Host Seth MacFarlane started slowly, but got looser (and funnier) as the show stretched into its fourth hour.
His opening consisted of some mild jokes, only a couple of which drew gasps, and some dandy song-and-dance numbers. William Shatner, in character as "Star Trek's" James T. Kirk, offered advice -- he was from the future, after all -- so MacFarlane wouldn't go down as the "worst Oscar host ever."
But it was later in the show that MacFarlane really shined, whether it was maintaining an affable, cracking-wise-in-the-living-room demeanor or simply keeping the proceedings moving along as much as the Oscars can be moved along. At one point, welcoming Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda to give the best director honor, he quipped, "They remember when this town was cocaine trees as far as the eye can see."
"My taste aside, this is a great show for people who love Seth MacFarlane and musical theater. Which is pretty much Seth MacFarlane," tweeted Time's James Poniewozik.
Twitter, of course, was the appropriate place to crack wise, and express displeasure with Oscar's choices.
"Just a friendly reminder that Harry Potter never won an Oscar. Apparently, inspiring an entire generation isn't good enough," wrote Professor Snape. (For those who've never seen one of the eight Potter movies, Snape is a wizard professor.)
"So are they going to do the BIG FOUR AWARDS in the next 12 minutes?" said Michael Buckley, noting the show's typically glacial pace.
And at least one person was upset at a snub during the "In Memoriam" segment, which began with Ernest Borgnine, paid tribute to critic Andrew Sarris among many others, and concluded with Hamlisch.
"Will someone at the academy ask why Andy Griffith, who was in more than a dozen films, not in the memoriam while publicists were?" tweeted Chuck Raasch.
NEW YORK -- He ruffled feathers. He maybe even turned some viewers off.
But it's likely no one turned off Seth MacFarlane.
Best-known until recently as the bad-boy creator and character voice behind "Family Guy" and last summer's hit film "Ted," MacFarlane seized the camera Sunday as host of ABC's Oscarcast and proved to its vast audience that he's a ridiculously versatile entertainer, a guy who can be as charming as he is famously irreverent, even polarizing.
Here's a guy who could toss off a joke Bob Hope might have delivered decades ago ("It's Sunday. Everybody's dressed up. This is like church - only with more people praying"), then carry off a deliberate groaner like his wisecrack that, while, an actor like Daniel Day-Lewis really captured Abraham Lincoln in his Oscar-winning performance, "I would argue that the actor who really got inside Abraham Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth."
Viewers could have gotten fair warning of what to expect from MacFarlane last fall when he hosted "Saturday Night Live" with skill.
But this Oscars hosting gig was the Main Event, and he earned a large measure of credit for keeping the show in satisfying equilibrium.
This was an elegant affair, including a surprise appearance by first lady Michelle Obama, live from the White House, who announced the best picture.
The lovely stage setting glowed and shimmered. And it was put to good use in a show-stopping production number saluting movie musicals including "Chicago," "Dreamgirls" and "Les Miserables," performed by stars from those films.
On a program that honored the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, Adele wailed the theme song from the newest, "Skyfall." Far juicier, Shirley Bassey belted out the theme from "Goldfinger" about as forcefully as she did in 1964.
And accompanying the In Memoriam tribute, in a year that saw the passing of composer-songwriter Marvin Hamlisch, Barbra Streisand made a rare television appearance to sing "The Way We Were" in his honor.
(If any of the studio-perfect performances raised suspicions of lip-syncing, the academy declared all the singing was done live.)
Speaking of music, the orchestra got surprisingly aggressive forcing off winners in mid-acceptance, often with the sinister theme from "Jaws," of all things.
But silver-tressed Claudio Miranda, accepting the best cinematography Oscar for "Life of Pi," didn't need the hook. Beginning with "Aw, gee, wow," he seemed to be channeling Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall" as he gratefully stumbled through his thank-yous with a series of gasps, sentence fragments, and finally his own self-imposed wrap-up, "Oh, my God, I can't even speak." In his brief appearance, he became the patron saint of any viewer who was ever forced to speak in public from the heart - and crumbled.
Few presenters knocked it out of the park in their fleeting turns, but none had viewers' teeth grinding.
Perhaps inevitably, Mark Wahlberg was reunited with his "Ted" co-star, a digitally rendered Teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane. Ted, at