“From Whoopi all the way down to Ron Jeremy, it’s an honour that everyone else said no,” grinned a visibly nervy Seth MacFarlane at Oscars zero hour. A few minutes later you could sense people backstage fumbling for Jeremy’s number, hoping that the man could free himself from whatever torrid triste he was engaged in at the time to save the day as the Family Guy guy dropped clunker after clunker on the Oscars.
First there was a sur-le-nez remark about Jean Dujardin’s post-Oscars career lull that was undercut hilariously by the man himself about, what, nine months ago on Funny Or Die. If that seemed a little cheap, the riff on Daniel Day-Lewis’ in-character methods on Lincoln (“If you'd seen Don Cheadle on set, would you have had to free him?”, he asked the perplexed Brit) and a sock puppet version of Flight that culminated in him deliberately confusing Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy both crashed in at the Birth Of A Nation end of the race relations comedy spectrum. Points awarded for only making one Rihanna/Chris Brown crack were swiftly annulled by a Mel Gibson gag that literally no-one laughed at.
And then, just as Team Empire was pondering which fist to cram into its collective gob first, salvation of sorts arrived from the sky. William Shatner – clad (kinda) in his Captain Kirk finery – called a halt to proceeding from a giant plasma screen, pointing MacFarlane to tomorrow’s ‘Worst Host Ever’ headlines and suggesting some improvements. It was a Back To The Future-meets-Looper-meets-god-knows-what MacFarlane ploy that reset a show that was wobbling like a jelly. In our sleep-deprived state it all felt like that trippy bit with the tunnel in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, but MacFarlane’s bait-and-switch ploy seemed to be working, especially during the loopy ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ song-and-dance number.
So, did he pull it round and emulate his role-models, Mssrs Carson, Crystal and Hope, as a beloved custodian of Hollywood’s collective id? Well, yes and no. “No-one’s got inside Lincoln’s head better than John Wilkes Booth” isn’t exactly a line you could imagine Bob Hope delivering and there was a weird bit with a Nazi and a fire escape (don’t ask), but his ad-libs, perhaps a better showcase for a razor-edged mind, were genuinely funny. The night’s sacred calf, Ben Affleck, came in for some flak (“The first time I saw that luscious beard I thought, ‘My god, the Kardashians have finally made the leap to film’”), as did ‘70s Hollywood and its cocaine trees.
That was about as good as it got. The early stuff had a spontaneous quality – in the sense that no-one involved seemed to have even met before, let alone rehearsed – but MacFarlane’s edginess infected everyone involved, from safe hands like Melissa McCarthy and Paul Rudd to an entire Avengers line-up who croaked out a confusing skit that touched on RDJ’s drugs past and Samuel L. Jackson’s “decade... decade-and-a-half” of raw hedonism. There was a spiel prepared on the magic of VFX but, oddly, Nick Fury kibooshed it, presumably because he had a kebab to get to. A minute later and the Life Of Pi team was being played off mid-way through a tribute to the movie’s now-bankrupt effects house by the music from Jaws. “300 people went into work, 17 came out,” etc.
What saved the day was the night’s co-host, The Musical, as Hollywood took the chance to get its MGM on. The night’s musical blitzkrieg was spearheaded by nuclear-lunged songstress Dame Shirley Bassey, Catherine Zeta-Jones reprising ‘All That Jazz’ from Chicago, Hugh Jackman and the Les Miser-Warblers doing a Harlem Songtrotters ensemble, Babs doing ‘Memories’ and Adele doing ‘Crumble’. It all left MacFarlane’s segments in the shade a little, which for all his occasional qualities, probably wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Maybe the real question is when the dust settles on a pretty ho-hum Oscars night is whether hosting the awards has joined England manager and Lance Armstrong’s chemist as The Impossible Job? He or she has to be edgy enough to arrest a slide in ratings from 57m in 1997 to 39m last year, homespun enough to avoid offending some pretty thin-skinned folk, and inventive enough to make words likes ‘imagination’, ‘magic’ and ‘Meryl Streep’ seem fresh at the 10 bajillionth time of asking. Even Ron Jeremy would struggle to pull that off.
axcs7 Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 08:58
I think he did a terrific job, and in my opinion, he has been the best host of the best ceremony in years.
sunij Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 09:00
Your repeated mention of Ron Jeremy got me thinking. What if the Oscars had a fictional host? Not some animated clown, but an actor doing his thing. What if the host was a guy like Ron Burgundy?.. Or even a guy like Derek Zoolander? Would it be brilliant or would 4 hours of an actor in character be painfull to get through?... Just a thought :)
Killjoy_Gee Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 09:38
I have often wondered why the academy HASN'T gotten Ron Burgundy to host the Oscars. It seems like the best choice. Perhaps next year if Anchorman 2 is successful...
RichChills Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 10:04
Great piece! (that's what she said)
Revstar Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 10:26
....Or maybe to stop the slide in viewer numbers it should be taken off Sky and put back to the beeb so people can actually see it?
BenTramer Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 10:47
Hero would be Billy Crystal in his prime, Lame Duck would be David Letterman, MacFarlane was somewhere in the middle. He was nervous and that's fatal for a comedian. The audience can smell blood and won't laugh at your jokes. Perhaps Tina and Amy wouldn't be a bad idea next year as Shatner suggested. They damn sure won't be hiring Ricky Gervais.
DarthMaxxx Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 11:28
@Revstar, here here....
majica8 Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 12:30
Harsh! Seth was great, best host in years and just what the Oscars needed. The awards themselves? So so, Lincoln deserved more but whatever.
Gumba23 Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 13:38
I would say that's a bit harsh, but then again, I am a big fan of MacFarlanes work and style. All in all I enjoyed it very much even though there were a few jokes that didn't get the reception that he might have been hoping for. He did manage to pull some of them around to great effect though (after the John Wilkes Booth joke "150 years and it's still too soon") With my favorite being Les Mis, I would have hoped for some more gold for that movie, especially Hugh Jackman did a terrific job, but I guess Daniel Day-Lewis was just unbeatable this time.
Whistler Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 14:36
I thought he was good. He has the perfect presenter/host persona for this type of event, and he provided just the right amount of funny.
HBK_nWo33 Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 16:41
Just don't find MacFarlane funny at all. There was one or two lines that worked, everything else was just hohum. As for Family Guy-esque Boobs song, boring. The constant sickening pandering to the youth market (which is actually my demographic) with website headlines about his performance was just awkward. Shatner is never a welcome addition for me either.
Hugh Jackman was the best host in recent years, they should pick someone like him to do it. Or offer it to Eddie Murphy again. Or even, as some others have suggested, have a character host. If they want a funny host that appeals to the youth market Ron Burgundy would be perfect.
Ref Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 17:56
Well I thought he was great. Like many others who enjoyed his hosting, I do like his humour anyway with Family Guy and American Dad. I loved the Flight sock-puppet part. His come backs from the crowds groaning made me laugh.
Again this shows that the media and the like take themselves far too seriously. Have a bit of a laugh and enjoy yourself, for goodness sake.
cheekimonki Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 17:56
I thought he was a pretty good host! Most of the jokes worked for me... except the weird Nazi. I'd like to see Jeff Bridges host The Oscars! But hey, that's just like, my opinion, man.
djdarrenjames Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 20:57
Steven Fry was awesome hosting the BAFTAs, I think the Oscars would be a breeze for him but I'm not sure how well known he is there. I love the Ron Burgundy idea, America's version of Alan Partridge?
Tyali09 Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 21:12
I think Seth did a great Job i laughed at every joke probably because i have the same sense of humour. I think the reason the Oscars are loosing viewers is because it is on Pay tv something that only a small percentage of people have. Not to mention they broadcast the winners to countries where the Oscars hasnt aired yet. So no one watches.
But i did think of a great host Jeff Dunham and Walter
Beetlejuice! Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 22:52
I thought Seth did pretty good, there was a few clunkers in there but there always is with the Oscars. A lot worse was the jokes that were tagged onto the presenters, reading third rate funny bits off a prompter is not what Hollywood stars do best. Just let them be themselves. I'm very glad Sam Jackson put an end to the awkward Avengers presenting.
Hawros Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 15:35
@Revstar - I'm sure it's abc they're worried about - the UK audience is a drop in the ocean compared to domestic audience.
stewart4 Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 15:40
I think an earnest, likeable person like Daniel Radcliffe should host. He can sing and dance, wouldn't require edgy jokes to be entertaining, could just be himself and get the job done.
Judge Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 15:41
Daniel Day-Lewis was "perplexed"? He clearly laughed at the Don Cheadle joke.
Patrick95 Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 17:10
you describe Daniel Day-Lewis as being a "perplexed Brit" .....he's Irish. Just thought I should remind you.
onafriday Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 18:52
No he isn't....he has dual nationality both British and Irish, but he was born grew up and educated in London..... For gods sake you were on the internet when you wrote that man....how hard is it to visit IMDB or Wikipedia to check before you make an arse of yourself?
sagent33 Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 21:20
I thought he did a brilliant job! Most I've laughed watching the oscars! Sure there were awkward moments and the like but I have yet to see an awards show where that's not the case! But Seth made a brilliant host. Read comments from some places saying he was disrespectful and such, well to me that's just bull. You could tell the guy looked up to these people, but just wasn't afraid to crack a joke about them! The oscars is never going to be the greatest show on earth, it's a just an awards show for Petes sake, the fact that they can be mildly entertaining is a plus!
Garth_Marenghi Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 22:23
It's worth bearing in mind that all of Empire's right-on American film blogger chums loathe MacFarlane, so they're sort of duty-bound to slag him off.
kinkykeeks Posted on Wednesday February 27, 2013, 01:03
I liked MacFarlane. Sure, he wasn't brilliant and some of his jokes didn't work but he was no Hathaway and Franco. My favorite in the last few years was Hugh Jackman. Didn't like Billy Crystal last year but loved him in 2004
kinkykeeks Posted on Wednesday February 27, 2013, 01:03
@onafriday: We like to try to claim Daniel Day Lewis as Irish because he's lived here so long but most know he was born and raised in England. In fairness, the english like to try and claim a lot of Irish actors. I've heard the likes of Colin Farrell and Michael Fassbender called british when they're not.
Toursiveu Posted on Friday March 1, 2013, 18:43
I love Seth MacFarlane but the problem here was that he didn't have any contact with his audience. He never spoke directly to them or even introduced them like Steve Martin or Billy Crystal did... It was awkward because Seth really seemed to be on his own, all alone...
Best host ever? Steve Martin... but solo, not with Alec Baldwin!
Doddi Posted on Saturday March 2, 2013, 11:06
Brilliant hosting and very harsh and unfair review on your part, Empire. Don't let a anti-Seth person write such a review of the hosting ... it's clear that Seth didn't stand a chance with you, even before this got started.
InvisibleDuncan Posted on Monday March 4, 2013, 15:43
@kinkykeeks - Isn't Michael Fassbender German?