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This morning even people who follow Oscar season religiously were surprised to learn that the Academy had chosen Seth MacFarlane, the Family Guy creator and director of this summer's comedy Ted, to host next year's Oscar ceremony, which will be held on February 24. MacFarlane is best known for voicing a bunch of cartoon characters, at all, and this summer's R-rated Ted won't exactly be an Oscar contender, even though it was a big hit.
But MacFarlane is more than just a peddler of dirty jokes-- he's also a singer and a blatant lover of all things Old Hollywood, both of which are pretty much requirements for the Oscar hosting gig. So could MacFarlane surprise us all and kill it come Oscar night? Or is choosing him just another pathetic effort on the part of the Academy to appeal to younger audiences? Katey and Kristy had surprisingly different opinions, and got together to Debate it and tackle the issue head on. Check out our conversation below, then vote in the poll at the end of the post!
KATEY: So Kristy, I've already come out with some vague optimism about MacFarlane as Oscar host. Lay it on me: what do you think?
KRISTY: I loathe the idea. I think this is blatant pandering to the lowest common denominator and the Oscars should be better than that.
KATEY: I assume you're saying this because Family Guy and Ted represent the "lowest common denominator" >
KRISTY: Well his sense of humor typically does; it's largely lazy in that its more about being shocking or referential. Like it's so much, "remember this show from the '80s-yay!" It's like that easy joke every stand-up can start out on to build a rapport, "Who remembers Sesame Street?"
KATEY: So I'll give you that Family Guy is lazy-- so much that I've barely ever watched it. But the reviews for Ted this summer-- which I also haven't seen-- convinced me that MacFarlane can be better than that.
And more to the point of Oscars, an Oscar ceremony kind of is ENTIRELY about that "Hey, remember this!" It's just focused on the year in film that came before. If MacFarlane can translate a little of that to the usual Oscar year-in-review stuff, it might actually work well in the context of a live show.
KRISTY: Well, I have seen Ted, and I thought it was funny, but not great. But to your point of year in review, MacFarlane doesn't really offer insight in much of his references -they are frequently just references. It doesn't inspire confidence. I have no problem with the Oscars trying to court a broader audience, but this pick just seems in bad taste to me.
KATEY: Hiring for his sense of humor seems like a gamble-- though the format of the Oscars is set up to kind of subsume the host into the proceedings, except for the opening monologue, so he might not have a chance to do much of his Family Guy stuff anyway.
But what I think gives me more hope in this guy than if they brought in, like, Daniel Tosh, is that he has this whole dorky song-and-dance man side of his personality. He recorded an entire album of singing showtune standards, and clearly loves musicals based on all the Family Guy references. He doesn't have the chops of Hugh Jackman, of course, but I don't think he's a bad substitute in that department. And any time the Oscars hint at including more musical numbers, they win me over.
KRISTY: I too love when they do big showy musical numbers. I still revisit the Jackman-Hathaway clips from 2009. But MacFarlane's nostalgic affection for showtunes isn't enough to win me over. I find his sense of humor cynical and smug, and I don't want that at the Oscars.
KATEY: I agree about that in the vacuum, but the Oscars are also inherently smug, and they could use a little cynicism Hosts throughout the years have had a really hard time balancing gosh-I'm-just-so-glad-to-be-here enthusiasm (Anne Hathaway) and knowing humor (Jon Stewart), and if MacFarlane channels his love of Old Hollywood but throws in a few jokes (he does occasionally have them!) he could balance that well. After all, he's just had a huge hit movie-- he doesn't want to get up there and bite the hand that feeds.
KRISTY: I don't agree that cynicism is a valuable asset to the Oscars. I totally admit they've grown staid, but the way to fix that is through the nominations, not picking a smartass to host.
I do think his awe of Hollywood will keep him from biting the hand that feeds him, as you put it, but for me it's not even so much what he will actually do, it's that the Oscars picked him at all. If they wanted broader appeal, there are better choices.
KATEY: Oh Lord, asking the Oscars to fix their nomination process is a way, way harder thing than picking the right person to host-- I'm just grateful when Clint Eastwood doesn't automatically win Best Picture every year.
KATEY: As for the broader appeal question, I agree that it's stupid for the Academy to constantly try to find someone "young" and "hip" to host-- as if the choice of host really matters that much, or anybody is going to tune into 4 hours of the Oscars just to see the monologue from the host. I'd be genuinely happy with Billy Crystal hosting every year.
But as choices to reach out to younger audiences go, MacFarlane isn't that bad. And with the low expectations we're giving him, he's almost guaranteed to do better than we expect-- which at least takes us out of Franco/Hathaway debacle territory And even if he's bad, isn't that part of the fun of watching the Oscars? It's a group run by old people constantly tripping over itself trying to appeal to everybody.
KRISTY: For me, I root for the Oscars to be wonderful every year because I still remember the vivid daydreaming of making Oscar speeches in front a mirror, cradling a babydoll and thanking the Academy. And I don't think I'm alone on that. I love watching the Oscars for those moments where you see someone exhilarated that their artistic endeavor was admired. It's romantic, and I hate the idea of throwing that aside in favor of getting some new viewers who will only watch to see if MacFarlane does something outrageous.
KATEY: Here's the thing though: those moments exist no matter who is hosting. I have no idea who hosted the year Julia Roberts won Best Actress, but I remember her awesome speech. My memory of Billy Crystal's hosting job this year has basically faded, but Octavia Spencer's acceptance speech remains. The host is, ultimately, not that significant to the Oscars, which I think is why I have a hard time getting angry about MacFarlane. He's not the best choice, but he's far from the worst, and isn't capable of ruining the show either way.
KRISTY: That's a very good point.
KATEY: Yes! I have beaten you down!
KRISTY: I'll say this, I want to be wrong about this pick. I don't want the story to be like those that came out after Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes where all the talk was how he really nailed them. I don't think the Oscars deserved that kind of scorn. They--whatever their issues, which are many--strive to hold up the best in cinema, and I still root for that to be an inspiring experience. Playful and fun sure, but not snarky.
KATEY: And I think MacFarlane, for how much his sense of humor can drift, will ultimately respect that-- even if it just winds up being a bunch of goofy songs where he imitates Frank Sinatra. I can't tell you how surprised I am to be defending this guy I'm not even interested in, but I kind of think he deserves a shot.
KRISTY: And I think they're are performers better deserving of a shot at that spot.
KATEY: Well, we can both hope they bring Hugh Jackman back next year-- how's that for a compromise?
KRISTY: I'd really love that. No joke.
KATEY: Oh me too-- in the meantime maybe we can see him win Best Actor for Les Miserables, sing a song in his acceptance speech, and then we can all pretend he was the host this year too.
Will Seth MacFarlane Be A Good Oscar Host?