Mr. TV: Bring the Buzz

At one point in my life I was a huge fan of The Academy Awards. I reveled in the glamour and the prestige, sitting with my scorecard in hand rooting for favorites like Meryl Streep, Sally Field and Tom Hanks.  

This week, of course, is the big event, with The 81st Annual festivities airing on ABC Sunday, Feb. 22 at 8:30 p.m.  But my interest in the extravaganza has somewhat waned over the years because I rarely go to the movies anymore ($10.75 per ticket…are you kidding me?) and, frankly, I’ve become cynical in my old age. After all, why don’t regular people like you and me ever get awards for the work we do?  I wouldn’t mind a  gleaming statuette (or two) sitting in my office, wouldn’t you?

I will be curious, however, to see Hugh Jackman as a first-time host. While Jackman seems the perfect fit on CBS’ annual Tony Awards in June, an event of this magnitude really needs someone like Billy Crystal to host it.  Billy…are you really that busy that you couldn’t do it?
While my recent lack of attendance at the movies dilutes my handicapping the winners, what the hell. Here are my picks in the top categories: Picture: Slumdog Millionaire; Actor, Sean Penn (Milk); Actress, Kate Winslet (The Reader); Director, Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire); Supporting Actor, Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight); and Supporting Actress, Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

A win for the late Heath Ledger would, of course, be particularly bittersweet. But the logical shoo-in this season, I think, is Kate Winslet, whose 0 for 5 track record (and two strong movies under her belt in 2008—The Reader and Revolutionary Road) makes her the favorite to win. Let’s just hope, though, that her speech is shorter than her oratory for her double-win at the Golden Globes, which was gooey and obnoxious.

Also of particular interest this week is the return of a reality series my wife watched with great interest last season: High School Reunion on TV Land, which kicks off Wednesday at 10 p.m. This time around, Chandler High School’s Class of 1988 in Arizona reunites for a two-week getaway in Kauai as they rekindle old relationships and try to resolve issues from two decades ago. In other words, you will see generic character types like “The Bully,” “The Jock” and “The Snob” trying to co-exist under the same roof.

Like its initial incarnation on The WB, the appeal of watching High School Reunion is wondering what it would be like to reunite with old classmates. Sadly, a reunion of my old high school class at this point would be a better fit on the Retirement Living cable network. But I plan on getting addicted again this season.

High School Reunion is one of the handful of original series TV Land has cultivated to bring a more youthful feel to the network. So, if this incarnation works, my suggestion: take one of the standout characters, and spin that person off into his or her own non-scripted half-hour. If one of the Girls Next Door, Kendra Wilkinson, can leave the Playboy mansion for an E! Entertainment series of her own, I am sure TV Land can milk this standout series for all it’s worth.

In series-finale news, CBS sitcom Worst Week bids adieu Monday at 9:30 p.m. after 16 episodes. I knew going in that this story of an accident-prone young guy trying to impress his fiance’s parents could only last so long. And I realized that CBS had returning comedy Rules of Engagement waiting in the wings to replace it. But what concerns me about the Eye net is its lack of a breakout hit comedy out of Two and a Half Men and into CSI: Miami. Remember how NBC squandered the plum Thursday 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. time periods?