The Oscars haven’t had the same host in consecutive years since Billy Crystal in 1996-97, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has reportedly declared its willingness to ride the Seth MacFarlane train again next year.
Why the Academy would be willing to do this is at once clear and frustratingly murky.
Though the Academy itself hasn’t acknowledged the invitation, Pete Hammond of Deadline declared confirmation of what was reported initially by Just Jared. The original story came two days after the Academy officially announced the return of Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the folks who helped bring MacFarlane into the Oscar fold in the first place.
The discussion might be moot, because however gratifying the offer is to MacFarlane, he doesn’t necessarily have the time to dedicate to another Oscar ceremony nor the desire to submit himself to the heated critiques that tagged his first effort in February. MacFarlane himself publicly stated before and after the Oscars that hosting would be a one-time job for him. Jimmy Kimmel, among others, still might be more likely to end up with the March 2 gig.
In any case, though Zadan, Meron and MacFarlane had their defenders, the reaction to the Oscarcast was certainly mixed enough to call into question why the Academy would look for a repeat performance. The answer comes in two parts: 1) improved ratings in the latest show, though those more likely reflect a good year for popular movies in the Academy Awards nominations, and 2) the virtues of continuity.
In other words, even though everyone outside of James Franco has gotten at least as positive a reception for hosting the Oscars as MacFarlane (dating back to the last time Crystal turned in a repeat performance), suddenly the time is now for “steady as she goes.” The Irony Committee will rule in favor of the fact that this comes as the Academy, because of Board of Governor term limits, will have new presidents in consecutive years for the first time in two decades.
It should go without saying — though it clearly doesn’t — that continuity for the sake of continuity is no virtue. It won’t take anyone long to think of plenty of ideas that were best left abandoned. After all, two years of Franco teaming up with Anne Hathaway would also have qualified as continuity.
While you can certainly concede that no Oscar host is going to please everyone, you can also acknowledge that an Oscar host can please some without offending large slices of their audience. And dismissing those who took offense as unable to get or take a joke is too facile — plenty got the joke but just didn’t think it was funny. (To his credit, in a more serious context, MacFarlane also realizes that some things others find funny can be truly offensive.)
Hiding behind the continuity facade, while ignoring the misgivings people had about the Oscarcast, is not the Academy’s best look.
Of course, the Academy’s Oscar problems extend beyond the MacFarlane issue. They also include the org’s return invite for Zadan and Meron, who produced arguably the most self-serving Oscarcast in history, and given the glitches and weird time allotments, not even an exceedingly competent one.
No one doubts how hard it is to find people with the time to lead the Oscars and the skin thick enough to withstand the bricks of criticism. But if the reports of the MacFarlane invitation are true, either the powers that be at the Academy have surrendered their ambition for greatness, or they have put the personal preferences of a few ahead of all other considerations.
Neither is comforting.