On Oct. 1, Academy Awards producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced that they’d found their host for the 2013 Oscars. Seth MacFarlane, creator of long-running animated show “Family Guy” and star of the summer movie hit “Ted,” will lead the ceremony on Feb. 24.
I’m a huge MacFarlane fan – and yet, I said “Hmmm.”
It’s no secret that the Oscars have been trying to rejuvenate the show for the past – well, as many years as anyone’s been keeping track. In an age of audiences going to see what’s on cable rather than the broadcast networks and more independent films dominating at the Oscars, rather than box office hits TV viewers would be familiar with, the minds behind the Oscars have been trying to draw eyeballs with all sorts of tactics. Two years ago, it was the semi-disastrous pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco as hosts, who seemed to have the appeal of a younger demographic beforehand, but never really found their comfort zone during the ceremony.
It’s a hard game for the Oscar producers to win. When they tried for the new with Hathaway and Franco, the reviews were negative. When they went for the classic last year and chose multiple-time Oscar host Billy Crystal, some said the choice was too expected and the ceremony needed something new.
So now they have MacFarlane, who strikes a tone in his movies and on his TV shows that’s a little different than that which you might identify with the Oscars. I’m an avid “Family Guy” watcher, but even I don’t like the scene in one episode where three characters vomit for two straight minutes.
Of course, Ricky Gervais, creator of the British version of “The Office,” made viewers sit up and pay attention when he hosted the Golden Globes for the first time in 2010. Awards show hosts will typically gently poke fun at some celebrities in attendance, and the camera will cut to the star in question laughing good-naturedly. Gervais went a little more for the throat. “I like a drink as much as the next man,” he commented at one point. “Unless the next man is Mel Gibson.” When he returned in 2011, he took aim at a movie starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. “It was a big year for 3-D movies,” he noted. “It seems like everything this year was three-dimensional. Except the characters in ‘The Tourist.”
So maybe the Oscar planners are hoping that bringing in MacFarlane, whose movies and TV shows have similarly irreverent senses of humor, will bring some life to the telecast.
I definitely hope so. But I hope that MacFarlane can move beyond his “Family Guy” safety zone to be a host that would appeal to everyone.
For example, he’d come to attention just days before the hosting announcement was made during the Emmys telecast, though accidentally (at least, I assume). MacFarlane strolled out to present an award and began talking, with only one problem – there wasn’t a microphone in front of him. A microphone came up from the floor, but not before MacFarlane had realized his mistake and headed for the one across the stage. Of course, the comedian recovered admirably.
“That’s what you get for missing rehearsal,” he said without missing a beat, using the voice of homicidal toddler Stewie Griffin on “Family Guy.” (MacFarlane is the pipes behind protagonist Peter Griffin, Peter’s dog Brian, neighbor Glen Quagmire and Stewie, among other characters.) Check out the video above.
Was it funny? Yes. Do I ever get tired of seeing MacFarlane slip in and out of those voices multiple times with no visible effort, as he did once for a Hulu commercial? No.
But it did make me wonder if he would have anything else up his sleeve for the Oscars except “Family Guy” jokes.
Being a fan, I’m hoping for the best. “Family Guy” riffs on all pop culture, so with his depth of knowledge, I think MacFarlane would be able to help out his team of writers for the ceremony with jokes about the movies that year that would appeal to the entire audience, not just teenagers and twentysomethings.
And MacFarlane’s an accomplished singer and a lover of musicals – “Family Guy” episodes will often stop dead while the characters act out entire numbers from movies, such as when the Griffin children performed all of “So Long, Farewell” from the film version of “The Sound of Music,” down to every facial expression from the 1965 movie. So maybe MacFarlane will work in a song.
His recent stint as a first-time "Saturday Night Live" host garnered positive reviews, too, with many critics saying that while he was underserved with some of the material for sketches, he appeared loose and ready for anything during the live show.
So hey – either way, it’ll be an interesting evening.