(This is an extended preview of the PopRox column that will appear in Sunday’s Pocono Record. It’s already kinda old now, so you can only imagine how old it’s going to seem on Sunday. Better enjoy it now.)
Say this for the people who run the Academy Awards, they’re certainly thinking out of the box.
Faced with the dilemma this year of, “How do we keep Billy Crystal no less than 500 miles from the building on Oscar night?” the Academy went in one of the most opposite directions it’s ever headed.
It has tapped Family Guy creator and the new Hardest Working Man in Hollywood, Seth MacFarlane, to host the show.
If Vegas had set odds on who the host would be and listed 100 choices, it would be paying off on the FIELD bet this week. Two weeks ago, you would have said The Mob Doctor had a better chance of seeing a second-season pick-up than of MacFarlane getting this gig.
But here he is, and he’s got four months to practice and make the world laugh on Hollywood’s biggest night. His performance could go either way:
WHY HE’D FAIL
No one knows him.
I go by what I like to call The Dad Test. My old man is a smart, informed guy, but when it comes to Hollywood stuff, he only knows the players. Or someone who did a segment on The Mike and Mike Show on ESPN Radio or something. I know if I asked my dad to tell me one thing that any Oscar host of the last 10 years has done, he could do it. OK, so he might refer to That Arm Cutting Movie when he meant to say 127 Hours for James Franco’s best work. But I could give him a week to come up with an answer, and I know for a fact he wouldn’t be able to come up with anything Seth MacFarlane has done. For as immensely popular as MacFarlane is with his (ratings-desirable young) die-hard fans, he just isn’t a huge name in the rest of the world. For years, he was practically begging to be a guest on The Howard Stern Show, and Stern kept turning him down, all while gladly parading in John Stamos for the 276th time. Now he’ll have him on, but just five years ago, Stern was turning his nose up at him. Household names host Oscars, and that just isn’t MacFarlane.
No one knows what he looks like.
It’s bad enough to not know his work. Sometimes you don’t immediately recognize a person, but then you see his face, you say, Ooooohhhhh right, that guy. Not with MacFarlane, because voice actors are relatively unknown. It took about 10 years before the world even fully realized the voice of Bart Simpson is a woman — and there are people reading this right now who are still surprised by that sentence. MacFarlane certainly gets around — hosting Saturday Night Live two weeks ago helps — but unless you hear him open his mouth and do Stewie, you don’t know who he is. Which is why he opened SNL that way.
WHY HE’LL SUCCEED
He’ll work his tail off.
He runs three shows on Fox, provides starring voices for all of them, he hosted SNL and wrote, directed and starred in the biggest surprise box office hit of the year (Ted) as a movie debut. You think this guy doesn’t know how to work? If something gets messed up at the Oscars, it won’t be because MacFarlane wasn’t prepared.
He’s funny. Really, really funny.
Family Guy got canceled — twice — and still made its way back to TV while the rest of the world caught up with MacFarlane’s humor. Now they have, and Family Guy is one of the most valuable franchise properties in TV. He obviously has a handle on what people find funny and what they don’t. As long as he can avoid the temptation to bring an animated talking animal with him, he should be golden.
The right person disapproves.
Go ahead, Jack Black. Do your worst. The last time he was funny was … wait, when was Jack Black funny again? Tropic Thunder, I guess. High Fidelity? Tenacious D is one of the most overrated comedy bits in the history of comedy bits and he’s had three straight live-action, wide release bombs. B-O-M-B-S (The Big Year, Gulliver’s Travels and Year One). So if I was MacFarlane and I was hearing crap from Jack Black, I’d probably think I was doing something right.