Three reasons why hiring Seth Macfarlane to host the 2013 Oscars may the best - or worst - idea ever
Whether you're applauding ABC's idea to hire Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as host of the next Academy Awards probably depends on your opinion about something else.
If you only know MacFarlane as the jumpy guy with the mega-watt smile who unleashed a bunch of odd impressions while hosting Saturday Night Live and couldn't find the microphone onstage during the Emmy awards, ABC's move might seem a head-scratching choice.
But if you're one of the legions of fans -- mostly young guys -- who turned the animated comedy Family Guy into a $200-million-a-year franchise for Fox and made MacFarlane's directorial debut Ted into a $400-million film, you might see this as the first reason to watch the Oscars since host Chris Rock left censors afraid 2005's ceremony would be one long bleep.
The truth is, MacFarlane is at the center of a guy-focused, multibillion-dollar empire which includes three animated series on Fox, developing a reboot of the science show Cosmos, singing on a critically-acclaimed big band standards album, directing and voicing a mega-successful film about a living teddy bear and hosting a string of celebrity roasts on Comedy Central.
In short, he's a behind-the-scenes powerhouse whose value as an onstage performer has yet to be fully proven. Which means there's three good reasons this might work and three reasons it might be the stupidest idea ever.
1) MacFarlane's fans are rabid, young, pop culture savvy and used to following his unique path. Unlike James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who were just young actors plopped in an unforgiving setting, MacFarlane has a fan base used to following him into many different arenas, aware that whatever he delivers will have his unique voice attached. Which means Oscar gets its wish of bringing in young viewers who passed up The Master for a second showing of The Expendables 2.
2) MacFarlane has done this job before - kinda. No matter what you think of his work on SNL or the Comedy Central roasts, he remains an affable, witty host on TV, ready to puncture any tension with an oddball impression or poop joke. And his ability as a crooner shows hints of the range which made Hugh Jackman and Neal Patrick Harris such good awards show hosts.
3) He just might be the future of populist movie comedy. Dangerous as it is to judge an artist by one movie, MacFarlane's success just might connect Oscar to what's popular in movie comedy at a time when many Academy Award winners seem to land on a milk carton after the ceremony.
1) He's a movie upstart. Oscar ceremonies seem to flow best when hosted by old school movie performers establishment Hollywood loves: Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, Johnny Carson. Much as Hollywood might envy his box office, will the Meryls, Jacks and Toms (Cruise and Hanks) cotton to a guy with one movie and bunch of cartoon series under his belt?
2) He's not an experienced stage performer. The other thing great Oscar hosts have is years spent on stages commanding attention and making people laugh. Smart and talented as MacFarlane may be, he's a relative novice at the stage thing. And if the clip below where he's telling his "dad" about the announcement is in any indication, he may have to work harder just on being funny.
3) Does anyone over 30 know who he is? Popular as his work is, MacFarlane also has a fan base which is kinda the antithesis of the Oscars' traditional audience. Even Chris Rock joked that no one but women and gay men watches the Academy Awards, right before the night he hosted them. Bending an elitist ceremony into a popular TV program is tough enough; if the audience doesn't know who you are, that could be an insurmountable challenge.
But MacFarlane's choice will also create lots of articles like this one, without counting controversies like the departure last year of volatile producer Brett Rattner and host Eddie Murphy after Ratner used a gay slur during a press conference.
So its possible, in a way, that Oscar has already won. Though I wonder how ABC late night star (and recent Emmy host) Jimmy Kimmel feels about it all.