This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

ABC went with 28-year-old Anne Hathaway and 32-year-old James Franco as hosts of this year's Oscars, attempting to draw younger viewers to the program.

Didn't work. Sort of backfired.

A year ago, with Steve Martin (then 64) and Alec Baldwin (then 51) as hosts, almost 41 million people tuned in to see the Academy Awards. This year, that number fell to 37.6 million.

More significantly, the number of younger viewers - those in the all-important 18-49 demographic - fell 12 percent.

You can't blame it all on the hosts. But, certainly, the youngsters didn't help. The fact that Franco was essentially a block of wood for three-and-a-half hours made things difficult.

Have the Oscar producers and ABC executives never talked to this guy? He's been like this in interviews for more than a decade - at least back to 2000, when he co-starred in "Freaks & Geeks."

Franco was himself on Sunday night, sad to say.

Hathaway is a sweetheart, but she tried too hard. Of course, maybe she felt she had to in order to balance out Franco, who didn't seem to be trying at all.

The fact is that we can make the same complaints about the Academy Awards every year. The Oscar-cast is not built for entertainment value. What might be a fairly entertaining two-hour program is stretched out to nearly twice that length - and there's no incentive to make it better.

If the show was only two hours long, ABC would be able to sell a lot fewer high-priced commercials. So it will never be shortened.

Fortunately for future Oscar hosts, Franco set the bar so low it will be difficult not to look better than he did.

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