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MacFarlane at Center of Unpredictable Oscars


With the Oscars on ABC tonight, it is all about expectations.

The host — “Family Guy” writer-producer-performer  Seth MacFarlane – tried to lower them last month in a press conference during the Television Critics Association press tour in California after the nominations were announced.

I was at the tour but didn’t make the press conference because it was held at an ungodly hour usually reserved for the end of post-Oscar parties.

Thank heavens for transcripts.

From the transcript for the MacFarlane press conference, it was clear that he knows he is going to be trashed on Twitter, on Facebook and in the mainstream media Monday morning.

English: Seth MacFarlane at the 2010 Comic Con...

Seth MacFarlane:(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I mean, when was the last time you read a post-Oscar review where somebody in the entertainment press said, ‘What a great host,’” said MacFarlane. “The last one I think I can remember was probably Billy Crystal. And I think a lot of them have been great but, you know, you go into it knowing that no matter what, even if you put on the greatest show in the world, you’re probably going to be lambasted in the press.

“So you might as well enjoy yourself, do the best you can knowing that the outcome is going to be the same.“It’s — it’s a ruthless bit of scrutiny that you’re under, so I’m not going to think about that. I’m just worrying about making it as funny as it can be and as fun as it can be.”

One of the producers of the show, Neil Meron, raised expectations in discussing the choice of MacFarlane to host shortly after he had a much-praised appearance as the host of “Saturday Night Live.”

“People actually thought that … we came up with the idea because we saw him on ‘Saturday Night Live,’” said Meron. “But we were well aware of Seth and what he could do way prior to that. … Seth provides everything that we were looking for in terms of the host because he is relevant to an audience today and he’s funny, charismatic. He has great charm. He embodies, kind of, a post-Millennium host, you know, in that tradition of Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, and Billy Crystal. He is, like, the next step in terms of making the show current. And that was one of the goals that we had in mind, is to make this show current.”

Well, not entirely. The show tonight also is expected to have a tribute to James Bond dealing with the 50th anniversary of the franchise that has almost as many Bonds — starting with the incomparable Sean Connery — as Oscar has had hosts.

Off of MacFarlane’s “SNL” appearance, viewers can also expect an Oscar musical number. MacFarlane conceded that in January.

“There’s, of course, an orchestra at the Oscars,” said MacFarlane. “Music is always a part of the ceremony… So it remains to be seen exactly what form it will take, but it wouldn’t be the Oscars without music, I suppose.”

The one thing he practically is sure of if that he will be having fun. That was one of his first thoughts after being shocked when he was asked to host. “It sounded like the most fun that any one person could have sober,” said MacFarlane.

Of course, the producers don’t want MacFarlane to meet expectations of his “Family Guy” fans and go too far.

Meron conceded he’s been asked if he is nervous about what MacFarlane might say. But he said the host has assured him there is nothing to worry about. Sort of.

“Seth said to us, ‘Look. I respect the Academy. I respect the nominees. I respect the film business and I am not going to go out there and do that. I’m going to be irreverent and fun and push the edges but I’m going to do something that is of quality and standards and all of that.’”

MacFarlane wasn’t exactly saying he is going to be a good boy all night.

“Yeah, you know, there’s always that one joke that stirs up the pot a little bit,” said MacFarlane. “We’ve been through it on ‘Family Guy’ on many, many occasions. There’s — and you can never really predict which one it is… In some ways, I’m sure there will be a few things at the Oscars that will generate a little bit of buzz in that regard. Hopefully not too excessive but it will — our goal is to mix it up a little bit.”

MacFarlane described his style simple to those who haven’t seen his animation hits or the movie “Ted.” “Classic in tone and edgy in content,” said MacFarlane. “:I think that’s that the line that we’re trying to walk here. We want it to feel like an old-style Oscars but, content-wise, we want it to also feel relevant. We want it to feel entertaining and feel like it’s of today.”

Of course, Oscars got hard evidence it needed to change last year when the Grammy Awards out-rated the Oscars, primarily because of the attention given to Whitney Houston’s death.

The Oscar show should out-rate the Grammys this year because most of the nine films nominated were successful mainstream movies and there is no clear-cut winner in most categories except for Daniel Day-Lewis as best actor for “Lincoln.”

In the end, whether the show meets expectations may depend on whether a viewer is happy with who wins and their speeches.

I am a TV critic but I love movies and have my favorites. I was rooting for Jennifer Lawrence of “Silver Linings Playbook” for best actress even before her hysterically-funny appearance on David Letterman’s show. I expect she’d give a great speech with some MacFarlane-like material if she wins.

I loved “Silver Linings Playbook” but don’t think it has a chance of winning as best film. I really liked “Argo,” but hated the promos that gave away the best lines.  I don’t see it as best picture material. I also liked “Les Miserables,” but can’t see a musical that split critics winning, either.

I thought “Zero Dark Thirty” was good but still the most over-rated movie of the year. However, its subject matter – the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden — makes it a possible winner. I liked “Lincoln” a lot, and its content and pedigree (director Steven Spielberg) certainly makes it Oscar worthy but I thought the main thing separating it from an old TV miniseries was the performance of Day-Lewis.

In other words, I have no clue what is going to win best picture. I expect MacFarlane and “Lincoln” will both turn out to be winners.



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