Seth MacFarlane Hosting the Oscars: What the Media Is Saying (INSIDE STORY)

Roasting Charlie Sheen
Seth MacFarlane hosted the 2011 Comedy Central Roast.
In thinking of words to describe the Academy’s decision to hire as host Seth MacFarlane — a guy known primarily for his off-camera work as an animator and voice actor, who isn’t quite a household name, who’s never even presented at the Oscars, whose FOX cartoons offer something to offend everybody, and who’s known to be a loose cannon himself when it comes to offending an awards crowd he’s trying to impress — you probably wouldn’t use the word “safe.”

Yet that’s how many insiders are regarding the choice of MacFarlane as emcee of the world’s biggest awards show. Not “controversial” or “edgy” or “hip,” but “Safe.”

After all, pundits noted, MacFarlane, who recently hosted Saturday Night Live and recovered from a microphone gaffe as an Emmys presenter, can’t be any rougher going than the bumpy 2011 hosting duo of James Franco and Anne Hathaway. He does have a following, from the faithful fans of the FOX network’s Family Guy to the moviegoers worldwide who made a $434 million hit out of Ted this summer. And even though he’s beloved by the young, straight male demographic that the Academy has been trying in vain for years to get to watch the telecast, he lacks the homophobic baggage that torpedoed Oscar show producer Brett Ratner last year (along with Rantner’s handpicked host, Eddie Murphy, who had to be replaced late in the game by oldtimer Billy Crystal).

“He was hired because he’s the safest possible choice,” Awards Daily editor Sasha Stone told Celebuzz. “He’s a popular straight white male who will bring in the target demographic and flyover state audiences. They took a risk with Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner last year, but that blew up in their faces. So,  risk isn’t the direction they want to be headed again. The Oscar telecast, lumbering monster that it is, wants its popularity back. How do you do that? You give the people what they want to buy – white and male.”

Stone added that she would have liked to have seen a female pair hosting this year, say Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, or Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. But of the Academy’s more traditional choice, she said, “It’s not their job to even out the score for minorities — it’s their job to put on a good show and make a lot of money. You can’t blame them for going with such a safe choice.”

As for the animator’s performing skills, Stone said, “He’ll be funny, confident and reliable, which is what they need right now after two strikes with Franco/Hathaway and then Eddie Murphy/Brett Ratner mishegoss.”

“He’s the perfect host,” awards maven and editor Tom O’Neil told us.

Comparing MacFarlane favorably to previous hosts, O’Neil said, “He’s hip like Jon Stewart. He sings like Hugh Jackman. He’s sassy like Whoopi Goldberg. He even kinda looks like a young Bob Hope.”

In fact, the only strike O’Neil could find against him is that he’s not a household name. “He’s a shockeroo choice, because MacFarlane is not a superstar known to the public.”

As for MacFarlane’s penchant for offensiveness, O’Neil’s not worried. “He’ll be edgy but he knows how to walk right up the line and not step over it.”

Indeed, what makes MacFarlane a safer choice than, say, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who work similar territory and actually have an Oscar nomination to their credit — for the song “Blame Canada,” from South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut) is that MacFarlane really does seem to long to be accepted by Hollywood traditionalists.

“One reason it’s MacFarlane and not Parker/Stone is MacFarlane actively conveys sense of knowing/appreciating how his bread is buttered,” tweeted film critic Glenn Kenny. Replied Movie City News editor David Poland, “Parker/Stone would never ever be considered. MacFarlane wants to be a Vegas act.”

Kris Tapley at Hitfix wrote, “Thumbs up. A great choice.” Explained Tapley,

My take: PERFECT. Because I was really sold by that SNL appearance. MacFarlane will bring the right touch of irreverence without the Academy having to resort to Ricky Gervais (who, after the Golden Globe stints, feels a bit done now) and will be a fresh face amid countless stale picks over the years.

Not everyone thinks MacFarlane is a slam-dunk. “Seth MacFarlane is hosting the Academy Awards. God help us, who ever thought we’d be seeing THOSE words all put together?” wrote Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly. Noting the seeming conflict between MacFarlane, the crowd-pleasing entertainer, and MacFarlane, the bridge-burning pop cultural parodist, Lost and Prometheus writer/producer Damon Lindelof tweeted, “If Seth MacFarlane wasn’t hosting the Oscars, he’d be ragging on Seth MacFarlane hosting the Oscars.”

Peter Knegt at IndieWire suggested that MacFarlane was risky but “the  right kind of risky.”

Some might feel that MacFarlane might end up feeling a little too edgy for Oscar. His humor isn’t always exactly PG (or PG-13), but we say bring it on. Playing it safe is only going to get you so far, and it’s nice to see the Academy trying something sincerely new for a change (though we might have said the same thing when Hathaway and Franco were announced).

By the way, you know those old-fashioned song-and-dance interludes they do at the Oscars, the kind that put younger viewers to sleep? MacFarlane has a history of performing such numbers, and without irony, as Stone pointed out, citing the clip below of MacFarlane crooning “Singin’ In The Rain” at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2009.

What do you think of the choice of MacFarlane as Oscar host? Vote in the poll below and sound off in the comments.

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