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In Defense of Seth MacFarlane: Comedy is in the Eye of the Beholder & Peeling Back The Onion

Seth MacFarlane OscarsFirst, some context: we are not especially devoted Seth MacFarlane fans. For a time we watched Family Guy semi-regularly and certainly were a part of that groundswell that helped resurrect the show from its premature grave. But do we consider ourselves MacFarlane evangelists or advocates? Not at all. We still haven’t seen Ted, and are not exceptionally eager to do so. We rarely watch American Dad and we can’t say for sure that we’ve ever caught an episode of The Cleveland Show. We were, however, impressed with his performance hosting the SNL premiere, and it demonstrated that not only could he do funny voices and write an off-color (and oft-humorous) joke, but he could also perform, and perform live, which is not always second nature for a writer-producer-voice actor. Did that mean we were thrilled to learn he was tapped to host this year’s Oscars? No, not really. We thought it was somewhat a knee-jerk, ill-advised decision (probably due, paradoxically, to his mess-up when presenting at the 2012 Emmys). But we knew, at least, that he could hold his own on stage, singing, dancing, cracking wise, and thinking on his feet. Was he going to offend some people? Probably. But that would come with the territory. Wouldn’t that be by design? If you wanted someone with only a love of musical theater and a flair for singing and dancing, then wouldn’t you just turn to Billy Crystal for a record 74th time? So, with Seth MacFarlane, that’s the package, that’s the deal (a faustian bargain, depending on your point of view): some dick and fart jokes and some mildly anti-Semitic and racist humor mixed with some sprinkles of old Broadway.

So were we surprised that MacFarlarne’s hosting turn this past Sunday night was met with a mix of disappointment and outright scorn? No, not at all. That was to be expected. But, after seeing the show, we were taken aback at the amount of criticism leveled at MacFarlane because, frankly, for someone who trades in abortion jokes and greased up deaf guys, we found his material relatively mild. It was almost as if we were watching a different show, different from the one that so much of the (tweeting) public found so repugnant, so misogynistic  and racist and base. And, to our surprise, we found ourselves in MacFarlane’s corner. Not because we found his turn especially remarkable. But because it wasn’t that bad. And, more importantly, it wasn’t that vile.

Read on: 9 things that we didn’t find so sexist, and a rotten Onion…

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Filed under Analysis, Fashion Show at Lunch, In defense of:, Lists, Other people's stuff, The Big Screen

Halloween ‘SNL’ & Jon Hamm: Tricks, Treats and the Return of the Old Guard

Last week we hypothesized that the Halloween episode of SNL hosted by Jon Hamm would either be the best of the season or the laziest.  Hamm, making his third hosting appearance, has already proven to be a go-to, top-notch host, one that brings out the best in the cast and crew.  But, on the other hand, what often happens when the show is blessed with a skilled host is that they relax, relying too much on the host’s charm and natural comedic talents (see: Galifiankis, Zach).  However, what we were treated to this week was something in between, and something, in hindsight, typical of a third hosting go ’round.  During a debut performance the material can often be safe, figuring out if the host has what it takes, a bit of a feeling out process.   If that host succeeds, then when he or she comes back for a second stint the crew is energized, knowing that they have someone who will deliver.  You could see that confidence, motivation and excitement in Hamm’s second hosting job last winter.  But when a host comes back for the three-peat, the crew is now so comfortable and at ease that they’re willing to taking more chances, throwing more caution to the wind.  So what you receive is not mainstream yuks and recurring sketches, or weary, unmotivated punchlines and recurring sketches, but a sense of adventure laced with apathy for the viewer.  This is what happens when you have a host who no longer needs to prove himself, who has tenure, which is why so many of Alec Baldwin’s shows are peppered with offbeat sketches, some that delight (like last season’s bizarre “Timecrowave“) and some that crash and burn (like “Arizona Evenings” from the same episode).  Judging from this past weekend’s show, it seems that Hamm is now in that class.

More: Mustaches, kisses, Rihanna, Star Wars & Sam Kinison! Plus, WHOM did they rip off this week?

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Filed under Analysis, Lady Holiday, Makes You Think, Mancrush, Saturday Night Live