The musical numbers on Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast by most accounts were hit and miss, but in some respects the most impressive song wasn’t one of the big production numbers from “Les Misérables” or “Skyfall.”
It was the one that host Seth MacFarlane and singer Kristin Chenoweth sang while the closing credits rolled, “Here’s to the Losers.”
In a drastically revamped version of the Jack Segal-Robert Wells ode to underdogs recorded by Frank Sinatra for his 1964 album “Softly, as I Leave You,” MacFarlane and Chenoweth served up a swinging musical salute to those who came out on the short end of the Oscar stick Sunday.
Here’s to all the losing works of art
From "Lincoln" to "Amour"
To the disappointed actors wondering
What they dressed up for
Since the winners in many of the contests cited weren’t known until a few minutes before the end of the 3½-hour show, the question arises: How did show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron pull it off?
“It was actually quite complex,” Zadan said Monday. “It really started off with Neil and me the first day we were hired by the academy to do the show. We took 40 years of Oscar shows on DVD and watched them to see what works, what doesn’t work, what consistently is not working each year -- really analyzing every minute of it.
“One of the things we noticed was that at the show’s end, after best picture has been announced, the host says…,” Zadan’s voice shifting to high-speed delivery: " 'Thank you very much, goodbye, hope you had a good time!' On every show.
“That is not acceptable for us. So we thought about, ‘What do we do?’ We also had to throw into the mix something that would not be adding any time to the show, because by the time it gets to the end, people want it to be over because it’s so long.”
So they decided on a closing song from MacFarlane who, outside of his work creating the hit animated TV shows “Family Guy” and “American Dad!,” along with last year’s movie “Ted,” recorded a big-band album of standards in 2011, “Music Is Better Than Words.”
“We thought Seth would be a great musical team with Kristin Chenoweth,” Meron said. “Seth actually had done a template of a lyric based on how he thought the evening would play out, and we had a team of writers backstage monitoring the show to make last-minute additions and get them to Kristin and Seth to quickly learn them. They also had a teleprompter that the new lyrics would be in, so they’d be there if they needed it.”
MacFarlane, they said, e-mailed in several sets of lyrics covering various possible outcomes during the run-up to Sunday’s show. The combination of pre-written alternatives and on-the-spot updates allowed them to name drop effortlessly as they sang:
Here’s to nominee Quvenzhané
Lift up that little head
You’ll be at the future Oscars
When the rest of us are dead…