THE ANNUAL OSCAR CHARADE….Writing about the Academy Awards last night, Tom Shales complains about the show’s length:

Insanely, even as the clock approached midnight and the show had passed its assigned closing time of 11:30, the producers and the network still inserted padding that prolonged the production, like a replay of the announcement that Charlize Theron had won the Oscar for Best Actress and a protracted tease for the upcoming Best Actor prize.

It’s nuts for Shales to pretend to be shocked at the length of the telecast. Let me repeat what I said last year:

It’s pretty obvious that the show lasts exactly as long as the producers want it to. Consider: (a) it runs long every year, (b) every other award show ends within a few nanoseconds of the scheduled time, (c) the networks sell advertising time based on the length of the show, and (d) these guys are pros and know exactly how to time a show like this.

So since it’s obvious that they know how long it will go, my question is this: why pretend it’s a 3-hour show? Why not just schedule it for 3? or 4 hours or whatever? What cachet do they think it gives them to have the show run long every year? Inquiring minds want to know.

I’m still wondering. If you give it even a moment’s thought it’s obvious that the producers know exactly how long the show will run. So why the charade? And why does everyone play along?

POSTSCRIPT: No, really, think about it for a minute before you comment. Of course they know how long the telecast will last. Was there any part of the show ? just one part ? that went unexpectedly long? Is there any doubt that the producers know how to time each segment to within a few seconds? Is it just a coincidence that every year the show runs almost exactly the same length (3? hours)?

It’s funny, though: despite the compelling evidence to the contrary, I’m surprised at how few people I mention this to are willing to believe that the length of the show is deliberate. It’s just a 30-year long coincidence, I guess….

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