By any standard, this has been the Year of Franco. And he may cap it by making us sick of him.
For a while, I thought it was impossible. I thought the more exposure the Franco got, the richer would be the tapestry of his art, or his work, or his essence or whatever. It seemed that he'd arranged it so that, no matter what he did, it could only burnish his image. Actor, artist, writer, soap star, Oscar nominee, professor — to add host to this list seemed not only fitting but logical. And then I saw this and for some reason everything changed.
What is it that I find so alarming about this innocuous — if stupid — spot? I have a theory. And I think it's that it's not on Franco's terms. The essence of Franco, after all, is that he's curated Franco. This is what's made it so ridiculous but also bearable: he's like someone we all know, who gets super-involved in all his hobbies, but he's kind of good at all of them and doesn't take himself seriously so we can all just laugh and say, "Oh, Franco!" (Or whoever your personal equivalent might be.) It's one thing when he mouths deliberately purple dialogue on General Hospital. It's quite another to see him brought low by the banal gimmicks of the Academy. I feel embarrassed for him in a way I never have before. And I fear this will only increase as the show itself stretches to first two, then three, then four hours.
I think another thing that's worrisome is that Oscar hosting assumes that said host is a bit of an institution: it's all about riffing on an established persona, whether that's Bob Hope's hard-working curmudgeon, Billy Crystal's genial pal or the palatable astringency of Jon Stewart. I think that's part of why Jackman didn't really take, and I have similar fears for Franco and Hathaway: they're too young, for one thing, to have established personae, and in the former's case, his whole thing has been being a jack of all trades...which is a joke that will wear thin awfully quickly.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Franco will pull this out. I hope so. But I have a cold feeling of dread about the whole thing, and no amount of Freaks and Geeks can salve it.