Going in to Oscar weekend, very few people probably would have bet that Seth MacFarlane would be an even worse host than Anne Hathaway and James Franco. But the great train wreck of 2011 seems like the golden times of Bob Hope compared to Sunday’s show.
MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, trades in a brand of humour that combines frat boy toilet jokes, sexism, racism and misogyny. If you wondered if he would avoid these as Oscar host, you got your answer when, during his opening monologue, he sang a song called We Saw Your Boobs.
By the time the bear from Ted, MacFarlane’s directorial debut, was trotted out to make a tired joke about Jewish people controlling Hollywood, all the worst aspects of MacFarlane’s comedy had been used up and the audience inside the Dolby Theatre could almost be heard groaning.
The host got off a good early zinger about attempting to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh, but that wasn’t enough to establish a rapport with the live audience or television viewers.
MacFarlane’s pot shots weren’t edgy or controversial; they somehow managed to be offensive and tired.
Take, for example, his joke about Django Unchained. “This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.”
Or his take on Hispanic actors: “We’ve reached the point where Javier Bardem, Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz takes the stage and we have no idea what they’re saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive.”
The casual bigotry and overall tenor of MacFarlane’s humour seemed even odder in a show celebrating movie music. How the Academy thought they could reconcile juvenile potty jokes clearly intended to win over a youth audience with a show where Barbara Streisand performed The Way We Were and a 76-year-old Shirley Bassey performed Goldfinger is a mystery.
We’ve now seen three terribly bad Oscars in a row, so it’s time to wonder whether or not there is anything the show can do to be either relevant or entertaining. Getting Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host next year might sound like a good idea, but they probably couldn’t recreate the magic of the Golden Globes in a show as staid as the Oscars.
The trophies will no doubt be displayed proudly on mantels across Hollywood; the show itself continues to sink in to an existential crisis.