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What To Watch For At The Oscars

Christopher Polk
Getty Images

As tonight's Oscars ceremony closes out the longest — and most unconventional — awards season in Hollywood history, it's worth asking: What exactly will we see during the TV broadcast of the 93rd Oscars?

Though produced in pandemic, it won't feel like the world's most star-studded Zoom call; several presenters and nominees will appear in person, after lots of testing and a required quarantine period. There will even be a red carpet of sorts, planned for a 90-minute special on ABC called Oscars: Into the Spotlight, but without the throngs of fans and press we've grown accustomed to seeing in the background (it will, however, feature performances of all five tunes nominated for best song).

Viewers won't have to watch a big-name comic like Chris Rock or Steve Martin sweat their way through the proceedings; for the third time in a row, the Oscars will unfold without a single host. The show's producers and writers feature interesting names, including director Steven Soderbergh and Surviving R Kelly executive producer dream hampton. Soderbergh has promised the ceremony will look more like a movie, with presentations from Union Station and the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, along with international locations via satellite.

COVID-19 has also changed the Oscars game when it comes to the films and performers up for awards. With typical Hollywood blockbusters shelved, delayed or pushed onto streaming services, a wider diversity of films, directors and actors are in contention this year, including two women nominated for best director and performers of color comprising nearly half the nominees in acting categories (it's even possible that non-white performers could win every major acting award this year).

But the shutdown of movie theaters nationwide and the dominance of smaller films also means that many potential Oscar viewers may not have seen or know much about major contenders like Minari, Nomadlandand Mank. Given how viewership for both the Grammyand Golden Globes awards dropped by at least half this year, there is concern an Oscars ceremony centered on smaller films during a pandemic won't draw many eyeballs.

Still, with so many new faces and increasing diversity among the nominees, this year's Academy Awards promises a show filled with historic firsts, resolving questions film fans have been debating for long months in a pandemic. That ought to be worth a few viewers, at least.

The 93rd Academy Awards air at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC, streamed on ABC.com or the ABC app (with TV provider verification), Hulu + Live TV and YouTube.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.