LOS ANGELES – In the tradition of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg, Oscar is going back to its comedic roots with Eddie Murphy as host.

The actor and comedian will host the 84th annual Academy Awards, producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer said Tuesday — and even they were surprised the reclusive star agreed.

The last comic to host the show alone was Jon Stewart in 2008.

This is Murphy’s first time hosting the Academy Awards. He said in a statement that he’s “enormously honored” to join the ranks of the aforementioned Oscar hosts.

Ratner and Murphy worked together on their latest film, “Tower Heist,” and the director casually floated the Oscar-hosting notion by the star.

“And Eddie said, ‘Wow, that would be a brilliant idea for you and me to do the Oscars together,”‘ Ratner recalled.

“I was like, ‘Are you serious?”‘ Ratner said.

So Ratner called Mischer, his co-producer, who immediately warned him not to get his hopes up.

“I said, ‘Not a chance,”‘ the veteran TV director and producer said.

“So many times through the years I’ve tried to get Eddie Murphy to agree to come be on a show, and generally he kind of stays to himself and has not been interested in it.”

Madonna gathers material for album No. 12

LOS ANGELES – Madonna has confirmed rumors that she is at work on her next album.

While promoting her directorial film effort, “W.E.,” at the Venice Film Festival, the pop diva announced that she’d “started a little bit of work in the studio” on her as-yet-untitled 12th album, with the first single pegged for a February or March release. The disc will be her first since splitting from longtime home Warner Bros. Records.

Her last album, 2008’s “Hard Candy,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

‘Most Wanted’ gets a new life at Lifetime


NEW YORK – Just weeks after Fox dropped “America’s Most Wanted” after more than two decades, creator-host John Walsh, has a new home for the show on the Lifetime network.

The deal will return to the air Walsh’s weekly criminal roundup, which since 1988 has helped bring almost 1,200 fugitives to justice.

The series will return for its 25th season later this year.

“‘America’s Most Wanted’ is a seminal program that provides a very valuable service to both viewers and law enforcement agencies,” said Lifetime president Nancy Dubuc. “For more than two decades John Walsh has been leading the fight against crime and it’s an honor to partner with him on bringing back this important show.”

“We’ve often been called the court of last resort,” Walsh said. “Now we are back in the game and ready to saddle up for another season to get justice for victims and put dangerous criminals behind bars.”

Bad back shelves conductor


On the day of his scheduled return to the Metropolitan Opera to begin rehearsals for the coming season after several months’ absence from the podium, conductor James Levine instead announced that he underwent yet another emergency back surgery last week and is canceling all of his fall performances.

Bowing to the inevitable, the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday named Fabio Luisi as principal conductor, effective immediately.