Seeing double for the 2010 Oscars

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Grumpy old men and The Odd Couple never won any Oscars - but next year they could be handing them out. For the first time in the modern era, the biggest event in showbusiness is to have not one, but two hosts.

The chosen duo are Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will co-present March's awards extravaganza. The innovative move is being sold as an effort to counteract the long-term trend of falling TV audiences.

The decision to cast two veteran comic actors in the role - Martin is 64 and Baldwin 51 - suggests that producers hope to give the event a lightness of touch similar to that realised by Hugh Jackman, who presented this year's 81st Academy Awards.

In that spirit, even the PR statement with which they accepted the job was full of knockabout banter, playing up to the image of the two as sniping curmudgeons. "I'm happy to co-host the Oscars with my enemy Alec Baldwin," said Martin, who spent much of this year touring with his bluegrass band. "I don't play the banjo, but I'm thrilled to be hosting," responded Baldwin.

The two men are old friends. While Martin has hosted twice previously, Baldwin has never done it before.

Although the very first Oscars in 1929 featured dual hosts in the shape of Douglas Fairbanks and William DeMille, it has largely been a one person job ever since. The last time multiple presenters were used was 1987, when Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan shared duties.

Organisers initally offered the job to Jackman again, but he had other commitments. The second choice was reportedly another duo: Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. But they also turned the job down. Baldwin and Martin will therefore, the organisers hope, represent an example of third time lucky.