“The oddness of the hire — middlebrow frat-boy hero emcees Hollywood's glitziest night — was only heightened by MacFarlane's unpleasant demeanor,” The Atlantic writer Richard Lawson wrote of MacFarlane's performance.
“One longed for [MacFarlane] to drop the meta-jokes about the fear that he'd be an inappropriate host and get on with the job of actually hosting, which means keeping the train running, making your guests comfortable, and making the evening more about them than you,” he wrote. “Awash in self-indulgence, neither he nor his 3-hour-and-35-minute show ever seemed to hit a comfortable, confident stride.”
Even the more positive reviews rated his performance a mixed bag, with Huffington Post writer Michael Russnow writing that “when he played it straight, he was great – poised, handsome and charming. But on occasion he spewed classless material, which I'm sure he thought was very funny.”
However, despite the more off-color jokes that offended some viewers, there were some routines from MacFarlane that landed. Here are our five favorite moments from the Oscar host, in no particular order.
1. In detailing the plot of “Argo,” for which Ben Affleck famously lost out on a Best Director nomination (despite the movie eventually winning Best Picture), MacFarlane said, “The film is so top secret that the film's director is unknown to the Academy.” He added a moment later, “They know they screwed up.”
2. "Family Guy" viewers knew already that MacFarlane loves movie musicals, especially the 1965 film "The Sound of Music." He demonstrated that when "Music" actor Christopher Plummer, the winner last year for the Best Supporting Actor prize, was announced to present the Best Supporting Actress award. MacFarlane then acted out the climactic scene from "Music," when the von Trapp family is announced multiple times and fail to appear (they'd fled the auditorium to escape from the Nazis). MacFarlane even had someone appear in uniform to shout, "They're gone!" like a Nazi soldier does in the movie. (Plummer, of course, eventually appeared.)
3. One of MacFarlane's best jokes was also one of his earliest. Moments after appearing onstage, he quipped of the famously taciturn actor, "And the quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now." He did indeed get laughter from Jones for that one.
4. MacFarlane's routine about acting out the Denzel Washington film "Flight," about an alcoholic and drug-addicted pilot who manages to fly a malfunctioning plane to safety, with sock puppets was indeed odd. But the moment where he simply showed the puppets being thrown around in a dryer was pretty funny.
5. One of the most pleasant and surprising moments of the broadcast came early on, when MacFarlane participated in two song-and-dance routines. For the first, he sang Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight" as actors Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron did a beautiful dance routine. "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe and "Looper" actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt then joined MacFarlane for a skilled soft-shoe number as the trio sang "High Hopes," a song which became popular through Sinatra.