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Seth MacFarlane's Oscar opening is 'oddly awkward mix'

12:28 AM, Feb 25, 2013   |    comments
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Host Seth MacFarlane can be seen on the official poster announcing the upcoming Academy Awards show February 20, 2013 in Hollywood California. The Oscars will be handed out at the 85th annual Academy Awards show in Hollywood on February 24. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

(USA TODAY) -- Oscars fans have seen a lot over the years, but that may be the first time they've ever seen a host use the awards to audition for his own variety show.

That was what Seth MacFarlane was doing with his opening for ABC's Oscar broadcast Sunday, wasn't it? Because it's hard to imagine just what else he might have had in mind with that oddly awkward mix of monologue and music, all under the back-from-the-future direction of William Shatner as Captain Kirk.

Give this to MacFarlane: He threw everything he had at that opening. He dressed up like The Flying Nun. He played with sock puppets. He radiated charm, if not cool. And, of course, he told jokes. A tad nervously, perhaps -- one kept hoping someone would tell him to stop rocking back and forth -- but he did manage to land enough of them to keep the audience laughing. He even got Tommy Lee Jones to laugh at a joke about getting Tommy Lee Jones to laugh, which has to count for something.

Oh, and he sang and danced. A lot.

He started with a number about seeing stars' breasts in movies that was meant to represent the kind of "wild, crazy and tasteless" stunt folks were supposedly afraid the man behind Family Guy might do, and was, unfortunately, less wild, crazy or tasteless than it needed to be. He then moved into more standard production numbers that fell somewhere in between Billy Crystal's Oscars classics and something you might have seen on The Andy Williams Show.

Still, there are worse things a host can do than attempt to revive vaudeville. MacFarlane's act may have been more than a little too self-conscious. The entire opening routine was built around the prevalent fear that he was a poor choice who would do something inappropriate, but at least he put some obvious thought and effort into it. That's more than can be said for, say, James Franco, just in case MacFarlane really is worried that the "Worst Host Ever" joke headline he put on screen might actually come true.

"Best ever" may be out of reach, too. But hey, there's always that shot at The Seth MacFarlane Show.

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