Oscars: Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron Won't Return for Next Year's Show

THR Craig Zadan Neil Meron - H 2015
Eric Ryan Anderson

THR Craig Zadan Neil Meron - H 2015

The Academy will start a search for new producers, since the current team has completed their three-year deal.

After three years producing the annual Oscars telecast, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will not be returning to produce next year’s show.

"Craig and Neil have been wonderful creative partners over the last three years, contributing some of the most innovative and memorable Oscar moments,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “They are true showmen with enormous talent and expertise — we’re looking forward to seeing the exciting projects they have in the works." 

Although it was never made public, the Academy had signed a three-year deal with the two producers, which the Academy had the option to renew each year so that it would not have to recruit new producers each year, as had been the case in its recent history. With one team in place for a number of years, it was felt the producers could use the experience they earned on their first show to produce subsequent shows. The Zadan/Meron pact covered the last three shows, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris.

While their first two shows saw ratings increases, with the DeGeneres-hosted edition hitting a 10-year-high of nearly 44 million viewers, ratings for this year’s show dropped by 16 percent to 36.6 million.

Of the three shows, DeGeneres’ hosting gig, with its famous celebrity selfie, which was a big hit on social media, drew the best reviews. MacFarlane attracted lots of criticism for a production number “We Saw Your Boobs,” which many found sexist, and although Harris had successfully hosted the Tonys and the Emmys, the critical consensus was that his turn at the Oscar broadcast didn’t measure up to his earlier hosting stints.

Zadan hinted earlier this month that he and Meron wouldn't be returning, sending out a tweet on March 8 that read, "Hoping that whoever produces the #Oscars next year will retain our innovations: #TeamOscar program & reading all 24 noms on Oscar nom morning." The tweet referred to the Team Oscar contest, which invites young filmmakers to submit videos for a chance to appear onstage to help hand out the Oscar statuettes during the ceremony, and to this year's nomination announcement, which, for the first time, included the nominees in all 24 categories.

The producing team also introduced the practice of combining the clips from the best picture nominees into two- and three-film clip packages, which was designed to move the show along. Critics, however, have complained that the recent show downplayed celebrating film itself in favor of making more room for musical numbers.

In particular, some complained that Meron and Zadan, who have built a career producing musicals for stage, screen and TV, including NBC's recent live broadcasts of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan, were using the Oscar broadcast to spotlight  shows with which they had been associated. For example, a tribute to movie musicals in the MacFarlane show included a number from Chicago, the 2002 film version of which was executive produced by Zadan and Meron. And on the most recent show, the In Memoriam section included Jennifer Hudson singing "I Can't Let Go," a song that was introduced on the Broadway-set NBC series Smash, on whch Zadan and Meron also served as executive producers.

Today's announcement followed a March 24 meeting of the Academy's board of governors, at which the most recent Oscar show was reviewed. It will now fall to Isaacs, who is expected to be re-elected to her third, one-year term as Academy president this summer, to begin the search for a new producer or producing team willing to take over the reigns for next year's show.