Seth MacFarlane Hosts Highly Rated but Boring Oscar Telecast

Argo won Best Picture at the 85th Annual Academy Awards

Sunday night’s 85th Annual Academy Awards show may have been the most highly rated Oscar telecast since 2007, but make no mistake – Seth MacFarlane didn’t do anyone any favors with a retinue of lame jokes, nervous cue-card readings and schmaltzy songs. He wasn’t the worst aspect of the televised ceremony, by any means. He was clumsily charming when he wasn’t working overtime to offend Jews, women, gays, African-Americans, Ben Affleck’s time in Gigli and President Lincoln’s head-wound. Everything seemed off about the Oscars: from the slow-motion pace of the overall production (there’s a reason you don’t hire theatrical people for a television gig) to the wearily long introduction to Adele’s creaky rendition of "Skyfall" to Jack Nicholson’s ill- fitting tux.

MacFarlane, the billion-dollar boy of Fox television’s Sunday night slate of rude cartoons as well as last year’s top film comedy, Ted, is good. Yet the decision to turn cinema’s greatest night into the Sethzzz MacFarlane Variety Hour (OK, Four Hours) was a major show of mismanagement. It’s not as if the Oscar’s haven’t been mishandled before. Good evening, James Franco. You would simply have thought that last year’s Billy Crystal-hosted Oscars would provide a template in tastefulness. Or decorum. Or how to sell an insult joke without reaming the intended victim and sucking the air out of the room

Seth’s song-and-dance intro co-starring William Shatner and hoofers such as Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum was interminably long and predictably mean-spirited. Misogyny and his usual race-baiting could have been fun if MacFarlane was at least relevant. Was there no way to keep things more current than rape jokes about Jodie Foster’s boobs in The Accused? A Mel Gibson gag – cripes. (Then again the host wasn’t the only one selling stale humor: can Robert Downey Jr. ever stop reminding us that he was a drunken druggie?) Still, MacFarlane had a wayward childish charm about him, even when he clapped too loudly into the mic and darted his eyes shiftily while reading the Teleprompters.

Yet it was the show’s awkward pacing that killed the show. Best Supporting Actor then NOTHING until late in the second hour. Badly glommed together “Best Movie” mentions. An "In Memoriam" montage segment that left out Andy Griffith, Davy Jones, Larry Hagman and Alex Karras. A tribute to movie musicals that seemed to go nowhere other than John Travolta introducing "Less Miser-ablessssss."

At that point, Anne Hathaway’s now-infamous nipples seemed like the only thing that could have saved a sinking Oscar ship.

Thankfully, the good highlights were solid gold. Aside from my favorite moment of the night – 76 year old Dame Shirley Bassey’s bold rendition of "Goldfinger" - the best of the show was left up to the award winners themselves, as it should be. Jennifer Lawrence was cool even after falling on her way to the podium. Quentin Tarantino and Daniel Day-Lewis gave humble and humorous speeches that spoke volumes in few words. Even the Michelle Obama bit came across as charming, and it was good to see Argo win after Ben Affleck was snubbed in the Best Director category.

Next year, hire Amy Poehler and Tina Fey – heck even MacFarlane said they would have been better in his opening monologue – put more of the major star awards up front, and don’t let anyone do any dancing until the after party.

Argo graphic ©Warner Bros.

Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013