Eddie Murphy Quits Oscars 2012: Could Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand Or The Muppets Replace Him? (PHOTOS)

Now that Eddie Murphy has joined his creative partner and friend Brett Ratner in exile from next year’s Oscars, Academy executives will be scratching their heads for a suitable replacement.

It was to be Murphy's debut at the helm of the entertainment industry's biggest night but, given the short notice for a brand new show, producers may well look to a more experienced pair of hands.

Billy Crystal was a repeat success throughout the 1990s, hosting the ceremony eight times in all. His high-octane musical numbers spoofing each of the main contenders became a standard feature of the show, and set a new high bar for irreverent wit, often at the expense of the fixedly-grinning stars in the front rows.

More recently, it's been a mixed bunch of quick-on-their-feet comedians, including Chris Rockand Steve Martin, who most recently co-hosted in 2010 with Alec Baldwin. Jon Stewart has already presented the ceremony twice, most recently in 2008. As his Daily Show goes from strength to strength internationally, it may be time to call on his quicksilver wit once again.

The same could be said for Alec Baldwin, who has indelibly made his mark for sardonic put-downs in TV sitcom Thirty Rock. The show's creator Tina Fey would be a natural choice if producers are keen for a woman to take the wheel again, something Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen DeGeneres have previously done without a hiccup.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway's joint effort this year proved that comedians, not actors, are generally a more entertaining choice. However, bosses may choose to look a bit more left field for their anchorperson, and there are a couple of obvious, smooth-talking British options.

Ricky Gervais proved at this year's Golden Globes that he has the necessary sangfroid to take charge of proceedings, and remain unfazed by a big crowd. If half the people in the room were to turn against him if he again took on "actors... just more important than anyone else", at least the TV audience would be hooked.

Dropping ratings have been a concern to Academy Award producers over the last few years, hence the increased number of Best Film nominations to include more mainstream offerings. With a grinning and fearless Gervais straining at the leash, fans of car-crash telly would be sure to tune in.

Equally irrepressible is the increasingly L’Orealed Russell Brand. The self-styled shock jock proved his hosting colours at the 2008 MTV Awards, causing controversy - and more than a few death threats - calling then President Bush "that cowboy fella" who in England, "wouldn’t be trusted with scissors" and referring multiple times to the Jonas Brothers' purity rings.

Brand has gone a bit soft in his middle-age, settling down in California and marrying a bubble-gum pop star, so he may wish to prove his cactus stripes once again with this type of gig. This reformed version of Brand may be the right compromise - spiky but with corners sufficiently buffed - for show producers.

If they really want to show their mettle, bosses will call on the services of Stephen Colbert who, like Gervais, has proved his unflappability in front of an even more bemused, often silent, audience. Anyone who witnessed his tour de force at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2006 will wait with bated breath for Colbert's unique style to be let loose on a global audience.

Or they could just play safe, with a bunch of non-humans. A Facebook campaign has already begun to install, for the first time, none other than The Muppets. Master of ceremonies Kermit, used to supervising as unruly a flock as Pigs in Space, the Swedish Chef, Gonzo and Ralph the Dog, could certainly keep a bunch of Hollywood A-listers in order.

And, whatever outfits the likes of Cher, Jennifer Lopez, even Lady Gaga showed up in, they could never compete with the scene-stealing antics of one Miss Piggy who, on past form, won't be walking off any time soon with the award for Best-Supporting Dress.

SLIDESHOW: Vote for who you want to host the Oscars in our slideshow below...