A memo to Seth Macfarlane
Memo to: Seth MacfarlaneNothing ever seems to get in your way, Seth, whether the field of combat is TV, film, music, animation or even standup. Typically, when you sold yet another TV show to Fox last week, it was a straight-to-series order, not one of those pedestrian pilot deals. I don’t want to rain on your parade, Seth, but I’d like to remind you of one looming problem: It’s called the Oscar show, and it’s less than a month away. The late Gil Cates (who produced 14 of them) once told me that these final weeks were the most exasperating. This is when the network crunchers shot down his best ideas and the Academy’s fussy functionaries vetoed changes in format. Now I realize you’re just the host for the Oscar show, Seth — Neil Meron and Craig Zadan are the producers — but you will play a key part in the evening and, to put it bluntly, you already have one strike against you: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler presided over the Golden Globes with the sort of pace and panache sorely missing from Oscar shows of recent vintage. Make that two strikes: Many Academy members winced at your clumsy pre-dawn presentation of the Oscar nominees. Who wrote your material — Brett Ratner? I doubt if Meron and Zadan were thrilled when, in announcing “Amour,” you joked that the last German-Austrian co-production was Adolf Hitler (leave Hitler jokes to Mel Brooks, Seth). Or when, in listing filmmakers, you explained that directors were people who sat around “watching other people make a movie.” Or when you congratulated the five women nominees because they no longer had to be attractive to Harvey Weinstein. I realize it was early in the morning, Seth, that you’d just learned that your car had been towed and you’re new to the Oscar game, indeed to the movie game. But, you seem ubiquitous in Hollywood lately and your first film, “Ted,” turned millions of kids against their Teddy bears because they don’t talk dirty. Further, you’ve got to understand that myriad ghosts hover over the Oscar show. There’s Allan Carr, whose promising career came crashing down after he tried to liven up the 1989 show with a Snow White number starring Rob Lowe. Then remember what happened to Jimmy Franco in 2011. (OK, not even Jimmy can remember.) Your role as master of ceremonies was immortalized by Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, but their successors have proven to be accident-prone. Meron and Zadan, the producers of “Hairspray” and “Music Man,” have been dreaming of producing an Oscar show for 10 years and they do not intend to put that dream into turnaround. I realize that things come easy to you, Seth, and that you’ve shown your prowess in many arenas. You can write jokes and tell jokes and even draw jokes. Not only did you co-write, co-produce and direct “Ted,” but you even picked up an Oscar nomination for co-writing the song. And in TV you’ve been responsible for hits like “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland Show” and now your new show, “Dads,” in which washed-up dads live together with their thirtysomething sons. We don’t worry about you being washed up, Seth, but we do remember two non-award-winning animated projects you worked on, “I Am Weasel” and “Cow & Chicken.” Not everything turns out to be a home run in show business, and that rule especially applies to Academy Award shows. This was a pretty good movie year, Seth, and there is genuine suspense as to the winners. Questions about what you’ll do as host adds further suspense. So pay attention this time — and remember that the ghosts of Oscars past are watching.