Walt Disney Co.'s ABC has gone from dull to dazzling in the space of 12 months and is clearly relishing its newfound edginess. Home to the racy series "Desperate Housewives" and the politically incorrect "Boston Legal," ABC last week revealed that comedian Chris Rock will replace popular perennial Billy Crystal as host of this year's Academy Awards on Feb. 27. While the Buzz doubts Rock will open the Oscar ceremony with a song-and-dance number summing up the Best Picture nominees, a shtick Crystal mined to success for several years, Rock is a standup who never pulls his punches, no matter what the audience. The Oscar crowd, however, has proved to be one of the toughest around. Just ask David Letterman or Whoopi Goldberg.
The news hasn't fazed marketers, each ponying up $1.6 million per 30 seconds, up from $1.5 million last year. L'Oreal, Kodak, Microsoft, Pepsi, J.C. Penney and Anheuser-Busch will be among the Oscar advertisers. Like the NFL's Super Bowl, the Academy keeps a close watch on the content of ad spots. While the commercials might be clean,there's bound to be plenty of cleavage on the red carpet. But Buzz is wondering whether the women of "Desperate Housewives," destined for a Vanity Fair cover in the coming months, are in danger of upstaging the movie stars themselves. Just what color towel do you suppose Nicollette Sheridan plans to wear on the red carpet?