Seth MacFarlane's Oscars: What Went Wrong And Who's To Blame?
Seth MacFarlane came in for criticism after the Oscars, though the producers are partly to blame.
Seth MacFarlane is "very, very happy" with his Oscars performance, according to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who are basking in strong ratings for the 85th Academy Awards, despite the ceremony being among the worst reviewed in years. The Family Guy comedian came in for the majority of criticism, particularly for jokes deemed to be sexist, unfunny and downright offensive, though Zadan and Meron should not escape criticism given a series of bizarre song and dance numbers to open the show, a lethargic tribute to James Bond, and several major names excluded from the In Memoriam segment.
"When you take the job, you know you're in jeopardy of being ripped to shreds," producer Craig Zadan said in an interview with The Times. "No matter what you do with the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences], people take sides. We judged the show by what we wanted to do." Meron added that he was expecting some criticism, "None of us expected to be lauded by the press." The Oscars has an uncomfortable relationship with its hosts over the past couple of years. A kneejerk decision to have James Franco and Anne Hathaway helm the ceremony in 2011 will go down as one of the disaster moments in the Academy's long history, while choosing Oscars veteran Billy Crystal to steady the ship in 2012 proved an equally bad move. Although revered as perhaps the greatest host of all time, Crystal's comedy seemed out of touch with the younger generation - a blackened face in his opening skit sort of set the pace.
MacFarlane was an intriguing and relatively understandable choice as host for 2013. His comedy movie Ted was easily one of the biggest of the year and he has a history of performance - something of clear appeal to musical-buffs Meron and Zadan. Though much of Seth's writing, particularly on Family Guy, lies close to the bone - too close to the bone for the Academy's audience. It was clear from the offset that MacFarlane intended to stick to what he's good at doing, and this is perfectly understandable. The producers knew his background when they hurled a bag full of cash at him last year - what the hell did they think he was going to come up with? On Best Picture nominee Django Unchained, MacFarlane quipped, "This is a story about a man fighting to get back his woman who has been subjected to unthinkable violence, or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it - a date movie."
Nevertheless, Sunday's broadcast from Hollywood's Dolby Theatre pulled in 2 per cent more viewers than Crystal did last year - 40.3 million in total. Notably, the 18-49 demographic was up a huge 11 per cent, though reviews remained tepid. Mary McNamara of The Times called it "long, self-indulgent and dull even by the show's time-honored dull defining standards," while David Denby of the New Yorker suggested MacFarlane, "got off to a rocky start and never really recovered." Amy Davidson, also of the New Yorker, was perhaps the most scathing, writing, "Watching the Oscars meant sitting through a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane."
The producers batted away the negative reviews, "The Oscar in general is a blood sport," Zadan said. "A lot of the TV press goes back year after year and complains about a traditional host, but if you have someone groundbreaking they complain about that." Whether MacFarlane could be regarded as groundbreaking is up for debate, though the comedian was apparently pleased with his own performance. Meron said the host was "very, very happy with the performance."
And so attention turns to next year. The Wolf of Wall Street, The Great Gatsby and The Butler are likely to be the movies in contention, though who will host the Oscars? Tina Fey has already ruled herself out, while Emma Stone and even Jennifer Lawrence have been touted as possibilities.
Who would you like to see?