Most of us should have listened when those with inside access to the Oscars said Seth MacFarlane would surprise us all. Even I was on the fence about whether he'd fit the Oscar mold, despite MacFarlane having terrific crooner singing ability and adequate dance moves. What doubters found out was that he managed to bridge a gap between the new world of Ricky Gervais roasting and the old world of serious Oscar host classiness.
And let's admit that both of those worlds are as bipolar as one can get. The roast host of the Gervais mold is one who continuously stays in his frying zone, no matter how maudlin a show can ever so briefly be. The classy host is one who probably wants to do roasting, but realizes he can't due to show circumstances and while tapping into a hosting aesthetic from an earlier era.
The latter above may tell you everything why the classy award show host can't really exist today. Somehow, though, MacFarlane managed to turn into the classy host a few times, or at least during the lead-ins to the Oscar commercial breaks. Add more class to the song and dance numbers that looked like Frank Sinatra had entered the body of Fred Astaire dancing with someone named Ginger Theron.
Pulling off such a trick on the giant Oscar balancing beam is one that hasn't really been done before, unless you count Billy Crystal. Regardless, even Crystal never kept the one-liner Pez dispenser off at any given moment. MacFarlane simply found a hosting formula that seemed to work for every demographic, including the minority sexists and the juveniles.
It's why MacFarlane saying he won't host the Oscars again is a slug to the belly for those who want a show that's entertaining. This isn't to say the Oscars haven't secretly turned into the award show that every comedian tells his cohorts to avoid at all costs. Hosting once is now the equivalent of being in the throes of battle where mental exhaustion and sweat must be the prime symptoms of the night after the fourth hour.
What then will happen to the Oscars if MacFarlane can't be convinced he's brought the hosting golden standard? Don't be surprised if Billy Crystal comes back, though perhaps with roast material in order to avoid his more clever and gentler Borscht Belt comedy sensibility. In that regard, forcing someone to be who they aren't will bring exactly what Captain Kirk (as William Shatner) feared during the opening of this year's show.
Everybody found out that MacFarlane is exactly who he is, despite being the Jekyll and Hyde equivalent of the awards show emcee. How did he bridge that gap without it being jarring? As always, it's in the timing and turning on the people when the audience least suspects it.
Yes, going from classy 1930s-era dancing to a "We Saw Your Boobs" parody is one of the slickest and widest leaping moves in Oscar hosting history.
Unless Tina Fey gets out of her "Oscar as anathema" frame of mind, MacFarlane should consider returning often to keep providing such demographic quantum leaps. If not, the Oscars may grow into a long succession of hosts who will only host once after being critically savaged.
Right there is enough incentive to make sure enough excelling comedians exist for hosting the next 85 Oscar telecasts.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Seth MacFarlane
- Ricky Gervais
- Billy Crystal