The Academy Awards are on the way, and once again, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems to have bollocksed everything up. First there was going to be a popular film award, then there wasn’t. Then there was going to be a host, then there wasn’t, then there still wasn’t, despite Ellen DeGeneres’ best efforts. Most recently, the Academy switched things up by announcing that there wouldn’t be live award presentations for four awards, then announced there would be. And somewhere in there they found time play the same trick on three of the five nominees for Best Song. There’s probably not enough time for the Academy to pull a great Oscar night from the wreckage unless they lean into the chaos and hire Schrödinger’s Cat to host and not host at the same time, but there’s no reason home viewers have to suffer along. The secret to having a great Oscar night in 2019 is pretty simple: Watch Peter Falk win Emmys for Columbo instead.
Take the Best Actor race. This year, you could bite your own tongue off while watching Rami Malek bite his own tongue off trying to make it through his acceptance speech without mentioning his director. Or you could splice in this clip instead, and watch Peter Falk explain the circuitous route he had to take to get to Los Angeles to attend the 1972 Emmy ceremony, a story that involves both Eastern Airlines and TWA but, crucially, does not involve Brian Singer:
If your Oscar night needs more drama than is inherent in 1970s air travel, you’ll find it in Falk’s 1975 Emmy win. It’s true that this year’s Oscars has a category with only three nominees: Makeup and Hairstyling, in which Mary Queen of Scots, Vice, and Border are facing off. (And after much hemming and hawing, the Academy is even going to air the award presentation live!) But does a three-way race really compare to the two-man showdown between Peter Falk for Columbo and Dennis Weaver for McCloud in 1975? No, it does not.
And then there’s Peter Falk’s acceptance speech at the 1976 Emmys. It’s unfair to a new generation of talented filmmakers and acceptance speech givers to say that no speech at this year’s Oscars will come close to Peter Falk’s 1976 Emmy acceptance speech but: No speech at this year’s Oscars will come close to Peter Falk’s 1976 Emmy acceptance speech.
If you’re the sort of person who loves the Oscars as much for what they screw up as what they get right, don’t worry: You don’t have to give up on cringing, throwing things at the screen, or having complicated feelings about a winner just because you’ve committed to watching Peter Falk win Emmys instead of watching Green Book win Oscars. For you, there’s Peter Falk’s 1990 Emmy acceptance speech:
There’s a lot to unpack there! But there are three things we can all agree on: That Emmy should have gone to Kyle MacLachlan for Twin Peaks, you can’t get a kiss from three out of four Golden Girls without it seeming weird, and Kyle MacLachlan should have won the Emmy that year for his work on Twin Peaks. Still, despite ending on something of an off note (and all the months of pre-show drama), Peter Falk’s Emmy acceptance speeches for Columbo have made 2019 the best Oscars ceremony yet. Congratulations to the Academy!