Let’s start off this essay by saying that Seth McFarlane wasn’t nearly as bad an Oscar host as some people want us to think he was. Seriously. First, let’s look at what the problem is. Hosting the Oscars is a very difficult job. It really is the biggest night in Hollywood, and millions of eyes are on you, so, for some reason, jokes that might work at a smaller venue (like a Comedy Central Roast), probably won’t play well here (just like the joke you tell your buddy at a ball game might not play well at a formal dinner in front of your wife, your boss, and his wife — just sayin’). So here it is, for host, the Academy wants (not necessarily in this order) Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Billy Crystal (but from the ‘90s), Whoopi Goldberg (again from the ‘90s). Together these four folks have hosted the ceremony a total of 37 times, that’s fully half the number of times that the Oscars have been televised since they were first broadcast live on TV in ‘39 with Hope as the host.
Other hosts with more than two appearances as hosts include Jack Lemmon (4), Conrad Nagel (3), Jerry Lewis (3), and David Niven, (3). So, yeah, it is a tough gig, with more folks than not, never being invited back again. So, really, how bad was McFarlane as host? Well, his humor was described as smug, juvenile, crass, infantile, and misogynous. Okay, let me ask you this, have you ever seen Family Guy? The show has been on the air for something like 15 years, and at the age of 35, McFarlane (who is chief cook and bottle washer for the show), was given a four year, $500 million contract (and that doesn’t even include his work on American Dad, the Cleveland show, or any of the other stuff he does). So yeah, the Academy pretty much knew what they were getting when they hired him (and if they didn’t it is totally their fault that they didn’t vet him better — but that’s an entirely different column).
So what did McFarlane do “wrong”? Well he sang about boobs and embarrassed some of the actresses in the audience. Only no he really didn’t embarrass them, because, if you notice in the cutaway shots the actresses were wearing different dresses: that’s right, the actresses were in on it and the cutaways were pre-staged. Well, he told mean jokes; again, no he really didn’t. This is Hollywood you all are actors, and he is a comedian, so you really just need to get a thicker skin. One columnist commented that McFarlane “…suggested that Jennifer Anniston is hiding a past as a stripper” when he introduced Anniston and Channing Tatum as presenters. Except that this clearly uninformed columnist, was totally unaware that Tatum stared in Magic Mike a film about a male exotic dancer. The joke was on Tatum, not Anniston. Well, then he made a joke about Quvenzhané Wallis, Only, once again, no he actually didn’t the joke was about George Clooney, and his perchance for dating (much) younger women.
The columnist who didn’t know about Magic Mike, in an effort to further demonstrated her ignorance, went on to say that “Rather than choosing a popular figure who would appeal to a younger, more male audience...” proving that she is not only uninformed as to what goes on in Hollywood, but that she has no idea what she is talking about. Because she so obviously missed the fact that McFarlane does appeal to a younger, male audience (which the Academy needs, because, well men as a group simply don’t go to the movies as much as do women (men tend to watch sports) plus, while 18-25 year old men do go see films, they tend to be action/adventure blockbusters that don’t win awards, and even if they do, men want to watch the movies, not the award shows where Hollywood pats itself on the back for how clever and cool they are),
Needless to say, the only other way the Academy could appeal to a “younger, male audience” would be to have a (young) attractive, (scantily clad) woman, as the host; which sort of negates the writers initial point. (At this point we feel it necessary to point out that in its 95-year history, save for Goldberg (four times) and Ellen DeGeneres (once), no woman has ever hosted the show solo.) So yeah, the Academy could hire Tina Fey and Amy Pollner to host the awards, and the gags could be cute, non-offensive, funny, and well, bland, but again, you are all missing the point. Truthfully, if there could be a guarantee that the Oscars would totally come off completely without a hitch (no Soy Bomb, no streaker, no Cinderella incident, no American Indian accepting the award in protest), or controversy of any kind, and that the host would be funny, using perfectly bland humor, and be totally innocuous, who would watch it?
Honestly, on some level, the folks who run this thing want there to be an incident of some sort, (or at least the possibility of an incident) otherwise no one will tune in, and no one will be talking about it in the morning. (Hey, tell me that we don’t watch the trapeze artist hoping against hope that he will fall, or watch NASCAR looking for the spectacular crash.) If there was no edge, no compelling reason to watch, then viewership would simply drop off, no one would make any money, and the Academy would simply go back to congratulating itself in some back room over dinner with no cameras.
So, for better or worse, the producers need to cast some borderline bad boy (or girl) who is going to stir things up hoping that people will tune in. Having said all of the above, and for what it is worth we totally get that some folk were offended by McFarlane’s brand of humor. It totally didn’t bother us. Further, complaining that Seth McFarlane (or anyone acting as host) behaves exactly the way we expect them to do, is sort of like going to see the latest Die Hard film and come out complaining that it was just another Die Hard film.
# of Ceremonies
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.