Oscars look to Seth MacFarlane for edge

2013-01-11 20:12

Los Angeles - Organisers of the annual Oscars ceremony have made little secret of their desire to reach a younger, edgier audience. And they are hoping this year's host Seth MacFarlane can hit the right spot.

Judging by the Family Guy creator's turn at Thursday's nomination announcement - and notwithstanding a cringe-worthy Nazi joke - he could be just what they need, after a couple of years of arguably hosting miscues.

MacFarlane, who is also behind the recent foul-mouthed big screen hit Ted, is arguably a risky choice to host the Academy Awards, the time-honoured showcase of Hollywood's movie establishment, scheduled for 24 February.

Embarrassing gay slur row

The Golden Globes - sneered at by Oscars insiders as the product of a celebrity-loving foreign journalists' group - can afford to have British comic Ricky Gervais lampoon them, the Oscars have standards to keep up.

But at the same time they are painfully aware of the need to widen their audience beyond viewers tuning in for traditional Oscars fare.

Two years ago a clear get-the-young-viewers ploy, with actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway jointly fronting the show, was widely criticised, with Franco's wooden performance drawing particular scorn.

Last year Eddie Murphy was initially down to host, but he pulled out at the last minute after an embarrassing gay slur row, and the Academy fell back on veteran Billy Crystal, fun hosting for a ninth time but hardly young.

This year they have MacFarlane - who on Thursday delivered a series of wisecracks as he and actress Emma Stone unveiled the nominees for this year's show, with Steven Spielberg's political drama Lincoln leading the pack.

"These are adapted screenplays, keep in mind, so that means the writers just copied stuff from Microsoft Word and pasted it into Final Draft," he said, of the short lists for one of the below-the-line technical categories.

'He brings a sense of joy'

Of the best film and foreign language film nominee Amour he said: "I read Amour was co-produced in Austria and Germany. The last time Austria and Germany got together and co-produced something it was Hitler, but this was much better."

A series of TV advertising spots unveiled hours later includes one in which MacFarlane walks onto a statuette-flanked stage, saying "Hi, I'm Seth MacFarlane - ask your parents."

"Look, I'm a huge Seth fan. What he brings first is a sense of joy. He wants to be there," ABC programming chief Paul Lee said when asked about the Hitler joke, according to a Washington Post blog.

"He brings a lot of energy to it... He's coming to the Oscars with a great sense of respect, but brings a really contemporary feel," he said.

MacFarlane, who launched the Emmy-winning animated situation comedy Family Guy in 1999, said when was named last October: "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."

MacFarlane, who won plaudits for Ted - about a foul-mouthed, drug-taking and womanising cuddly toy bear - hosted the event for perennially troubled TV actor Sheen last year.

All eyes will now be on his Oscars performance in the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood, in a month and a half's time.