Doug Strassler’s Pros and Cons of Seth MacFarlane as Oscar Host

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, producers of this winter’s 85th Annual Academy Awards telecast, bucked tradition with yesterday’s announcement of writer-director-cynic Seth MacFarlane as this year’s host. Instead of beloved industry vets like Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg or Steve Martin, or even fresher film celebrities like James Franco, Anne Hathaway, and Hugh Jackman, ABC is banking on MacFarlane to bring in higher ratings for its ever flagging telecast. Below, check out the good and the bad of bringing on the Mac:

 

Cons:

1)    Lack of a movie background. Sure, MacFarlane might have written, directed, produced and done vocal work in Ted, but he’s no Warren Beatty or Woody Allen. He’s not yet a vital presence when it comes to the industry being honored at the Oscars. An ongoing trend with hosts and presenters like MacFarlane and Ricky Gervais with limited film experience is to condescend to the event in which they appear. An institution like the Academy Awards deserves some reverence.

2)    He won’t attract new viewers. ABC’s ever-increasingly craven attempt to drum up ratings for the Oscars is a lost cause. The Oscars will always be what they are: an awards show honoring talent and substance over commercialism (usually). Younger viewers, used to having the power of smartphones and DVRs, are used to being in the driver’s seat, and don’t flock to television events like this. Hiring the irreverent Family Guy creator won’t bring in new viewers – but it may alienate existing ones.

3)    MacFarlane’s currency is untested. One of the reasons producers hire established emcees for award shows is because they are a known entity, and not just for the audience watching at home but for the nervous nominees in the audience. Franco/Hathaway and David Letterman both bombed because they couldn’t gauge the temperature of the audience, and put them on the defensive instead of creating a layer of comfort. And that can be felt through the TV screen.

4)    Mila Kunis will likely be a presenter again. Sure, the MacFarlane cohort nearly nabbed a nod for Black Swan, but she’s yet to represent major Hollywood or critical achievement. Can’t we make room for top-shelf talent to open up some envelopes?

 

Pros:

1)    Hollywood no longer segregates between film and television.  MacFarlane may have wet his feet in movies, but his signature work remains on television. Casting him, like Ellen DeGeneres before him, is proof that there’s no longer any dividing line between the big and small screen, a stigma that started peeling away a decade-and-a-half ago. Performers can now move laterally between from one genre to the other without fear of career comeuppance.

2)    He does have presence. MacFarlane’s front-of-camera appearances on shows like Real Time with Bill Maher and last week’s Emmys (where he quickly recovered after a gaffe as presenter) prove he has poise and a sharp wit. If he can keep his air of self-importance in check, he might be just the guy to keep the show moving, especially if…

3)    He might choose to abandon certain traditions. Perhaps MacFarlane will opt to forgo devices like Crystal’s opening song medley and montages in which he implanted himself in the year’s notable films and head straight into the awards themselves. And maybe the telecast will even end on time.

4)    Mila Kunis will likely be a presenter again. I mean, I’m not blind.

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