Game, Seth and match to a polished newcomer

He sings, he dances and he tells boob jokes. What's not to like about debut Academy Awards host Seth MacFarlane?

Hollywood is a town known for its epithets. The truest of them all is the one about hosting the Oscars being a poisoned chalice.

It is. No two ways about it. For what amounts to little more than 10 minutes of actual talking time, the host is judged by a jury of total strangers and, usually, hung out to dry.

It's no different today than it was back when iconic gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper sliced and diced everything in their path in the first half of the 20th century.

MacFarlane, intriguingly, was an outside chance to hit the mark. He's the creator of the hit animated series Family Guy and, outside of the comedy film Ted, is not a prominent personality in LA's film universe.

But with the odds stacked against him he hit the mark. Not once but a dozen times.

OK, he leaned a little hard on some time travel schtick with retired Star Trek captain William Shatner, who looked a little tired. (And you would be too after four decades of battling with the Klingons.)

But he was sharp. And his alternately gentle and sharp routine was just right. Particularly his backstage moment with the noted former Flying Nun, actress Sally Field.

The telecast itself was tight, almost too tight. Not unlike the scores of squeezed-into-a-size-0 stars who danced up and down the red carpet for what felt like an eternity of pre-show shenanigans.

At one point the orchestra steamrolled an acceptance speech and, revealing her origins as good Australian, actress Nicole Kidman murmured concern through the side bangs of her husband's hair.

All told, it was a slightly shambolic Oscars which, at times, almost looked like the Tony Awards.

Exhibit A: the cast of Les Miserables doing a conspicuously brilliant job just after Catherine Zeta-Jones and the cast of Chicago conspicuously didn't.

It was also a saucy Oscars. If you hold the chorus of pre-show red carpet reportage up to your ear like a sea shell, you would know that hair is in, Reese Witherspoon is just the most and side boob is the new black.

And it was a very, very gay Oscars. From Dame Shirley Bassey wriggling evocatively through a rendition of the iconic Bond theme Goldfinger, to MacFarlane's re-creation of one of the final scenes from The Sound of Music and Barbra Streisand singing The Way We Were.

In that sense MacFarlane was in his element. He's the gayest straight man in Hollywood, and his adoration of show tunes and showbusiness is well known.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

This story Game, Seth and match to a polished newcomer first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.