Pros and cons: Seth MacFarlane as Oscar host

Seth MacFarlane presenting an award at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Macfarlane will host the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 on ABC. © AP/Invision photo by John Shearer.

After a couple failed attempts at trying to be more hip and relevant in the choice of host, the Oscars might have just come up with something this time: Seth MacFarlane.

To this point, he is best known for his voice, namely the voice of Peter Griffin, his oddly British son Stewie and many of the other inhabitants of Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. There have been times the last couple years he has been the creative force behind three-quarters of the Fox Sunday night lineup.

But lately, MacFarlane has been stepping out from behind the animators, releasing a very thoughtful album of standards, Music is Better Than Words, and hosting the season premiere of Saturday Night Live in what was a mostly successful outing. Those are strong credits for an Oscars host.

I have to admit, my initial reaction was, “ugh!” Last year, MacFarlane seemed way over-exposed on Fox for what were basically a trio of similar and derivative satire shows. Not that I didn’t find them funny, but American Dad and The Cleveland Show particularly seemed to be stretching it in the “no original ideas department,” and there have been a couple times I thought Family Guy blew over the line into bad taste with bits built on rape and abortion.

But then again, I did grow up on Mad magazine and Saturday Night Live, so who am I to slag someone for satire, even if it is primarily across three remarkably-similar animated prime time series. And like we said, MacFarlane has been stretching himself, lately, including his feature-film directing debut with Ted.

So like MacFarlane, this Oscar gig seems to have some pros and cons.

Pros: As we have seen both in his series and other efforts, the guy is an entertainer at heart, which is exactly what the Oscars need. I have not been pre-disposed to liking MacFarlane, but he has won me over in forums such as his SNL gig and his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. So winning over the country might not be such a tall order for him. And he absolutely knows entertainment and can riff on it until Pauly Shore is an Oscar nominee (Pauly Shore dig in honor of my old colleague Heather Svokos). So this could be an inspired choice by new Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

Cons: Have you heard some of the things Macfarlane has said about celebs through his shows? Consider Helen Hunt is a potential nominee for best actress for The Sessions and recall the Family Guy episode where Peter turned down sex with her in no uncertain terms. When David Letterman hosted the Oscars in 1995, we saw how cool the room got when movie stars thought they were being laughed at, not with.  We can say that’s their problem, but watching a guy die on stage isn’t a whole lot of fun. At best MacFarlane’s material is hilarious. At worst, it’s mean and lazy. So the right MacFarlane will need to show up for this thing to fly.

So, we’ll see how it goes. There was a time we thought James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscars hosts sounded like a great idea. Well … no … we never thought that.

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