So what did I really think?
Yes, I was the byline on the faux Oscars review William Shatner showed to host Seth MacFarlane in the opening number on Sunday's telecast ("Seth MacFarlane Worst Oscar Host Ever").
I didn't know it was coming. I was watching the show at home with my wife. Staring at the byline, it took a few seconds to absorb that it was being seen by an audience of one billion viewers — a nice jump over the 12.8 million people who see each issue of TV Guide Magazine. After my name appeared a second time, every electronic device in our apartment was ringing, buzzing, pinging or vibrating. I confess I experienced a bit of a rush, so I may be slightly biased.
I've been told MacFarlane wanted to use my name in the bit because I was an early supporter of Family Guy, which has never had a lot of fans among the writers who cover TV. (It was an extremely generous act on his part — he could have gone with a more famous name to get a big laugh). I do like Family Guy. But I've always written about MacFarlane because he's an ideal subject. He's an idiosyncratic maverick who does exactly what he wants even if it upsets people. (I still dine out off a spectacularly unprintable answer he gave at a panel I moderated at the Writers Guild Foundation West. I'll just say it involved Danny Thomas and a glass table.)
MacFarlane delivered exactly what the Oscars needed —unpredictability. Even though every bit didn't work, he kept the audience wondering what was going to happen next. How far would he go? Who would he piss off most? He did it while singing on key — now a rarity on television. He is a traditional showman at heart.
The Oscars needed the element of surprise MacFarlane provided. (OK, he told me he's seen The Sound of Music at least 40 times — so I may have seen the gag about the Von Trapp family coming.) The bar for every other Oscar host is now insurmountably high. There are too many awards shows leading up to it. There is saturation coverage and banal fawning leading up to every one of them, followed by endless and often pointless analysis. Everyone pines for the days when Johnny Carson hosted the Oscars. He was great, but competition was scant. He had that stage all to himself. Those days aren't coming back. But Seth MacFarlane should.
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