LOS ANGELES - First-time Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris has been slammed by reviewers and netizens for his "bland" and "embarrassing" performance.
The Oscars' hosting job is a notoriously thankless task. Previous low points in 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.
Critics were scathing about Harris' stewardship of this year's 31/2-hour Academy Awards show on Sunday, including his stripping to his briefs in a skit about best picture winner Birdman.
Jokes which received particular scorn included his "I could eat her with her spoon" line about Reese Witherspoon, and a quip about having balls to wear a pom-pom covered dress - immediately after an Oscar winner had referred to her son's suicide.
Most liked his opening song-and-dance number, and his first joke about honouring "Hollywood's best and whitest" - a reference to the lack of non-white nominees at the show.
But after that, "flat set-ups 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", commented a BBC reviewer.
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."
In theory, Harris was as qualified as could 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.
"Even stripped to his skivvies in a Birdman parody...(Harris) couldn't deliver quite all the thrills needed to get through the 3hr 38min Oscar folderol without a yawn," it added.
The Hollywood Reporter had at least some good things to say.
"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," it said.
But the Los Angeles Times commented: "Even the preternaturally prepped and prolific Neil Patrick Harris seemed...reduced at times to a small figure on a big stage, making 'good job' remarks to performers...
"At one point, he stripped to his underwear, a la Michael Keaton in Birdman, and it was just as embarrassing as you might assume it would be."