TV review: An Oscars for the social media age

This image released by Ellen DeGeneres shows actors, front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyong’o Jr. and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a "selfie" portrait on a cell phone during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ellen DeGeneres)

Front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyong’o Jr. and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a “selfie” portrait on DeGeneres’ cell phone during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles. Photo by Bradley Cooper, via AP.

Recent Oscars telecasts have tried to make the ceremony big and hip: the randy comedy of Seth MacFarlane, the stoner chic of James Franco paired with the musical aesthetic of Anne Hathaway, and a throwback to the big shows of Billy Crystal.

This year, Ellen DeGeneres succeeded at hosting the granddaddy of awards shows — that is trying so hard not to be your granddaddy’s awards show — by making it as small your Facebook account, where updates from your friends mix in with news from your favorite stars and shows.

She took a selfie with Meryl, Brad, Bradley, Julia and, seeming to represent all of us, best supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong’o’s photobombing brother.

She had a pizza party with her A-list friends, asking Sandra Bullock — or maybe we can call her Sandy — to pick up the tab and uber producer Harvey Weinstein to tip the delivery guy. “No pressure, only a billion people are watching, whatever you feel is right,” she told the movie mogul, with a real-life pizza guy standing there.

Minutes later, cameras caught stars such as Jared Leto and Meryl Streep munching away as the ceremony proceeded — watch the tomato sauce on the formal wear — like it was movie night in Ellen’s living room.

She also gave Bradley Cooper lottery tickets as a consolation prize for not winning best supporting actor and needled Jennifer Lawrence about her multiplefalldosis at the Oscars. It was an Academy Awards all of us watching at home in our pajamas felt like we could be comfortable at. Maybe Angelina could pass us a slice of pizza.

A lot of assessments have called DeGeneres’ performance safe, and it certainly was friendly-enough, though she did pick at a few folks including Liza Minnelli, who she referred to as a Minnelli female impersonator. But everyone took it in good humor.

And really, this show was more forward thinking than it appeared. Yes, the production values were lowered somewhat, with no big, highly produced intro film. DeGeneres’ biggest costume was her Glinda the Good Witch outfit. But this was an Oscars for the age when your favorite star is as close as his or her verified Twitter account. Of course, in all those streams, we have to remember that we are seeing what the stars and their handlers want us to see. With Ellen as their ringleader Sunday night, they wanted us to see their big night as a gathering of old friends.

While producers have aimed at making the Academy Awards more grandiose, DeGeneres seemed to want to make it more personal.

Her success begs the question of whether it will be less than seven years until she’s asked back. Other shows seem to have settled on perennial hosts like the Tony Awards with Neil Patrick Harris, the Golden Globes with Tina Fey and Amy Pohler and the Grammys with LL Cool J. And the Academy Awards have had their steady-host eras, including stretches with Crystal, Johnny Carson and Bob Hope. Maybe after some of the colossal missteps of recent years, settling down with Ellen wouldn’t be a bad idea for Oscar.

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