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TV Critic Recalls Gil Cates’ Words of Wisdom

Just a few months after Gil Cates told LA Times reporter Mary McNamara that he was amenable to engineering a 15th Oscars telecast, the much loved 77-year-old director, producer, founder of the Geffen Playhouse and two-term president of the Directors Guild of America has passed away.

In writing about him today, McNamara highlights some advice that Brett Ratner, Don Mishner and first-time host Eddie Murphy may well want to pay attention to. Cates, who entered the Oscar TV show producing fray in 1990, said the key is not to try and re-invent the wheel:

Cates brought a matter-of-fact understanding of the show, its strengths and its limitations, that is harder to replicate. “It is what it is,” he said when we last spoke of the future of the Oscars. “It’s a big beautiful television show about the movies.”

The issues that plague it-mercurial economics and demographics at the box office, shifting attitudes toward celebrity, the growing sense of award show fatigue-are not within the ken of a producer’s control. “Stop worrying about doing something new and do something good,” he said with a grin, and more than a few friendly expletives.

Hiring Murphy to host is a step in the right Cates direction. Let’s just hope the comedian and everyone else do Cates proud next year, during a show that is now likely to include a tribute to the program’s dearly departed control booth maestro.

[Photo credit: LA Times]

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