Show tough on hosts, but MacFarlane surprised us

I’m old enough to remember when hosting the Oscars wasn’t the showbiz equivalent of the Ironman, requiring a singing, dancing funnyman (or woman) who could somehow bring freshness to a tired format while not upsetting anyone too much.

Bob Hope and Johnny Carson never dealt with the instantaneous judgment of Twitter and Facebook, much less had to follow Billy Crystal, who raised Oscar hosting to an Olympic sport in which even David Letterman and Jon Stewart failed to medal.

So maybe we should start by acknowledging that the otherwise scarily talented Seth MacFarlane never really had a chance, even if he had done the entire show in the voice of Stewie Griffin.

Yep, I’ve taken almost as long starting this column as he did starting the show.

MacFarlane’s opening — punctuated by second-screen shtick by William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk, calling from the future — had its moments, but none of them funny enough to justify the long opening.

Worth the time: MacFarlane’s singing “The Way You Look Tonight” as Charlize Theron and, yes, a fully clothed Channing Tatum danced.

MacFarlane, a science geek who sings like a ’40s crooner, can’t, it turns out, dance a lick. Which is kind of a relief.

Known best for his taste-pushing humor and less for his singing voice, MacFarlane kept himself reasonably in check for most of the evening.

But this is a show that was never really meant to be about the host, and if you hung in there long enough, you got to hear Barbra Streisand capping the In Memoriam with a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch that I sure hope wasn’t lip-synced.

As always, there were a few awards that even a 12-hour show probably wouldn’t have gotten to:

Least-prepared winner: Claudio Miranda, the cinematographer who won for “Life of Pi.” “Oh my God, I can’t even speak” is not what you want to hear from someone shows no signs of stopping .

Best use of “Jaws” theme since “Jaws”: To play off those talkative winners.

Red-carpet charmer: Kristin Chenoweth, who endeared herself to short women everywhere when she kicked off her shoes to demonstrate just how short she is.

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