UPDATE: Seth MacFarlane Gets Oscar Call; Plus Why Academy Asked Back Zadan And Meron

UPDATE, 12:12 PM: After an initial denial, Deadline can now confirm that Seth MacFarlane did indeed get a call about returning as host of next year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards but has not given an answer yet. The big problem for MacFarlane, we are told by highly reliable sources, is his already full plate with a new Western comedy, A Million Ways To Die In The West, going into production soon as well as initial work on Universal’s sequel to Ted, which has amassed a worldwide gross of over half a billion dollars and is obviously a priority for the studio.

Despite saying after this year’s Oscars that he wouldn’t consider coming back, MacFarlane is mulling the offer but at this point isn’t sure he has the time to do it. For the 85th Oscar show, he was closely involved for four months, and that is a big-time commitment. The Academy, returning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and MacFarlane’s PR reps aren’t commenting so far, and neither is Academy president Hawk Koch.

MacFarlane’s comic Western film is being produced by the Ted team of Media Rights Capital and producers Scott Stuber and Jason Clark. MacFarlane, who directs, co-writes with Ted and Family Guy colleagues Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, also stars as a bumbling sheep farmer in the comedy said to be in the vein of Blazing Saddles. Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Giovanni Ribisi co-star.

PREVIOUSLY, SATURDAY PM: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron aren’t talking yet (an Academy spokesperson said they are too busy at the moment producing their History Channel production of Bonnie And Clyde). But after the surprise announcement this week that they would be returning to produce the 2014 Oscar show, gossip blogs like HuffPo and others started spreading the obvious rumor that their handpicked — and controversial — 2013 Oscar host Seth MacFarlane already has been asked to do the gig again next year. Not true at all, Deadline has learned from MacFarlane’s reps. And shortly after the 85th Oscar show was over MacFarlane himself swore off any ambition to do the show again next year – or ever (of course never say ever). So with the false rumors out of the way let’s discuss what is true about the Academy’s Zadan/Meron play this week.

Even as much of the industry was in Las Vegas at CinemaCon for the past few days (including myself) seeing snippets of films still in production that could possibly turn up as Oscar contenders, the normally rigid Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences surprised us all by announcing 2013 show producers Zadan and Meron would be returning to produce the 2014 show as well, 11 months from now. Normally this is the first duty of an Academy President to choose after elections are held in August, and since current one-term President Hawk Koch will not be that person, it was quite unexpected to see him delivering this news in April, just a month and a half after the last show and before a new President would have any say in the matter, something Nikki specifically expressed shock at in her story on Tuesday.

After talking to numerous Academy insiders and board members this week who were directly involved in the process that led to this early bird choice, the word that comes up over and over is “continuity”. Other awards shows such as the Tonys, Grammys and even Emmys tend to go back to the same producers year after year, but as one former Academy President told me the Oscar show producing chores have lately been done “trial by fire”. Since the late Gil Cates produced his 14th and final Oscarcast in 2008, there has been a new team of producers every single year. The Board, which I am told was very much behind this decision, agreed that “continuity”, the kind they had in the Cates era, is important. That’s another reason the Academy has already announced show dates for both 2014 and even 2015 quelling any speculation the Oscars would move any earlier than the last Sunday in February (due to the Winter Olympics the 2014 show will be a week later on March 2).

It also doesn’t hurt that ratings (as they were for most movie-oriented awards shows this year) were up under Zadan/Meron’s watch, particularly among young men and the coveted 18-34 demo which was up 20%. The Academy has been very concerned about drawing a younger audience, and with MacFarlane as host the show finally trended in that direction. When I interviewed the producing pair the week of the 85th Oscar show they specifically pointed to that as one of their goals and predicted, correctly as it turns out, that MacFarlane’s presence would bring his young male fans to the show.

Of course there was controversy about the content of the show itself , both inside and outside of the Academy , particularly a musical number called We Saw Your Boobs which some, who didn’t see the humor in the satirical song, found offensive. There are also others who felt the producers were a bit self-serving such as including their own movie Chicago in a tribute to movie musicals of the past decade. But I am told, though it wasn’t completely unanimous (there were a few vocal dissenters during the discussion) , the overall Board Of Governors put their stamp of approval on bringing back the producing pair after the Academy’s show review committee gave their thumbs up, and Zadan and Meron made their post-show report to the Board (something every producer does each year). This led the way for Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson to break with a decades-long tradition and remove the question of who produces next year’s Oscar show, even before the Emmys have announced who will produce their September 22nd show.

There has been speculation from naysayers (and in comments on Deadline) that perhaps the new Academy President could come in and overturn the decision in August, but stop smoking the crackpipe. It ain’t gonna happen. Again I am told the Board gave a strong endorsement to this decision and they will be the body voting for the next President. The most likely candidates at this point are said to be First Academy VP Cheryl Boone Issacs and Treasurer Rob Friedman and I guarantee neither one is going to rock the boat. I am told Friedman was even head of the show review committee that made its recommendation on this matter. It actually is probably a plus for a new President not to have to spend their first few weeks or months in office trying to convince someone to take on the arduous, and sometimes thankless, task of producing the high profile (and often mercilessly criticized) Oscar show. Like it or not the Wizards of Oscars has spoken.

One thing supporters of the Zadan/Meron style point to is that they are producers with a strong sense of what they want to do and how to produce a show. On nomination day when I interviewed them I asked if, now that they had the list of nominees, would they really start figuring out how the telecast would go. Both seemed surprised because in fact they had already mapped the entire telecast out months earlier. Basically what got nominated was just a small detail. Expect them to have this thing figured out again even before some 2013 contenders finish principal photography.

    1. After Seth MacFarlane’s disgusting Family Guy episode depicting the slaughter of Boston Marathon runners we hope he never gets hired again in Hollywood.

        1. Yes, Darling, many of “us” think Family Guy’s depiction of a car running over the Boston marathon runners and the bloody aftermath at the finish line that aired on Fox TV in March 2013 is disgusting even before the actual tragedy took place.

          1. The Family Guy episode was called “Turban Cowboy” and it did show a car running over Boston Marathon runners in a horrible crime that left severed arms and legs at the blood soaked finish line. It aired on March 17 2013 on Fox TV…. Hollywood is full of trash and filth.

          2. Because Seth MacFarlane can totally see tragic events WAY in the future. If you don’t like his humour, why are you people watching his shows?

          3. @julie & carlos – you might as well blame every comedian out there who’s ever made an offensive joke that has or hasn’t happened yet.

          4. LOL – that was hardly the most offensive thing I’ve seen in Family Guy. Do you also hate all Airplanes because of 911? Ridiculous.

    2. the remarks about the Boston bombing are a nice reminder that comment sections are best to be avoided. I need to find a better way to spend my free 5 minutes. Anyway, I thought Seth was a good host suffering from weak material. It makes sense to bring him back.

  1. I said this about American Idol and I’ll state it about the Academy: Continuity. You can’t keep changing judge chairs every year and expect the audience to stay with you. We used to have continuity in TV — the Ed Sullivan Show, Johnny Carson, and so many others. These hosts are like comfort food. You just know they’re going to be there. The Academy should bring back Seth, if not, then do like the Grammies and have a “voiceOVER” Host who introduces the presenters.
    But you can’t keep changing producers and hosts and expect people to stay with you.

    1. Totally agree. I mean I just can’t get enough of the musical numbers from THEIR repertoire like CHICAGO and DREAMGIRLS that have absolutely nothing at all to do with the year’s films. Totally can’t wait to see Catherine Zeta Jones and Jennifer Hudson part Deux next year. Really blew me away this year.

      And I totally hope they get Russell Crowe to sing again – he’s da best.

  2. Some people are completely unable to understand or appreciate satire but thank G-d the Thought Police do not hold sway in Hollywood. As much as they’d love to hammer everyone into submission so that no one is ever offended by anything, ever, and all art is filtered through a focus group in Ohio, creative freedom and edge are still alive and well.

    1. And yet young people watched. Blame the popular Best Pic nominees or the producers. Either way, you can’t ignore that fact.

  3. Horrible choice of bringing the producers back. They turned the awards into a celebration of themselves — how many tributes to Chicago were in one show? Anyone is better than these turkeys.

    1. Did “Chicago” get featured more than once? Even if it’s self-serving, if you’re doing a tribute to the musicals of the past decade, you can’t ignrore “Chicago”. Isn’t it the biggest of the lot?

  4. I love movies, but hate the Oscars. They’ve become roasts filled with stupid song and dance numbers. Always feels like the Tony Awards to me. Much rather learn about categories and why they’re important than see Anne Hathaway smug her way through a song. Ugh. Also be better if winners were actually deserving. I put up with The Artist and The Kings Speech, but when Jennifer Lawrence won best actress for SLP over Naomi Watts and Emanuelle Rivera I through the towel in.

    1. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. You can start your own awards. That way you will not be disappointed when your personal favorite doesn’t win.

    2. JW, That Les MIserables number is one of the best moments in Oscar history. Anne Hathaway actually gave a nice singing performance, and she sounded better than Adele ( weak singing ) and Barbara Streisand ( she was struggling through her song ) combined. But, I do agree , the highly overrated and very limited Jennifer Lawrence ( the poor girl cannot deliver a line to save her life ) didn’t deserve her Oscar over Riva & Watts.

  5. Reworking the Academy rules to provide a longer production time frame for the Oscars makes sense. Having a great producing team which sets a standard and delivers year after year makes sense. Having continuity in the Oscar shows makes sense.

    The Academy has all the right reasons for a long term producing team…sadly, I think they ‘did not choose wisely’.

  6. oh, great. so the producers of the Oscars are producing Bonnie and Clyde for Lifetime. These two are a f—ing joke. The home of Liz and Dick.

  7. I wish they had found some continuity with a different set of hosts. How they can take credit for the rise in ratings is beyond me. It was not a great Oscar show.

    I hope they put together a better one next year.

  8. I’m all for the idea of continuity and stability, but not people being rewarded for doing a crap job. There’s a middle ground between the two.

    And MacFarlane was the wrong guy for host, regardless of 18-34 ratings. He’s classless. It was slicker than Franco and Hathaway but just as embarassing. If all they care is about ratings, why not get Mel Gibson and Lindsey Lohan to host?

  9. I’m sure they will have better ideas for next year, but I’m concerned about their stubbornness when it comes to accepting criticism about this year’s show. They keep hammering away at the “everybody missed the joke” line about the boob song. It’s a smug and insulting view, really.

    We got the joke. We udnerstood where they were going. We just didn’t agree that it, and the extended gag about how bad a host Seth would be, was the best use of the show’a time with the whole world watching. Deal with it.

  10. They better not mention they produced Chicago or that it won Best Picture award on the next oscar telecast, they really overkilled it by hammering into everyones heads in the last telecast. And tell them don’t promise anything before you can gurantee that it’ll happen (i.e. James Bond tribute)

    1. And the Best Picture award wasn’t given to them directly, but to Marty Richards.

  11. It’s hilarious than anyone who watches contemporary cinema would be outraged by a harmless, lighthearted number called “We saw Your Boobs.” What a bunch of hypocrites. This feigned outrage coming from a community that boasts more plastic surgeons per capita than anywhere else in the world is priceless. That number was far less offensive than the violence and sexually explicit scenes which are prevalent in so many Hollywood productions. Seth MacFarlane’s humor is only juvenile to those who are clueless.

    1. Not the biggest Seth fan but I agree on this one. Hypersensitive PC feminist bullshit. File under the same people “offended” that Obama called Kamala Harris “good-looking.”

      Far from “controversial,” MacFarlane as Oscar host was/is as big a throwback as you can get in 2013. His stage act at least makes Michael Buble seem cutting-edge.

  12. Why not have a female co-host (or a bunch of them) co-host with him and rip him the new one that he KNOWS he was asking for?

  13. Those same people that think that Seth,Neil,and Moron have talent. Probably should shut their pie hole because they have no taste. I bet they have Justin’s Beaver and Katy Scarry playing on their DVD’s and taping Kim Whoredashian on their Tivo. They will be referred to in 10 years on the cover of “Time” Magazine. with the title:

    “The kids who left the C out of RAP!” What is the “Downsy” generation doing now?

  14. There was no offensive Family Guy episode about the marathon. Some awful person re-edited an old episode and put it online that way.

      1. He ran over runners at the Boston Marathon in a cutaway gag. It was a tasteless joke before the bombings and it still is, but it’s Family Guy, taste isn’t one of their virtues.

        Oh and that entire episode was pretty awful, and I generally enjoy family guy.

  15. I want to watch you throw a towel through a towel. The Oscars are so irrelevant I was in the throes of boredom. In Chicago.

  16. Seth is a genius, but frankly I don’t know why he would want to do it again, given the backlash. I thought he did a great job, and brought some life back to a DEAD show (for reference, see Billy Crystal’s facelifted, one foot in the grave body used as a stage prop the previous year).

    So many haters…what’s the point? Just do the Ted sequel, Family Guy, etc…and come back to the Oscars another time after it fails without him in 2014.

    1. There was no backlash. Seth brought his abundant charm, talent and humor to the otherwise tedious Oscar telecast and the audience ate it up. There were a few indignant loud-mouths which included a handful of irrelevant media critics, however, most people enjoyed watching the Oscars again for the first time in many years.

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