Monday, October 01, 2012

"Aw man, this is worse than that time I hosted the Academy Awards..."

Seth MacFarlane, creator of "Family Guy" and newly-minted theatrical heavy hitter in the wake of "Ted," has been chosen to host this year's Oscars. Everybody take a moment to get some snotty digs at "Manatee Jokes" out of your system...

...done? Good, because the more I think on it the more he sounds like a great choice.

The problem The Academy has had for years in terms of hosting (and, to be frank, audiences) is the unending generational gap. Old comics playing it safe is one thing (a "prestige" show generally won't have cutting-edge material) but the fact is The Oscars are grounded, conceptually, in a quintessentially Old Hollywood vibe - that unique fusion of soaring pomp and schticky vaudevillian deflation that defined "big celebrity party time" in the era when the show came into it's own. In it's heyday, The Oscars looked and sounded like a bigger, more elaborate version of what every other big live presentation was expected to look and sound like - who was "Mr. Oscars" before Billy Crystal? Bob Hope. Exactly.

Problem is, the rest of entertainment culture moved on in dramatic fashion over the decades... but Oscar didn't. It couldn't, because the Golden Age Hollywood paean is built into the production's very DNA. The reason Crystal was so electric for so long at this gig was that his natural stage persona was an inspired modernization of that classical "feel," making his routines a sly mix of gently ribbing and sincerely celebrating the legacy of the show. Unfortunately, it's now been long enough that Crystal's brand of "goofing on the oldsters" now feels a little old itself; and the "send up of the Golden Age" formula he turned into Oscar's modern default-setting has ill-served present day hosts (see: Hathaway and Franco) for whom it feels just as ancient and unfamiliar as the Golden Age itself.

This is where MacFarlane's selection starts to look inspired. Just on the basics he makes a surprising amount of sense: A naturally gifted comedian, a terrific Stage Voice, occasionally brilliant comic-writer and (this is The Oscars, after all) a legitimately great singer. But what I think could make him an inspired choice (providing he's given a long leash and use of his own material and/or writing staff) is that he so demonstrably "gets" the rhythm and the appeal of the oldschool theatrical sensibilities that simply "are" Oscar.

Think about how much of "Family Guy's" more elaborate jokes have been grounded in classical "lets put on a show" musicals and upgraded takes on ancient comic routines - this is, after all, series that splurges on yearly tributes to the Crosby & Hope road movies; something that most present-day audiences don't know or care about... but Oscar certainly does.

This could, of course, still get fucked up on the producer side, but as host? This is a great pick, and must be a hell of an honor for a guy who (like his shows or not) has paid a lot of dues to get here.

14 comments:

TheDVDGrouch said...

Color me interested he actually did a really great job hosting SNL this year. I might not have liked family guy in a long time but Seth Mcfarlne the man is a different story

Taylor said...

Seth MacFarlane pisses me off a lot. Not because he isn't funny, but because he's REALLY funny and yet so often he phones shit in.

Right now, Family Guy is a broken clock that's right twice an episode. Maybe twice an episode justifies it... but how much more could he do if he just learned to focus down and put in the real effort to polish the rest of his product. He has the clout and the cultural capital, but he just squanders it.

Too often, Family Guy relies on racist, sexist, homophobic, or just plain swearing and just delivers a non-joke with maybe a reference in there for good measure/immediate dating.

He has proven time and time again he's capable of hilarity, but he just doesn't put in the effort often enough.


(Oh, and he absolutely SUCKS at political/ideological humor and really needs to stop cramming more and more of it into his works)

Gallium said...

I must admit, this makes sense.

I was lucky enough to catch his performance/hosting an event during the BBC Proms:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19395825
To say he did well with that would be an understatement. The Oscars are right up that street.

Andrew said...

I love McFarlane's stuff, though I haven't gotten to see Ted yet. But I can't wait to see him host. I love his voice, even though its one of those voices that doesn't seem to fit on the body or face its coming out of.

Anonymous said...

I think his little bit on the Primetime Emmys definitely sold him. As he came on stage, I explained to my family that "That's Stewie Griffin and Bryan the Dog!" and they instantly connected with the guy and found the rest of his bit to be hilarious.

When I saw the headline, I immediately yelled to the folks "Seth Macfarlane is going to host the Oscars" and they all nodded their heads in agreement that we'd have to watch this year.

Regardless of who's producing him, this one's going to be good.

Anonymous said...

Yes!!

Kyle said...

Its a great pick for host. I'm way more excited about The Oscars this year now.

KevinCV said...

Wow, despite not watching any of Seth MacFarlane's shows in forever, I'm actually a bit excited by this. I definitely agree that it's an inspired choice, Bob. I might actually give this a looksee, and I'm rarely interested in watching the Oscars to begin with.

Also, I agree with Taylor. I think that's especially evident in the episode "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven", which actually made me swear off "Family Guy" for awhile because of that episode's message boiling down to "Belief in God makes you stupid, you should have a mind of your own. And no, it's not possible to do both". At least, that's how I saw it.

I will still catch the odd episode of it now and then, but I really think it's had it's time. I'm sure the success of "Ted" has shown that he probably wants to move on to other things at this point.

Blue Highwind said...

Family Guy turned terrible almost exactly the moment that Seth McFarland decided to start showrunning about eight programs at once. American Dad actually was pretty decent along the same years that Family Guy stagnated into endless gross-out humor and gay jokes. So I'd say Seth MacFarland is actually a talented guy...

Even though I'd rather have Stewie Griffin host the Oscars. I'm talking Classic Stewie, not "gay jokes for twenty-two minutes" Stewie.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of the comments here. Seth is a really funny man. He is the only reason those roast on Comedy Central are even worth it, but Family Guy just dropped in quality so dramatically. Unlike The Simpsons that slowly started to dip in quality, Family Guy just did a nose dive mid way through 5th Season. I think the biggest problem with it is the characters. They are all so unlikable now compared to what they use to be and making Stewie gay is was just a poor excuse to shove gay jokes into a show. Also they are all ready re-using plot lines from previous seasons. I mean The Simpson didn't start doing that til say 13th season but I could be wrong.

Ralphael said...

Seth Macfarlane is the modern badass. Just listen to his interview on Howard Stern... and yes... the roast of charlie sheen would be nothing without Seth.

Unknown said...

star trek

why doesnt star trek have gundams?

Anonymous said...

aaaaaaaand just like that, im interested in the Oscars

Blue Highwind said...

@Unknown: Star Trek was created several decades before Tomino created the first Mobile Suit Gundam series in Japan in the 80s. Then by the time anybody in the West had heard of Gundam, which was thanks to Toonami in the early 2000s, the wave of 90s revival Star Trek programs was already finished.

That however, does not excuse J.J. Abrams for refusing to include Gundams in his new movies though. I'm watching you, J.J.