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Kicking Oscar Out of the Bingo Hall: Creating February Madness for the Academy Awards

02/23/2015 06:55 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015

I knew last night seemed familiar as the Academy Awards dripped by. I was once again trapped in the living room of my grandmother's 1974 Florida mobile home. The room was stuffy; there was nowhere to go, as even shuffleboard or laps on the awesome giant tricycles were forbidden to all under 65--and the pond had gators, reportedly.

Last night I watched my 40th consecutive Oscars. It began when I was in fifth grade with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest sweeping the major awards. With the advent of cable TV's 400 more channels, Twitter feeds and on-demand viewing, a lot has changed--except for the Oscars.

Stuck in Lawrence Welk-Land

It still starts at 8:30 p.m. and still runs past midnight thanks to the the Death Valley of songs, oddball tributes and eternal commercials somewhere half-past "It's-gotta-be-over-soon" o'clock. There is still the same generally awkward monologue/opening number--with the brief 1990s Billy Crystal hiatus between rotating comedians who all get trashed the next day. Every year there are minor tweaks--for example, last night there weren't any montages except for The Sound of Music highlights. But after the usual "In Memoriam" section, there was the bonus tribute song to the fallen--which used to sometimes happen during the slide show. Then, in the last 15 minutes, we are rushed through Best Director, Actress and Picture--as if it's our fault that ABC is out of time.

My favorite part was when they queued the band to not-so-gently tell the winners that their second-language thank-you time had expired because they needed to hurry to Neil Patrick Harris strolling the aisles talking to seat fillers.

Oh, well, maybe Oscar is too much like my grandma--just too set in her ways and needing to get to the hairstylist on Tuesdays at 4:30 for Bingo at 7 p.m. Fat chance they'll have a Best Comedy award. Too many great comedies are bypassed by the Life Cereal Academy--if people enjoy it too much, something must be wrong with it. MMD Contributing writers Kale Davidoff and Sheri Horwitz have even suggested they add Best Trailer, Best Animated Voice-Over--or at least Best Agent; after all, they do get thanked enough in the speeches, just ahead of parents and children, and they sometimes even make the casualty montage.

February Madness?

Perhaps the Oscars might reinvent itself like two successful sporting events--the Olympics and the NCAA Tournament--have successfully done since the Gerald Ford era

NBC has done its homework and realized that broadcasting on multiple channels over two weeks hits all its various audiences, with the women's vote (like the Oscars) carrying the most weight--thus the prime-time slots go to swimming, gymnastics, figure skating and skiing. You can always switch to CNBC if you want to catch badminton or curling. And Bob Costas is perennially there, braving even pinkeye, to offer an up-close and personal story of a weight lifter who is surrounded by rescued dogs and flips large tractor tires in his farmyard.

CBS has realized the juggernaut ratings of its opening weekend of March Madness, partnering with Turner Sports to allow homes and happy bar owners to have all 32 games on Thursday and Friday playing from noon to 1 a.m. Imagine the same captured audience if the Academy could somehow string along its Sunday-night glacier movement into biteable chunks for us mavens--so 11:15 doesn't feel like Mile 11 in a marathon.

Sadly even this Oscar junkie found himself yawning last night, unbelievably during Lady Gaga's amazing pipes as she sang, in record-commercial style, the greatest hits of the The Sound of Music canon ("Edelweiss" gets just one line?), followed by the classy Julie Andrews. Was my 50 years finally succumbing to techno-ADD and a need to check my email, my blog's Oscar pool and snarky Twitter and Facebook posts?

The Detroit Institute of Arts offers Michigan's only venue to watch all 10 nominated shorts in one sitting. In its first five years, this program has become a sell-out must-see event in Detroit--all for the category nobody previously had access to. There's obvious an interest to see these films--yet they're still given the bum's rush at the ceremony due to ratings. So perhaps what we need is a February Madness--or at least one weekend devoted to the Academy Awards.

Here's what would hook me, anyway. ABC is welcome to adjust, of course.

Friday

  • 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.: Nominated Documentaries (Part 1)

Saturday

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Nominated Documentaries (Part 2)
  • 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Short Documentaries
  • 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Science and Technology Awards
  • 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.: Animated Shorts and Live-Action Shorts

Sunday

  • 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Special Mini-Docs on Nominees (like Costas' Olympic profiles)
  • 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.: Production Awards (makeup, sound, editing, cinematography, etc.)
  • 9 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.: Music, Acting, Directing, Best Picture

The Super Bowl pre-game show that lasts at least 12 hours is testament to the unquenchable thirst people have for the evening's main event--thus the awful red carpet hours on E! Why not use those six hours to show us what those nominated hairdressers do on a set--or at least educate us on how sound mixing is different from sound editing.

Not only does the above schedule allows for great binge-watching, but adults could host slumber parties or even arrange weekend trips with pals. My wife and I went with five other couples to just see the shorts last weekend at the DIA and had a blast. Imagine how much fun an entire weekend could be!

And ABC, think of the money you could reel in by selling off tickets to us junkies--like on-demand boxing matches. It might be too much to expect that all of the above scheduling might happen for "free" on ABC's family of channels, but you never know.

Originally published in Kevin's blog, MyMediaDiary.