x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Hosting the Oscars can be a thankless task - just ask Seth

The love-him-or-hate-him reaction to Seth MacFarlane's turn as Academy Awards host is evidence that one of the most high-profile jobs in show business is becoming one of its most thankless.

Seth MacFarlane hosting the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Robyn Beck / AFP
Seth MacFarlane hosting the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Robyn Beck / AFP

Seth MacFarlane was never going to please all of the people all of the time.

The first-time Oscars host seemed unusually preoccupied with his reviews both before and during Sunday's show. He predicted he'd be ripped apart and he was, particularly on social media. He also had his fans, with many suggesting the Academy got precisely the kind of performance it wanted in hiring someone known for his subversive humour.

The host's performance is the most unpredictable element of the show and it seems the negative experiences have the most mileage. David Letterman's awkward 1995 turn is well remembered, most of all by him. Chris Rock tried to bring some edge in 2005 and fell flat. James Franco and Anne Hathaway's snoozefest in 2011 is still being talked about.

After Franco and Hathaway, the Oscars returned last year to the tried and true - the eight-time host Billy Crystal - and faced criticism that the reliable had become the stodgy.

To some ears, MacFarlane's material - which included a bawdy song-and-dance number about actresses, a domestic violence joke involving Rihanna and Chris Brown and references to Mel Gibson's racial slurs - didn't make the grade.

"If you're going to the edge, you have to be funny," said the comic Joy Behar on the TV show The View on Monday. "To me, I love Seth, but it wasn't funny enough."

Behar's colleague, Whoopi Goldberg - a four-time Oscars host - had a bit more empathy, noting that people in MacFarlane's position have a tough line to walk.

The Nielsen company, a global ratings analyst, said an estimated 40.3 million people watched the show in the US, up one million from last year. More importantly, ratings for the 18-to-49-year-old demographic were up 11 per cent over 2012; MacFarlane was brought in this year in part to attract a younger audience.

Some critics figured MacFarlane was in a can't-win situation. Brought on to deliver edge, he was little known to a large portion of the Academy Awards audience.

"For a guy who had the deck stacked against him before he started, MacFarlane did a surprisingly impressive job," wrote Tim Goodman in The Hollywood Reporter * AP

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