In an unexpected move, Academy Award show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have tapped animation emperor Seth MacFarlane to host the 85th annual Oscars ceremony. ABC will air the telecast Sunday, February 24.
"It's truly an overwhelming privilege to be asked to host the Oscars," said MacFarlane in a statement. "My thoughts upon hearing the news were, one, I will do my utmost to live up to the high standards set forth by my predecessors; and two, I hope they don't find out I hosted the Charlie Sheen Roast."
"High standards set forth by my predecessors" is a questionable suggestion. The last host to get good reviews was Hugh Jackman back in 2009. MacFarlane comes into the gig a year after Billy Crystal got generally lackluster notices (though, granted, he stepped in at the last minute after Eddie Murphy bowed out thanks to Ratnergate), and two years after Anne Hathaway and James Franco received quite a few "worst hosts ever" declarations (more for Franco than Hathaway, but still).
That said, whether "set forth by his predecessors" or not, the Oscar host gig definitely does come with high standards. It's a risky job that many in Hollywood have adamantly turned down because of how easily critics have torn hosts apart in the past (ask David Letterman). One has to be as appealing as possible to an unrealistically wide demographic while also pulling off very funny without offending too many people and throwing in a little song-and-dance to boot.
So is Seth MacFarlane capable of all that? We won't know until February whether all of this adds up to Billy Crystal circa 1992 or Billy Crystal circa 2012. But in our opinion he's the Academy's most inspired hosting choice in a good, long, while. Instead of reaching back in time with Crystal (or Eddie Murphy, for that matter), MacFarlane seems like an excellent fit to breathe some fresh life in a job that desperately needs it.
MacFarlane is smart, funny and coming off a huge success in this summer's "Ted" (which gives him a new credibility to host a film-oriented event he didn't have prior). He also has a pretty widespread appeal. For example, he panders to the straight male demographic in a way that few recent Oscar hosts have, but at the same time he's an outspoken gay rights advocate -- which clearly was not the case with Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy and that came back to bite both them and the Academy. More over, MacFarlane's recent appearance at the Emmy Awards, as well as hosting both the WGA West Awards and "Saturday Night Live," were collectively met with enthusiasm.
Some might feel that MacFarlane might end up feeling a little too edgy for Oscar. His humor isn't always exactly PG (or even PG-13), but we say bring it on. Playing it safe is only going to get you so far, and it's nice to see the Academy trying something sincerely new for a change. Though I guess we might have said the same thing when Hathaway and Franco were announced...
What do you think about the decision?