Oscar hosting: Is it a thankless task?
Host Seth MacFarlane backstage at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — The love-him-or-hate-him reaction to Seth MacFarlane's turn as Academy Awards host is evidence that one of the most high-profile jobs in show business is becoming one of its most thankless.
The "Family Guy" creator and first-time Oscars host seemed unusually preoccupied with his reviews both before and during Sunday's show. He predicted he'd be ripped apart and he was, particularly on social media. He also had his fans, with many suggesting the motion picture academy got precisely the kind of performance it expected and wanted in hiring someone known for his subversive, even crude humor.
As is often the case with the Oscars, the major awards themselves — "Argo" as best picture, Daniel Day Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence as top actors — hewed closely to pre-show predictions. The host's performance is the most unpredictable element of the show, and it seems the negative experiences have the most mileage. David Letterman's awkward 1995 turn is well-remembered, most of all by him. Chris Rock tried to bring some edge in 2005 and fell flat. James Franco and Anne Hathaway's snoozefest in 2011 is still being talked about.
After Franco and Hathaway, the Oscars returned last year to the tried and true — eight-time host Billy Crystal — and faced criticism that the reliable had become the stodgy.
To some ears, MacFarlane's material — which included a song-and-dance number about breast-baring actresses, a domestic violence joke involving Rihanna and Chris Brown, and references to Mel Gibson's racial slurs — didn't make the grade.
"If you're going to the edge, you have to be funny," said comic Joy Behar on "The View" Monday. "To me, I love Seth, but it wasn't funny enough."
Behar's colleague, Whoopi Goldberg — a four-time Oscars host — had a bit more empathy, noting that people in MacFarlane's position have a tough line to walk. The Oscars can't force a younger audience to be interested just by hiring a younger host, she said, and a younger host has to know the audience that is out there.
Host Seth MacFarlane performs onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, agreed that MacFarlane's was a difficult position.