Naming Seth MacFarlane the host of ABC's "The 85th Academy Awards" next February seems on the surface to be a bold and smart move. The guy can sing, act, and, oh yeah, write and produce blisteringly sarcastic stuff. I'm talking about "Family Guy," of course.
But wait a second. If you think MacFarlane will glom his "Family Guy" attitude onto the hallowed big movie event, you'd be wrong.
Here is what MacFarlane said about his role on the next Oscars: "If there's one thing to remember, it's that you just want the audience to be comfortable, to feel like they're in your living room... We're not going to turn the Oscars into 'Family Guy.'"
Too bad. Surely, some of "Family Guy"’s advertisers would like a bigger-rated event to sponsor.
Some critics may flash back to when David Letterman hosted the Oscars. Letterman's caustic humor, according to many, didn't work that night – they said he didn’t give the event its due. Me? I was rolling around on the floor, laughing.
Even with recent hosts Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and James Franco and Anne Hathaway, the Oscars have remained a stodgy, very predictable, mostly boring event -- the so-called “Super Bowl for women.” (Actually, the real Super Bowl regularly pulls in more women than the Oscars. The Oscars, though, have a bigger percentage of women to men, with many beauty product marketers spending heavily on them.)
Letterman gave the Oscars a definite air of unpredictability -- “uncomfortable,” according to critics. But viewers do want to be surprised, with stuff that isn't exactly scripted. Even the likes of Tom Hanks -- who does well on the "Late Show with David Letterman" -- couldn't get comfortable with Letterman in the different venue.
MacFarlane gives the Academy Awards what they seem to need: a versatile performer who, in theory, appeals to many demographics. Some believe getting MacFarlane is an effort to pull in young men, an arena in which "Family Guy" does well. More recently, MacFarlane’s "Ted" movie for Universal was a surprisingly good performer.
The irony is that the theatrical movie business is driven these days by young men going to see big action movies like the Batman franchise, "The Avengers," "The Green Lantern" and others.
But the Oscars really celebrate older-skewing, mostly women-oriented movies, increasingly the domain of independent filmmakers or big studios' boutique production units.
In recent years, the Academy has made changes to keep relevant -- including letting movie studios buy commercial time and expanding some categories, such as Best Picture, to include a broader range of films.
The show still gets big TV rating, and continues to look for new ground to stand on and new ideas to bring people to watch a celebration of the movie industry. From MacFarlane’s point of view, that won't happen the next time around.