It’s hard to get a good host. Many celebrities see it as a high-risk, low-reward offer.
Are awards show hosts becoming a thing of the past? Those of us who think a good host adds a lot to the success of an awards show may hate to admit it, but the signs aren't good.
The Emmys announced Wednesday (Aug. 7) that their annual awardsfest, set for Sept. 22, will not have a host for the first time in 16 years. The Oscars went without a host earlier this year for the first time in 30 years. This will mark the first time that two EGOT-level awards shows have gone hostless in the same calendar year since 2007, when both the Grammys and the Tonys said, "Who needs a host?"
Fox Entertainment chief Charlie Collier confirmed the Emmys' decision Wednesday (Aug. 7) during the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Beverly Hills. He cast the decision as a positive, saying it will allow the telecast more time to honor the numerous TV series that have ended their runs in the past season. "If you have a host and an opening number, that’s 15 minutes you can’t use to salute the shows," Collier said.
The retiring programs include HBO’s Game of Thrones and Veep, CBS' The Big Bang Theory and Amazon’s Fleabag.
Last year's Emmys telecast, hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che, hosts of the popular Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live, drew record-low ratings of 10.2 million total viewers, down 10.5% from the previous year.
This year's Oscars, with no host, saw a healthy 12% gain over last year's telecast. "Obviously, that was a piece of info we gathered and looked at," Collier said.
Ironically, the two major awards shows that have most frequently gone hostless, the Grammys and MTV's Video Music Awards, were, or will be, hosted this year. Alicia Keys hosted the Grammys in February, while comedian Sebastian Maniscalco will host the VMAs on Aug. 26. The Grammys have gone without a host eight times (all between 2003-11). The VMAs have gone hostless seven times (all between 2004-18).
The Tonys have gone hostless six times since they became a national TV fixture in 1967. The show was hosted this year by James Corden.
The Oscars have not had a host five times. This will be the fourth time the Emmys have gone without a host.
More specialized music shows are more apt to have a host. The competing country music awards shows, the ACMs and the CMAs, have each gone hostless just once. The BET Awards have had a host every year since they went on the air in 2001.
It's hard to get a good host. Many celebrities see it as a high-risk, low-reward offer. If they bomb, it can tarnish their reputation. David Letterman was mocked for years for his disappointing showing as host of the Oscars in 1995. "Oprah/Uma" is recognized to this day as shorthand for a bit that falls flat. Who needs that?
Also, hosts with controversial pasts can cause headaches for the show just as surely an improperly vetted Supreme Court nominee can cause a president grief. Comedian Kevin Hart was announced as the host the Oscars last December but backed out two days later after declining to formally apologize for past homophobic tweets.
But a good host is worth his or her weight in gold. Neil Portnow, former president and CEO of the Recording Academy, has often talked about how lucky the Grammys were to have the right host in place on the show that aired the night after Whitney Houston's stunning death in 2012. LL Cool J, the host that year, handled the situation with dignity and grace, saying, "We've had a death in our family. So, at least for me, the only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer for a woman who we loved, for our fallen sister — Whitney Houston."
That might have seemed corny in someone else's hands — a brash comedian, for example — but it seemed genuine and heartfelt coming from LL.
Billy Crystal, host of the Oscars in 1992, saved what would otherwise have been a very awkward moment that transpired after he introduced film pioneer Hal Roach, then 100. Roach rose from the audience and received a standing ovation. He then spoke at some length, not knowing he wasn't miked.
"I think that’s fitting," Crystal said, "because Mr. Roach started out in silent films." Crystal won an Emmy for that show for outstanding writing for a variety special. He deserved it for that line alone.