And next year’s Oscar host is…not a stand-up turned actor like Billy Crystal or Whoopi Goldberg or Steve Martin but a man who has never even attended the Academy Awards before and who did not even appear on screen in his first film, released earlier this year. Seth MacFarlane is the highest-paid man in the history of television for his three animated series, “Family Guy,” “The Cleveland Show,” and “American Dad!” He also wrote and directed the raunchy movie comedy “Ted” and provided the voice of the title character, a talking stuffed bear. He hosted the televised roast of Charlie Sheen and, improbably, received respectful reviews for his smooth singing on Music Is Better Than Words, an album of standards, backed by a full orchestra and using Frank Sinatra’s old microphone, on loan from the Smithsonian. He appeared as host of the season opener on “Saturday Night Live” last month but has not otherwise had much experience performing live.
The Hollywood Reporter calls him a “relative unknown” to the people who usually attend the Oscars, but his popularity with younger audiences made him appealing to the producers, trying to stay competitive with slicker, hipper, and earlier awards shows. But they will have to be careful not to alienate the show’s current fans, who may be concerned that he is neither as polished, as experienced, or as respectful as they want. Perhaps it is just those concerns that will attract a record audience.