So how did Neil Patrick Harris do as Oscars 2015 host?
LOS ANGELES, USA – Host Neil Patrick Harris got mixed reviews for his hosting duties at the 2015 Oscars Sunday, February 22.
A great start
Most liked his opening song-and-dance number, and his first joke about honoring "Hollywood's best and whitest" - a reference to the lack of non-white nominees at the show.
"Today we honor Hollywood's best and whitest. Sorry, brightest," the 41-year-old comic quipped as the three-and-a-half-hour gala, telecast worldwide, got under way.
This name joke also got some laughs from the audience.
"Benedict Cumberbatch," he said in another joke later in the evening, introducing the best-actor nominee for The Imitation Game.
"It's not only the most awesome name in show business, it's also the sound you get when you ask John Travolta to pronounce Ben Affleck." (Oscars 2015: Meet 'Glom Gazingo,' or John Travolta, presented by Idina Menzel)
"Harris mastered the challenge of commanding the room, chumming up to folks in the front rows throughout the show, while speaking directly to movie-lovers at home," said The Hollywood Reporter.
"First impressions suggest Harris is the right guy for what can admittedly be a rather thankless job," blogged Variety television critic Brian Lowry as the awards ceremony was still under way.
Among those praising Harris was Seth MacFarlane, whose 2013 turn as Oscars host was judged by many to be a shade too edgy for prime time.
My pal @ActuallyNPH is fantastic as usual. There's nothing this man can't do brilliantly.— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) February 23, 2015
Harris falls flat
However, not everyone liked Harris’s gags.
A reviewer from the BBC commented that after the dance performance, “flat setups began crashing into flubbed punchlines with the alacrity of a drunk sailor inviting the entire pub to have a go if they think they're hard enough,”
The New York Times called his performance "bland," adding: "Oscar nights almost always drag on too long, but this one was a slog almost from the very beginning."
Critics were scathing about Harris' stewardship of this year's three-and-a-half hour Academy Awards show, including his stripping to his briefs in a skit about best picture winner Birdman.
Clearly relishing his Oscar duties, Harris went on to spoof Michael Keaton's underwear scene in Birdman – which went on to win best picture – appearing on stage in white briefs, black socks and nothing else.
"Even stripped to his skivvies in a Birdman parody ... (Harris) couldn’t deliver quite all the thrills needed to get through the three-hour, 38-minute Oscar folderol without a yawn," said the Washington Post.
His bid to compare the box-office success of American Sniper to Oprah Winfrey's fortune fell flat, even if the talk-show diva took it in stride.
Jokes which came in for particular scorn included his "I could eat her with her spoon" line about Reese Witherspoon, and a quip about a having balls to wear a pom-pom covered dress, immediately after an Oscar winner had referred to her son's suicide.
A thankless job
The Oscars' hosting job is a notoriously thankless task. Previous low-points of recent years include the wince-inducing duo of James Franco and Anne Hathaway in 2011.
Harris also had a tough act to follow: last year's host Ellen DeGeneres powered the show to a 10-year ratings high. (READ: Ellen's Oscars 'Selfie' is most retweeted post of all time)
In theory Harris was as qualified as it's possible to be: he has won four Primetime Emmys for hosting Broadway's Tony awards.
But the Washington Post wrote: "It was bound to happen eventually. Neil Patrick Harris, the man who can host anything, finally stumbled."
On Twitter, Neil Patrick Harris acknowledged the support of his gag writers toiling behind the scenes.
TV ratings for the Oscars' US broadcast fell 16 percent from last year, according to figures published Monday, February 23 amid lukewarm reviews and criticism for its first-time host Neil Patrick Harris.
Sunday night's show averaged 36.6 million viewers, down from 43.7 million in 2014, according to Nielsen ratings cited by industry journal Variety, which noted that the total viewer count was the lowest in six years.
Some blamed the relative lack of mass-appeal movies among those nominated, while for others the predictability of the awards races this year didn't help – almost all of the categories went without surprise. – with reports from Michael Thurston/AFP
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