And it worked! The producers only had to use it a few more times — and frankly should have shown the courage to use it on the A-list names, such as you, Ben Affleck, or perhaps during best supporting actress winner Anne Hathaway’s predictably ooky, near-tears wish that nobody should ever be as poor and desperate as Fantine, her character in “Les Miserables.”
But to be fair, the “Jaws” theme ought to be used when the host’s shtick is dragging on, too. Such as when you have William Shatner don his Captain Kirk costume and beam in from the 23rd century to tell the host — in a protracted and meta way — that, in real time, his gig is getting bad reviews from critics.
It was a too-long setup for host Seth MacFarlane’s best number, “We Saw Your Boobs,” backed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
MacFarlane, the potty-mouth cartoon mogul turned latter-day lounge lizard, did a fairly middle-of-the-road job as host on a fairly middle-of-the-road telecast. He occasionally found the balance between the knifey, pop-savvy humor of his TV shows and his other side as a show-biz sycophant who sings all the standards at the top of his lungs. What you got was a combination of sicko and retro, an Oscar show hosted by someone who waited until Oscar night to discover that he’s only so-so at stand-up comedy.
He was neither comfortable with the easy jokes (“Amour — or as I call it, ‘This is 90’ ”) nor the provocative ones that he was brought on board to tell and perhaps goose the ungoosable youth market for Oscar ratings: “I would argue that the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth,” he said. (That wasn’t the real joke, though. The real joke came after the Hollywood swells in the Dolby Theatre gasped and groaned. Then it became what it was meant to be in the post-irony age: a “too soon?” joke.)
Worse news: “Tonight, for the first time, the Oscars have a theme,” MacFarlane announced in his opening monologue. “We will be celebrating music in film.”
Oh, for the love of Pete. Must we?
It couldn’t be stopped, as the Academy Awards tried to win a Tony. The show, which ran past 3 ½hours, was produced by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, two guys who have brought us things like NBC’s irreparable Broadway drama “Smash” and the movie musical “Hairspray.” And so, from mite-sized theater imp Kristin Chenoweth’s icky-sweet red-carpet patter for ABC’s pre-show (Adele, you have our permission to sit on her until she stops moving) to the protracted musical medley from “Chicago,” “Dreamgirls” and — I had to leave the room — “Les Miserables,” this was the Oscars by and for showfolk.