I've always viewed the Oscars roughly the way I view Formula One: I'm quite interested in knowing the results, but the process by which they're produced is basically unwatchable. Over here, where things are still amateur enough that something is liable to go wrong – see Freddie Starr's recent inscrutable performance at the Comedy Awards – they're still reasonably entertaining.
In the US, though, they're past hope. Seventeen hours of glass-eyed studies in perfection telling us Why Sound Editing Matters, etc, and then heading backstage to pick up their Cartier goody bags? Another crop of cinematic genius overlook in favour of the latest big-hearted two hours of mulch? I'd sooner sit through Forrest Gump. Or Titanic. Or The King's Speech.
This year, we learned yesterday, not even the shortlists are interesting, except insofar as it's "interesting" that Hugo got 11 bloody nominations, or if you aren't yet certain whether or not Meryl Streep is good at acting. Nor can we bank on the US broadcasters' desperation to make the show more of a draw: they asked Ricky Gervais back for the Golden Globes, and look how that turned out. Proof, if it were needed, that awards season turns everything to ash.
With all this in mind, I have come up with a helpful way of saving everyone's time and money. We like the dresses, right? Everyone likes a nice dress, and it's always brilliant when Bjork comes as an ostrich or whatever. So hang on to that bit. But then all the stars have to file in to sit on plastic chairs in a school sports hall, and someone with a bit of seniority, like Morgan Freeman, comes on stage with a list, eyes them up sceptically, and reads out all the winners as briskly as possible. Then they all clap politely for a bit and Morgan suggests that anyone who would like to go on a field trip to the zoo sign up on the list on the noticeboard, and NO RUNNING on the way out.
Then they turn the lights on and they all go home, unless they want to stay for a screening of Citizen Kane, with a critic pausing it every now and again to ask why none of THEM have ever made anything as good as THIS. Also, the Lifetime Achievement honour gets renamed "In Case You Die Soon", and it's taken off you the next year if you're still looking sprightly.
That should liven things up a bit. It's particularly good news for the US networks, who will be able to replace it with Law and Order reruns and treble their audience at a stroke. The sad irony, of course, is that the fantasy version would probably make for the most watchable Oscar ceremony in years.