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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

White People Problems

If the contents of my spam folder on any given day are an indication, there are almost literally numberless ways one can cadge a fair-to-decent living on these here intarnetz. So, uh, I have to ask -- did a new bidness model start up Sunday night, where commenters are getting paid to start with some variation on "I'm way too cool for school to own a teevee/watch the Oscars/see a Hollywood film" and end with some form of "....Seth McFarlane was waaay out of line with [pick a random bit]"? Because that's really what it seems like.

Look. I get that there is, sadly, an honest-to-Jebus industry around this one night, where overpaid ninnies strut and preen and stroke each other all night, and media minions press their noses up against the kewl-kids' restaurant window to sour-grapes their way through the ensuing week. Aside from England, bless its barnacle-encrusted hull, no country has mastered the art of making the truly inconsequential seem meaningful the way the American PR industry has. The vaunted ceremony and "pageantry" are, in and of themselves, more than a little unseemly to begin with, though in much different ways than McFarlane's stock in trade.

And McFarlane has become obscenely wealthy peddling the same cheesy frat-boy and bathroom schtick over and over again in Family Guy (not to mention its iterations in American Dad and The Cleveland Show). Some of it works, some not so much, some is just played out at this point, which McFarlane himself has tacitly acknowledged in more than one interview.

But it's undeniable that McFarlane has genuine layers of talent that aren't really out there in great quantities -- he's obviously a very gifted voice actor, can actually sing well, and clearly reveres not only many of the '80s fetish objects he routinely skewers, but also big-band classics and somewhat deeper cuts (in this day and age) such as the Hope/Crosby Road movies. McFarlane's sensibility is clearly much more fartsy than artsy, but he's also not your typical bonehead Jackass fan.

And that's more or less what he did, at least for the 70% or so of the show that I watched. Yes, the Captain Kirk/We Saw Your Boobs thing went on way too long, like most Family Guy bits, but even that is part of McFarlane's schtick, the meta joke of taking some stock borscht-belt dead fish and beating you over the head with it until there's nothing left but a dorsal fin and a bad smell. Which is to say, there were absolutely no surprises. They got what they paid for.

The show producers sought McFarlane in order to pull the young male demographic, not usually the Oscars' sweet spot. Apparently it worked in that regard, insofar as any young males would have been an improvement for the show. But the legitimacy of the show itself has played out, and it's like the producers don't quite understand that; I would be willing to wager that the number of people who really have the urge to see, say, a musical salute to 50 years of James Bond movies, is at the very least dwindling, if not almost completely non-existent.

So they brought the Family Guy guy in to provide some edge on what is essentially a bowling ball of a show, something with no edge whatsoever. Everybody keeps clamoring for Tina Fey, and I agree she is wonderful and would make a great host for anything, but maybe they were watching a different 30 Rock than I was for seven years, because I saw a show that routinely had some of the raunchiest and most thinly veiled double-entendres this side of South Park. Plus, you know, at least as many cutaway gags and non-sequiturs as Family Guy. I mean, I love Werewolf Barmitzvah and all, but there's not a huge amount of qualitative daylight between that and the giant chicken gags (which was obviously the point).

Fey is very clever in incorporating her natural "cool nerd chick" persona into the things she writes, but in her SNL days as well, she was never shy about getting her hands dirty for a laugh. Fey might be slightly more respectful of the process, because she has a family and still makes movies, where McFarlane couldn't care less, since he's rich enough to not have to care, and clearly just wants to spend the rest of his life banging every sweet young thing in Hollywood. But they're both pretty raunchy when they want to be, and frankly, that's what this puffy-shirt of an annual stroke-fest needs in the first place. Whether it's politically correct or not is -- or at least should be -- irrelevant. It's not like he called a nine-year-old the C word.

I'm not saying they need to bring in Gilbert Gottfried to do a roast or read excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey, but I will unequivocally say that three hours of group fellatio bookended with weeks of fawning adulation and passive aggression is a dead entertainment model, except for the Kardashians.

Next year they'll bring back Billy Crystal to dutifully clean up yet another hosting snafu that they asked for. The talkerati will sharpen their snark crayons to a nub and talk shit about some 125 lb. tubbelard in a tight dress, and the usual 'net suspects can convene to remind each other that they're still too cool to watch this shit, but they heard it was really fucking boring.

1 comment:

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