thick skins for the critique that's coming.
Look, I still care about the Oscars. I'll be tuned in to the over-produced pre-show and the way too long speeches. There's fashion to be critiqued and pools to be won! So here are my predictions for this Sunday night's extravaganza.
Best Musical Number – Amy Schumer
There’s no way Amy will be able to resist parodying the opening musical extravaganzas that welcome us to Oscar night.
Best Actor - Will Smith (King Richard)
Denzel Washington and Javier Bardem have already had their big nights. Andrew Garfield will win down the road. Benedict Cumberbatch could win, but this feels like The Fresh Prince's year with his heartfelt performance as Venus and Serena's dad.
Best Joke – Wanda Sykes
The underrated comedian will be the highlight of the night. She has never been afraid to go after people, and The Academy is fertile ground for Wanda to stomp all over.
Best Actress - Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
Toughest call of the night. Nicole Kidman didn't do if for me as Lucy. Penelope Cruz's performance is too obscure. Olivia Colman is excellent as always but more subtle. Kristen Stewart looks the part, but Jessica's eye makeup puts her over the top.
Best Reaction – Kristen Stewart
These actors are pros who smile as nominations are being read and hoping to hear their name when the envelope is open. Kristen Stewart always wears her emotions on her sleeve. Win or lose, her reaction is going to be priceless.
Best Supporting Actor - Troy Kotsur (CODA)
Excellent performances from Ciaran Hands, Jesse Plemons, J.K. Simmons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, but this deaf actor's portrayal of a dad loving his daughter is an Oscar lock.
Best Speech – Troy Kotsur
Kotsur is incredibly talented and super charming. Really looking forward to his acceptance speech which has the potential to be as moving as the film.
Best Supporting Actress - Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
Had a tough time with this one too. All fine performances from Jessie Buckley, Judi Dench, Kirsten Dunst and Aunjanue Ellis, but I'm going with the consensus pick here. Ariana hosted SNL which gives her a slight pop culture edge in this fickle category.
Best Comedy Bit – None
They hardly ever work, and frankly, it’s not why we’re tuning in. Free tip to the Oscar producers – just celebrate the films and let the winners thank everyone. No one wants to see a heartfelt speech get cut short for a Dune parody.
Best Director - Jane Campion (The Power Of The Dog)
Steven Spielberg's West Side Story is incredible to look at, but everyone is dancing instead of fighting to that old-time score. P.T.A. captures L.A. like no one else can in the inconsistent Licorice Pizza. Ryusuke Hamaguchi is still directing the never-ending opus of Drive My Car. Kenneth Branagh does a masterful job recreating Belfast. The winner will be Jane Campion who paints one powerful picture in The Power Of The Dog.
Best Snafu – Not sure, but looking forward to it
Something will go wrong. Nothing will ever rival the Warren Beatty Best Picture mistake a few years back. I don’t mind the errors because it brings a touch of reality to this fantasy world.
Best Picture - CODA
Here's my public plea to narrow this back down to five nominees. All of these films are entertaining, but this is Best Picture. It should be only the cream of the crop.
My finalists are Belfast, CODA and The Power Of The Dog. I loved Jane Campion's directing, and even though the film feels like an Oscar winner, it drags in a few places. That leaves two different feel-good movies during these dreary times. Belfast has an Oscar feel and is a satisfying watch and homage from Kenneth Branagh. But I just have a feeling about CODA and the powerfully sweet story it tells. I first thought it might be too hokey to win, but then I remembered that it has Apple behind it. It's got a shot. The Power Of The Dog has all the momentum, but CODA has the potential to surprise.
Best of the Best –Timing
If the show doesn’t go over three hours, everyone’s a winner.
Here's what else is worth watching this week...
Starstruck (HBO Max)
Thursday, March 24th
It’s the second season of the charming tale of a struggling London millennial who falls for a famous UK film star. The story begins with Jessie (award-winning Rose Mateo) having a New Year’s Eve hookup with Tom, not realizing that he’s a famous film star.
This comedy does a great job of bringing two completely different worlds together in a very smart way. There’s a little bit of Notting Hill in this sweet story that deals with race, social class and the need to find the “right one.” Watch trailer
Thursday, March 24th 10pm
It has been four years since we last saw Earn, Alfred, Darius and Van down in Georgia. Emmy-winning Donald Glover wanted to take a break from the show and has kept quite busy, but the third and final fourth season (airing this fall) are officially in the can.
Season three takes place with Paper Boi on a European tour and deals with the struggles of success across the pond. This crew traveling through European cities will lead to plenty of awkward situations and memorable comedy shot in a truly distinctive style. Maybe they should change the title to Europe. Watch trailer
Pachinko (Apple TV+) – A Korean family emigrates to Japan in this trilingual tale. Friday. Watch trailer.
THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)
American Song Contest (NBC) – Eurovision comes to America with one of the most boring show titles in history. Monday at 8.
Halo (Paramount+) – One of the most successful video game franchises in history takes a shot at the small screen. Premieres Thursday.
WWE Evil (Peacock) – John Cena profiles wrestling's greatest villains in this eight-parter. Premieres Thursday.
Bridgerton (Netflix) – Many loved the first season. I did not, but I'm keeping you informed. Season 2 premieres on Friday.
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)
This Week's Pick: Damages (Hulu) – Don't mess with Glenn Close. She plays high-powered attorney Patty Hewes and her protege Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) is along for one heck of a ride. The cast is an endless list of likable actors playing nasty villains, and the story will keep you hooked the whole way through.
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.
TOPICS: 94th Academy Awards, Atlanta, Damages, Halo, Starstruck