Can Seth MacFarlane bring young viewers back to the Oscars?

Oct 2, 2012

Choice of Family Guy creator as host of film industry's annual bunfight is welcomed

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SETH MACFARLANE, the creator of hit cartoon series Family Guy and American Dad and this summer's smash film comedy Ted, has been named as the host of the 2013 Oscars show.

"We are thrilled to have Seth MacFarlane host the Oscars. His performing skills blend perfectly with our ideas for making the show entertaining and fresh," awards-show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron told Rolling Stone. "He will be the consummate host, and we are so happy to be working with him."

The 38-year-old MacFarlane released a video on YouTube (below) shortly after the announcement, in which he breaks the news to his decidedly unimpressed father. In it, he promises to "do my utmost to live up to the high standards set forth by my predecessors".

MacFarlane follows last year's host Billy Crystal, whose turn at the annual ceremony - his ninth time hosting the awards - was slated in some quarters as "boring" and who was criticised for performing a comedy skit in blackface, according to the Daily Mail.

Writing in The Guardian, film critic Peter Bradshaw declared MacFarlane "an inspired choice". The Oscars TV show isn't getting the ratings it once did, Bradshaw notes, especially in the all-important 18-49 age range. "The 2012 show got 14.9 million viewers, as opposed to a whopping 113 million for the Super Bowl."

MacFarlane boasts "both television and movie credentials, [is] a massively successful writer and comic, with a geeky love of Star Wars and a connection with the fans. But he also has what the industry calls the chops, almost eerily presentable, like a hyperreal young Gene Kelly."

Washington Post blogger Lisa de Moraes agrees: "Yes, the film academy is making another bid to bring younger viewers to its orgy of trophy dispensing to the year’s brightest motion-picture luminaries." But this is a much "smarter bid" than a similar attempt in 2011 - when James Franco and Anne Hathaway co-hosted.

"MacFarlane is the bold hosting choice that the academy needed to make after last February’s debacle, in which Billy Crystal wound up getting his ninth hosting at-bat," de Moraes concludes.

Katey Rich of entertainment website, says that "as someone who's part-old school song and dance man (like Oscar host Hugh Jackman before him) and part "hip with the kids" comedian, MacFarlane is pretty much a perfect blend of the two impulses of any Oscar show: entertain the older viewers who are likely to watch it, and lure in the younger audiences who might be harder to get.

"It also helps that MacFarlane has Ted behind him, one of the biggest hits of the summer movie season and proof that he can appeal to audiences beyond the loyal Family Guy fan base" during the Oscars, which will be broadcast on 24 February 2013.

Brian Lowry in Variety magazine offers a slightly cynical take on the choice, noting: "So - and here's a shocker - in their eagerness to get attention and generate buzz, the academy and ABC are using Seth MacFarlane, who is using them (with presumably somewhat less to gain, given his animation empire) right back.

"Then again, how appropriate: the dude who created Family Guy, in showbiz terms, is this year's version of a talking dog," Lowry writes. "All right. Enough perspective. Unleash the hounds!"

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