It looked like a Hollywood disaster of The Poseidon Adventure proportions when Eddie Murphy backed out of hosting the 2012 Academy Awards, but then came word that his replacement will be veteran Oscars host Billy Crystal.
The 61-year-old Crystal's return engagement promises a contrast to the 2011 telecast, in which Gen Y movie stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway were a little too self-consciously hip and not quite funny enough, according to the critical consensus. As Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich opines: "It's almost as if the show has been going through a midlife crisis -- buying a shiny new car, dating people young enough to be its grandchildren -- and now it's admitting that, well, sometimes the safe choice is the best choice."
Regardless of how you feel about Academy voters' choice of nominated films, the musical numbers or the inevitably painfully long recitations of thank yous by Oscar winners, you can rest assured of one thing: Billy Crystal will be funny. He's the Toyota Corolla of comedians -- not the the flashiest, perhaps, but eminently dependable.
In his eight previous hosting gigs, he's given viewers plenty of laughs. Here are a few of his best moments:
1992: At the opening of the show, Crystal is hauled out on stage on a rack, wearing a face mask in imitation of Silence of the Lambs villain Hannibal Lecter. He proceeds to walk into the audience and shake hands with Anthony Hopkins, who portrayed the movie's infamous cannibal serial killer. "I'm having some of the Academy members over for dinner," Crystal hisses through his mask. "Care to join me?" Here's a link to the video.
1997: Crystal is inserted into scenes from The Empire Strikes Back, where Yoda appears to counsel him to accept the hosting gig. The opening sequence montage then shifts to Fargo and Jerry McGuire, where Crystal does a deft impersonation of Cuba Gooding Jr. dancing around in gym shorts as Tom Cruise screams at him, "Show me the money!"
1998: Crystal salutes the movie blockbuster Titanic by breaking into song -- to the tune of the theme from Gilligan's Island.
2000: Crystal is sitting in a lawn chair reading and gets conked on the head by the bone from the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and is transported back through movie history into a Charlie Chaplin film.
2004: In this montage, Crystal is shown sitting in a movie audience with a video camera, pirating a film. He also does an impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger being teleported from the future naked in the Terminator movies and then swills Pepsi on the deck of the Black Pearl with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and riding on the back of Seabiscuit, as the horse's trainer (Chris Cooper) offers, "He just needs to learn how to be a host again."
I'll be waiting eagerly to see which hit movies Crystal picks to satirize in his opening bit at the 2012 Oscars. Is he going to do a musical number dressed as Lord Voldemort from the final Harry Potter epic or perhaps have an animated version of himself inserted into Cars 2 or Puss in Boots?
Post your suggestions for possible Crystal gags below, or send them to @secondact on Twitter.