So the 2019 Oscars show still has no host, but what, ABC worry?

Speaking at the Television Critics Association this week, the network's President of Entertainment Karey Burke said "I, ironically, have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept the Oscars really in the conversation." Proving that, like roughly 90 percent of humans, she doesn't understand the meaning of irony. Now "Ironically, the fact that nobody cares has kept it in the conversation" would be on point. But moving on.

She added: "The mystery has been really compelling and people really care. I find it fascinating."

No doubt she means the second half. But as to the first, do folks care? Really? When the Kevin Hart kerfuffle arose, sure, because the outrage machine that is the internet had a new chew toy. Hart blew it, goofed the apology, and got booted. Care meter: Up to about 7, momentarily, on a scale of 1 to Spinal Tap amp.

Following the non-announcement of no host, sort of like the body count from the Bowling Green Massacre, Oscar-care meter slid back to its usual 2 or 3, bolstered that high only by diehard movie nerds such as myself, and possibly you, if you're still reading.

The lineup of presenters is stellar, as one might expect from a city built on and run by stars: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Chris Evans, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Lopez, Daniel Craig, Awkwafina, Whoopi Goldberg, Brie Larson, Amandla Stenberg, Charlize Theron and Constance Wu among them. A lot of superpowers up there, with Captain America, Valkyrie, Captain Marvel, James Blond and of course Tina-and-Amy ... why aren't they hosting, again? As they did so beautifully with the Golden Globes (three years in a row), "Saturday Night Live" and probably a celebrity bat mitzvah or three?

What's should really be concerning, though, is that the last time the Academy Awards went hostless? 1989.

Yes, that 1989, when Rob Lowe frugged with Snow White to "Proud Mary." Horrific images of doddering golden-age stars cringing, dying just a little faster thanks to Allan Carr and Marvin Hamlisch, fading in the background as the pop-debacle unfolded in real time, those will tip-toe through your noggin for at least the 15 minutes that opening number ran, or perhaps for the 18 hours it seemed to endure. But if you think you had it bad watching, save sympathy for the poor sweet 22-year-old actress, Eileen Bowman, who thought her Oscar performance was going to be a big break, not heartbreak.

But host or no, ABC did pull one possible magic trick out of its definitely-not-loaded sleeves, when it changed tune, announcing that the Oscar-nominated song from "Mary Poppins Returns," "The Place Where Lost Things Go," would be performed on the show. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in its implacable wisdom, originally did not plan for it. That changed, after outcry.

When I saw "Mary Poppins Returns" in the theater, people were audibly sobbing during that song, and its reprise. Anyone who's lost someone, which after a certain age becomes a circle encompassing everyone, will feel it. Everyone in this audience did, and I'm not talking about mere sniffling, but unashamed weeping.

So why the Academy wanted to leave such a poignant number out, at first, I can't imagine. Maybe the new Mary, Emily Blunt, would be unavailable that night; perhaps others from the cast, including the three children, who sing the reprise, were likewise busy.

But they've added it to the show, and ...

... added that it will be performed by a "surprise special guest."

So here are my guess-wishes, in no order:

1. Tom Waits

2. Walt Disney hologram

3. Tina Turner with the Ikettes, never doin' nothin' nice and easy

4. Walt Disney's unfrozen head

5. Big Boi

6. Big Bird

7. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter

8. Paul and Ringo

9. Dick Van Dyke, in drag

10. Sean Connery

Seriously, how many hearts would explode if it was Julie Andrews? 'Twould just be irresponsible.

ABC had to know that's the "surprise special" everyone would leap to. But tragically, Andrews lost her singing voice more than 20 years ago, after surgery for non-cancerous nodules on her throat. Following four more operations, her speaking voice has been mostly healed, but her singing voice, once a four-octave-spanner that would make Freddie Mercury bow down, remains gone. She has SORT of sung once or twice in performance this century, something Andrews called speak-singing, comparable to Rex Harrison's croaking in "My Fair Lady."

Is the Academy daft enough to tease something like that, and then bring out some middling pop singer, like that Super Bowl halftime guy enacting the limp prequel to "Memento"? That would ring out the biggest sad trombone in Oscar history.

Well, maybe right after Rob Lowe dancing to "Proud Mary" with Snow White.

That cringe-inducing camp prompted, among other responses, a protest letter to the Academy signed by legends such as Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Billy Wilder, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and ... Julie Andrews.

If it by some small miracle she does walk out onstage Feb. 24, and try speak-singing even a little bit, say with the help of old pal Dick van Dyke, who at 93 ripped through his cameo in the new movie, crooning from Marc Shaiman-Scott Wittman song:

"... Nothing's really left

Or lost without a trace

Nothing's gone forever

Only out of place...."

That would be a what we call a moment. She turned down a cameo in "Mary Poppins Returns," not wanting to steal Blunt's thunder, because that's the kind of class dame Dame Julie Andrews is. So if the original Mary Poppins walks out on stage Feb. 24 to sing about lost things being not really lost, just out of place, I'm willing to be there will be mass sobbing. How much sobbing? All. Going to 11. All the sobbing.

But hey, if not? Snow White's free.

 

Reach Tusk Editor Mark Hughes Cobb at mark.cobb@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0201.