Yes, MacFarlane had his moments of dubious taste. What did anybody expect who'd ever spent a moment with "Family Guy"?
But did he really cross the line when he described "Django Unchained" as "the story of a man fighting to get back his woman who's been subjected to unthinkable violence — or, as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie"?
Especially on a night where everyone else seemed to be on their best behavior, MacFarlane's strategic misbehavior furnished welcome relief.
In interviews beforehand, he had spoken of his hope to strike a balance between respect for Hollywood and some necessary sass. Mission accomplished.
Leading-man handsome with a gleaming smile, he began the broadcast without a net and looking totally relaxed: Alone on the stage, he delivered a series of one-liners, most of which scored. (The Oscarcast was being watched by "close to a billion people worldwide," he intoned, "which is why Jodie Foster will be up here in a bit to ask for her privacy.")
Then he opened the door to his reputation for raunch with the appearance on a video screen of William Shatner as "Star Trek's" Captain Kirk, who had arrived from the future to scold MacFarland in advance for the hosting performance he was just starting.
"The show's a disaster," declared Shatner.
As evidence, he pointed to an "incredibly offensive song that upsets a lot of actresses in the audience."
With that, a pre-taped production number featured MacFarlane singing "We Saw Your Boobs," saluting a roster of actresses who have bared themselves in their films.
But then, in an effort to atone, MacFarlane sang a classy rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" accompanied by Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum in dance.
Not good enough, said Shatner, who then revealed a video clip where MacFarlane, costumed in a Flying Nun habit, hit on Oscar nominee Sally Field in the green room.
Back and forth went the routine: Bad Seth and Good Seth. Both were very funny, stewarding a broadcast that never went askew.
Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier