Seth MacFarlane + the Oscars might just work

It’s probably safe to say that while we were all watching Seth MacFarlane cluelessly begin a speech at the Emmys last week nearly half the stage away from a working mic, not many of us said to ourselves, “Yeah, that guy’s going to be hosting the Oscars next year.”

Seth MacFarlane to host the Academy AwardsYet that’s the plan, and the announcement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had to bring a big smile to the faces of James Franco and Anne Hathaway, whose ill-conceived hosting stint two years back immediately took its place among the ceremony’s most infamous misfires. It’s not that MacFarlane is known mainly as a TV guy that raises eyebrows. Several TV personalities have put their stamp on cinema’s biggest night — Johnny Carson, of course, along with Jack Benny and, more recently, Jon Stewart. But MacFarlane’s brand of gleefully offensive humor has never been a hit with critics, with shows like Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show waging a weekly arms race in bad taste. (OK, yes, Family Guy has scored some Emmy noms in recent years, but not many folks paid to give opinions on TV would openly admit to being fans.)

Still, despite his penchant for fart jokes and getting in constant trouble with advocacy groups for poking fun at sacred cows like abortion, anti-Semitism, AIDS, the Holocaust and countless others, MacFarlane has shown a seemingly incongruous fondness for classic Hollywood glitz and glamour. Family Guy often contains musical numbers that owe a great deal to showstoppers from the past, and MacFarlane even went so far recently as to record an unironic album of himself singing big-band standards. Before that, there was his whimsical (as in, he seemingly did it on a whim) 2009 hourlong Seth and Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show, which featured lots of crooning and old-fashioned variety-special fun. He also boosted his hosting cred by fronting this season’s premiere of Saturday Night Live.

So who knows, maybe MacFarlane can pull this off. It’s a near statistical impossibility he will deliver anything as embarrassing as Rob Lowe doing a duet with Snow White, or Franco grimacing through a torturous bit in drag. Hopefully he won’t look as uncomfortable as Chris Rock or David Letterman, or try too hard like Whoopi Goldberg. It’s doubtful he’ll go the safe and forgettable route like Steve Martin, so the real suspense will be whether he’ll be tempted to turn the Oscars into a Seth MacFarlane production. After all, this is a man who virtually owns an entire night’s programming on one of the broadcast networks, and was only encouraged toward his quest for world domination with the success of his directorial debut Ted at the box office. (Note: MacFarlane assures The Hollywood Reporter this won’t be the case.)

MacFarlane himself poked fun at his selection — expect that to be a theme, by the way, once the actual ceremony rolls around — by saying in a press release, “It’s truly an overwhelming privilege to be asked to host the Oscars. My thoughts upon hearing the news were, one, I will do my utmost to live up to the high standards set forth by my predecessors; and two, I hope they don’t find out I hosted the Charlie Sheen Roast.”

Hey, as long as we can get through the evening without Stewie Griffin handing out the award for Best Animated Feature, let’s consider it a win, shall we?