Seth MacFarlane might be the worst Oscar host in history (unless Captain James T. Kirk was able to help him change the future, that is; we'll find out by reading tomorrow's headlines), but at least he lived up to his reputation as a song-and-dance man.
The host of the 85th annual Academy Awards took the stage and started the show with a quick, self-deprecating warm-up joke. "It's an honor to be hosting the Oscars," he declared. "It's an honor that everyone else said no, from Whoopi Goldberg all the way down to Ron Jeremy, before it found its way to me."
From there, MacFarlane launched into a series of jabs at several of the evening's nominated films. Regarding "Argo," he revealed that the true story behind the movie "was so top-secret that the film's director is unknown to the Academy." ("They know they screwed up," he quickly reassured the not-nominated Affleck.) He also called it "a big night for foreign films," particularly "Amour" — "or as I call it, 'This is 90.'"
MacFarlane even went into the racially sensitive subject matter of "Lincoln," praising Daniel Day-Lewis' infamous process that keeps him in-character throughout production. ("If you bumped into Don Cheadle on the studio lot, would you try to free him?" he said to groans from the audience.) He also targeted Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" — "or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie," he quipped.
"That's as bad as it gets, if that makes you feel better," MacFarlane assured a lukewarm crowd, before quickly revealing, "It's really not as bad as it gets."
Just as the host's jokes were falling flat, MacFarlane found an unexpected ally in the form of William Shatner, appearing on a monitor on the set of the U.S.S. Enterprise, fully in-character as his iconic "Star Trek" hero, Captain Kirk.
"I'm here to stop you from doing what you're about to do," the exasperated Kirk explained. "I've come back in time from the 23rd century to stop you from destroying the Academy Awards!"
Kirk then revealed a headline declaring MacFarlane as the "Worst Oscar Host Ever." "Your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate," said the starship captain. "Everyone ends up hating you."
Among MacFarlane's missteps: a musical number called "We Saw Your Boobs" that runs down the list of famous actresses who have appeared topless in film, with icons like Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Halle Berry and Kate Winslet targeted. Kirk showed MacFarlane and the audience the full musical number to convince the host to abandon the idea. The plan worked, and the "Ted" filmmaker instead called upon Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum to perform a romantic dance set to Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight."
But that wasn't enough to change the future; not by much, at least. Kirk revealed a new headline that labeled MacFarlane as a "Pretty Bad Oscar Host," because of an all-sock puppet recreation of Denzel Washington's "Flight." "You're a white guy in 2013; you can't wear black-hand," he explained to MacFarlane. To make amends, MacFarlane called upon Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to join him in a song-and-dance routine set to Sinatra's "High Hopes."
But the future remained bleak for MacFarlane, who was quickly upgraded to "Mediocre Oscar Host." The reason for MacFarlane's mediocrity: he went to the green-room and successfully convinced "Lincoln" nominee Sally Field to run away with him, because Anne Hathaway was going to win the Best Supporting Actress award anyway. MacFarlane was wrong, however, as Kirk told him that Field won the award — but because she ran off with the host, fellow nominee "Amy Adams went up and grabbed [the award]. They tried to take it from her and she bit a guy."
There was only one way for MacFarlane to atone for his future-sins: "Make your audience feel welcome, and then you start the show."
MacFarlane took the advice to heart, belting out "Be My Guest" with brand-new lyrics that took swings at Joaquin Phoenix ("hope he's on his meds!") and Day-Lewis ("your voice [in 'Lincoln'] was kind of weird"), but largely left the other nominees unscathed. The upbeat number restored the celebratory tone of the evening, ending MacFarlane's opening monologue on a note decidedly greater than "mediocre."