Nihilism as humor
I think I lean more toward Ace's take on MacFarlane. He can punch out a funny joke here and there, and he has a great set of pipes for voiceover work (for example, "Hellboy 2") but most of his approach seems lazy to me. He's selling nihilism as humor - random oddball juxtapositions and bottom-of-the-barrel cynicism. Wouldn't it be hilarious if your favorite childhood toy grew up to be a foul-mouthed hedonist?
I saw "Ted" on DVD after hearing months of hype, and found it extremely disappointing, with just a few chuckles here and there. It certainly wasn't the screamingly funny lowbrow hit that the first "Hangover" was. I was willing to roll with the premise, but I don't think any of the laughs reached a magnitude that really justified its offensiveness. Maybe that's what it boils down to: gross-out and offensive humor has to earn its keep, and MacFarlane's stuff just isn't funny or cutting enough to do that, the way that the better seasons of "The Simpsons" did. What he's doing is basically kindergarten playground humor with extra dirty words, drugs, and sex mixed in. The great masters of comedy, by contrast, only made it look easy.
Sometimes it seems like everything is too easy in Hollywood these days, what with the built-in franchise audiences, pre-sold creative properties, CGI special effects, and massive tax breaks. They're churning out product more often than laboring, and sometimes even suffering, to produce masterpieces. I find plenty of enjoyment at the cinema these days, but I can't bring myself to pay much attention to the Oscars because I don't think most of the nominees really measure up to the Oscar-winners of yesteryear, with the odd exception here and there. And I'm a little overdosed on the sense of self-congratulation permeating certain quarters of our culture these days.