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Oscars survive Seth MacFarlane's emcee debut

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The 85th Academy Awards opened Sunday with Captain James Kirk appearing via videolink from the Starship Enterprise, and closed with First Lady Michelle Obama appearing live from the White House.

In between, it survived a raft of sometimes off-color jokes by Seth MacFarlane in his first appearance as an Oscar emcee -- delighting fans of the "Family Guy" creator while infuriating more than a few detractors.

Fifty-seven percent of those who took part in an instant online poll on TVline.com rated MacFarlane's opening monologue "above average" or even "awesome" at the outset of a musically-themed Oscar evening.

But politically incorrect references to Abraham Lincoln's assassination, the accents of Spanish-speaking actors and women's breasts failed to impress many viewers of the global telecast.

"Star Trek" star William Shatner, in the role of Captain Kirk, dropped in from the 23rd century to warn MacFarlane he was doomed to be the "worst Oscars host ever," warning him of all the mistakes he would make.

The rambling monologue veered into frat house humor with "We Saw Your Boobs," a 1930s song-and-dance number with MacFarlane name-checking actresses -- many in the audience -- who've appeared nude on screen in their careers.

The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles joined the production number, and #wesawyourboobs briefly trended on Twitter.

Prompt relief came from sock puppets re-enacting the crash scene from "Flight" before MacFarlane returned as the Flying Nun in a flirty green-room encounter with Sally Field, the original Sister Bertrille in the 1960s TV show.

But not everyone was impressed.

"Seth McFarlane is wearing a tuxedo made of self-satisfaction and irrelevant pop culture references," wrote Ed Lee, a television writer, on his @smedlee Twitter account.

Others couldn't help but make comparisons to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's winning turn as joint emcees of the Golden Globes. "So... why couldn't Tina and Amy host this???" read one typical Twitter post.

Further into Sunday's show, MacFarlane tested the borderlines of taste with a reference to Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar-winning performance as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's eponymous film.

"I would argue that the actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth," said the comedian, referring to the Civil War president's thespian assassin.

Producers of the prime-time Oscar broadcast banked on MacFarlane to breathe fresh vigor into the show and lure younger viewers -- even if that meant risking his signature off-color brand of humor.

Introducing the reunited cast of "Chicago" to present the Oscars for best original song and film score, MacFarlane quipped: "We're concerned that tonight's show isn't gay enough yet."

When it was time to have Salma Hayek on stage to present a suite of honorary Oscars, he insinuated Spanish-speaking actors like Hayek, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem might be good-looking, but difficult to understand.

With time fast running out, MacFarlane refrained from joking about Obama's unexpected Oscar cameo, live via videolink from the White House, where she had just stepped away from a formal dinner with state governors.

On Jack Nicholson's cue, the first lady opened the envelope and declared "Argo" the winner for best picture, in one of the very few truly surprising moments of the evening.

"It was a thrill to announce the #Oscars2013 best picture winner from the @WhiteHouse! Congratulations Argo!" Obama tweeted afterwards.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130225/oscars-survive-seth-macfarlanes-emcee-debut