The Oscars lost nearly 4 million viewers this year. Only 37.9 million tuned in, down 9 percent from last year and the show was widely panned. Fortunately, we're here with some free advice. And not a moment too soon. As one veteran exec puts it, ''How is it that we are supposed to be making entertainment for the world to consume and we can't even get a three-hour show right?''
1. GO BACK TO FIVE BEST PICTURE NOMINEES
Expanding the list to 10 and including some crowd-pleasers was supposed to boost ratings. It didn't. This year's list had some serious hits, but viewership sank anyway. Ten movies are too many to care about, and there's no time to honor them all. A montage can't begin to do the films justice.
2. MOVE THE SHOW TO JANUARY
It would be a logistical nightmare for the Academy to nominate and vote so early in the year, but it must be done. (Online voting would help.) By the end of February, once all the critics' and guild awards are handed out, the race is too predictable. You know you're in trouble when the most exciting win involves an actress dropping the F-bomb.
3. MAKE SURE THE HOSTS ARE UP TO THE TASK
Is it really so hard to figure out that Oscar hosts need experience (and lots of it) performing live? It's why Billy Crystal, Hugh Jackman, and Steve Martin do it well.
4. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR HOSTS
Anne Hathaway has a great voice but sang only one lame song. James Franco was fantastic in taped pieces, yet for the most part he was placed stiffly on stage, where he had no chemistry with his cohost.
5. HIRE TINA FEY OR WILL FERRELL
How many times can they say no to hosting before they start feeling guilty?
6. WATCH THE GRAMMYS AND LEARN
Only 10 Grammys were handed out during this year's televised ceremony. The rest of the show was spent entertaining the audience with live performances. The Oscars need to cut the categories that bore the folks at home. (This means you, Documentary Short Subject.) Note to Oscar's Board of Governors: We know this is a political hot button, but please, figure it out.
7. STOP CHASING YOUR YOUTH
Do not court a young audience by wedging in references to social networking and constantly reminding us you want to be hip. Viewership is almost entirely dependent on the movies and stars who are nominated. Just do a great show, and deal with it.
8. WAKE US UP!
The middle of the show needs a marquee moment to keep viewers watching. Try a musical number or a timely package, like Woody Allen's tribute to New York after 9/11.
9. DON'T LET COSTARS PRESENT
When Russell Brand and Helen Mirren (or Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) turn up just to shill for a movie, it debases the evening. We know you're desperate for big stars, but what you should do is...
10. FORCE THE BIG STARS TO SHOW UP
You've tried flattery and begging. Now tell them if they keep refusing to present awards (and show up only when something's in it for them), they're going to get kicked out of the Academy. Attendance isn't optional we made these people famous so we could look at them.