5:25pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Oscars: Why Seth MacFarlane Should Host Again (Opinion)
Call me a sexist, homophobe or anti-Semite -- I imagine many will -- but, as someone who sat in the audience for this year's Oscars, I believe that Seth MacFarlane's work as the host merited a return invitation.
When speculation began last week that MacFarlane has been approached about returning, the Academy issued the following terse statement: “Given the fact that we just confirmed Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to produce, we understand how people might speculate in that fashion, but it's really way too early to have any idea who our host might be in 2014."
MacFarlane was not a flawless host: his opening segment with William Shatner dragged on too long; his song about boobs was silly (even if TV viewers mistook as real-time reactions the pre-existing cut-away shots to the named actresses looking horrified); his cracks about the influence of Jews in Hollywood, Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and George Clooney's predilection for younger women pushed the boundaries of good taste; and his closing duet with Kristin Chenoweth, an ode to the night's "Losers," was gratuitous and tacky.
But people: Lighten up.
MacFarlane was a far cry from the "Worst Oscar Host Ever," as Shatner jokingly predicted he would be, and as some have since seriously insinuated he was. In fact, the 39-year-old multi-hyphenate did precisely what he was hired to do: He brought in younger viewers by intermingling risqué jokes with old-school singing, dancing and cultural references, just as he does on his popular animated TV show Family Guy and his 2012 hit movie Ted.
Sure, a few jokes may have fallen flat along the way, but far more did not -- plus I defy you to show me one other well-known personality who would choose to both croon the 1930s standard "The Way You Look Tonight" and target Chris Brown and Rihanna. In short, the show offered something for virtually everyone to like and take offense to, and, to me, that's about all that one can hope for.
The result? The telecast's ratings were up 3 percent -- and 20 percent in the coveted 18-to-34 demographic -- over the previous year, when Billy Crystal hosted the show for the eighth time.
Few people have ever gushed about the Oscar host until long after the ceremony is over. Immediate assessments almost always include complaints about the host being too bawdy or not edgy enough (and, of course, the show being too long and/or predictable). I, for one, would much rather watch a show anchored by a guy who takes chances and misses a few than one anchored by someone too timid to take any at all.
Moreover, the Oscar hosts who are remembered most fondly became synonymous with the show in the public's consciousness because they have had many opportunities to cultivate a hosting (or co-hosting) persona: Bob Hope (19 ceremonies) was the self-deprecating uncle; Johnny Carson (five ceremonies) was the wry outsider; and Billy Crystal (nine ceremonies) was the lovable clown. The three also share a record: They each hosted four ceremonies in a row.
For this reason, it has somewhat surprised me that the Academy has not invited a host and/or a host has elected not to return for consecutive ceremonies since Crystal in 1997 and 1998 -- not Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, or, more understandably, James Franco and Anne Hathaway.
Then again, I guess people can't exactly be expected to enthusiastically line up for a second shot at a gig that pays virtually nothing, requires months of preparation, necessitates performing in front of -- and ribbing -- past and possibly future employers and coworkers (fewer and fewer of whom are in the mood for jokes as the night goes on and many nominees become, technically, losers), and then, inevitably, results in negative reviews in the press.
But we should recognize that if someone of MacFarlane's talents is willing to host the Oscars for a second time, that's actually a good thing.