Despite what's now being pretty much cast in the context of his sexist, anti-Semitic, anti-Lincoln, anti-adult shtick as host of the 85th Academy Awards telecast on Sunday night, could Seth MacFarlane return as host of the 86th, or 87th, or 88th Oscars?
Sure! (Show biz works in funny ways - and though MacFarlane has said via Twitter he'll "never" do the show again, Ricky Gervais if memory serves vowed a no-return policy for the Globes before returning...) But I've done the math or at least the list, and you'll have to go to the jump to get a final answer. There are arguments both pro and con, and without further wasting-of-your-time, let's get straight to them, beginning with the...
- Ratings jumped 20 percent among young men, considered the slipperiest demo in the world though an utterly vital one to movie attendance receipts, while overall numbers jumped three percent to 40.3 million overall viewers. Both bucked long-festering trends - getting not just all the young dudes to watch but getting more people to watch. You could make the case that more people watched because of a compelling slate of best picture nominees - one reason AMPAS expanded the best picture category a few years back was in fact to widen the net to increase the chances of getting bigger hits - but this is probably not the case. "Amour?" "Argo?" ""Linings?" Major hits...no. Hate him or love him, MacFarlane dragged these numbers up.
- Most critics hated him - most viewers did not. Yes, this is America, not represented by the interests or affected by the sensibilities of either the left or right coast. Critics mostly panned - though here's a prominent writer who was mentioned on air who did not - but there are any number of insta-polls out there - Zap2it's as representative - that indicate overwhelming support for MacFarlane. Of course these aren't scientific, and respondents can tend to be rabid fans, but they can't all be wrong. Net net, most viewers liked him.
- MacFarlane did what the Academy told him to do - shake out the dust, wake people up, get 'em to pay attention, and bring some element of "current sensibilities" - or current as defined as anything that goes for humor on, say, CBS sitcoms - into the mix. He did.
- MacFarlane demonstrated a genuine aptitude for song-and-dance routines - one of the most difficult talents to find in any host, which is why Bill Crystal returned year after year. Music is more than a sideshow at the Oscars - it IS the show, as producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan reminded everyone Sunday, with Shirley Bassey, Barbara Streisand, Adele and J-Hud. Getting a host that can reflect that means getting a host who can be integrated in to the heart and soul of any Oscars telecast...
- MacFarlane's humor was often borderline misogynistic - or well across the border misogynistic - and if you don't remember, here's a good place to refresh memories. That may work in a frat house or the privacy of some living room, but it's poison in Hollywood, or at least in the context of its most important awards ceremony. Consider too that the Academy is already beset by internal discord over the fact that the vast number of voting members is male, and that most nominees and winners Sunday were men. What MacFarlane seemed to do was strip away the veneer - reinforcing the impression, fair or not, that AMPAS is a boy's club.
- AMPAS chief Hawk Koch won't be around to pick the 2014 host. Koch's term is just for a year, and it's possible, perhaps even likely. the next head of the Academy will be a woman - maybe even longtime Steven Spielberg colleague Kathleen Kennedy. Hard to believe she would pick MacFarlane again.
- Anne Sweeney, co-chair of the Disney Media Networks and the most powerful woman in Hollywood, will almost certainly have something to say about next year's pick too. She hasn't commented (yet) on her impressions of MacFarlane, but again, hard to imagine she could be openly supportive now considering that many women - in Hollywood and elsewhere - were not.
- The Anti-Defamation League has gone after MacFarlane's Ted routine - you remember, that Hollywood's controlled by the Jews - and that's a potent broadside. ADL chief Abe Foxman has a long record of extracting apologies from offenders, and if he somehow gets one from ABC or AMPAS, then that's not going to bode well for a repeat either.
- Maybe Jimmy Fallon will do this next year. ABC would have to relent, but Fallon would likely satisfy all parties. Remember, it's vital to get young men to watch these things because young men are a core component of the ticket buying public. Fallon is also a pretty good performer, so he can easily handle the music side of things well too.
- It's also very likely AMPAS will have to go for a female host next year - not likely Whoopi again (who knows) but if Tina Fey and Amy Poehler can host a uniformly praised Globes ceremony, surely there's another brilliant female host out there who could do the Oscars too. There is.
FINAL ANSWER: MacFarlane won't be back. I could be wrong here, very wrong, and have been wrong (very wrong) before. But the cons, at least for the moment, outweigh the pros. Mac got the numbers up, but at what cost to the Academy and its reputation?