It’s now the most dangerous job in television. Celebrities used to clamor to host major awards shows such as the Emmys, but those were clearly simpler times.
As evidenced by the recent Oscars hosting debacle — in which this year’s show finally had to go host-free after a series of unfortunate events — it’s not easy to find the right emcee. There’s more pressure than ever for the people who get those gigs — and not everyone’s sure it’s worth the trouble anymore. Add into the mix that Fox is airing this year’s Primetime Emmys, and a hosting choice becomes even less obvious.
Fox doesn’t have a late-night franchise, which means it doesn’t have an obvious pick for host. But that may give creative license to last year’s telecast producers, Don Mischer Prods. and Done+Dusted, to go a completely different route. According to network insiders, everything remains on the table as the producers are indeed looking to shake things up.
ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke recently hinted that next year’s Oscars might opt out of a host as well, saying the network “will not mess with that format to the best of our ability,” perhaps further emboldening the Emmys to do the same thing. But not everyone thinks that’s a smart move.
“I’m old school, I like a host,” says “Family Guy” executive producer Rich Appel. “Anything that adds original comedy to an otherwise not very exciting seven hours of television isn’t bad.”
But in recent years everything out of the mouths of awards shows hosts has been dissected on social media and those figures have also often been blamed for the ratings decline — despite viewer erosion becoming a fact of life for broadcast programming in general over the past few years — making the gig harder to fill.
“It’s a tough job and it’s kind of a thankless job because the hosts started getting really criticized,” says “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon.
And that’s if they even get a shot. Adding to the modern awards host conundrum, ultra-picky kudoscast producers are looking for the perfect hosting unicorn: an A-list star who can bring in viewers, is available for several weeks to prep and has the chops to pull off a live three-hour telecast.
Oscar and Emmy hosting vet Ellen DeGeneres says that it’s a tough gig given how high the stakes are and how tense the energy in the room can be.
“It’s a room full of people that are waiting to see if they’re going to get an award,” she says. “It’s really hard to act like ‘it’s my show’ when it’s all these people who have all this anxiety wondering if they’re going to win or lose. And the longer the night goes on, the more losers are in the audience. So it’s a really tough thing as a host to keep that going.”
The element of personality and performance that comes along with hosting is also a bar that has been raised, thanks to the Golden Globes, which reinvented the role of an awards show host first with Ricky Gervais, and then with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Their monologues raised eyebrows — and ratings — with dry jokes that often took jabs at the very awards they were hosting, along with celebrities in the room.
But out of the box or double-hosts aren’t always celebrated. Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s turn hosting the Oscars in 2011 was panned, while last year’s decision by the Emmys to go with “Saturday Night Live” anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost was met with grumbles, too. The TV Academy was also behind the biggest hosting blunder in Emmy history, when in 2008 that year’s nominees for reality competition host — Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst and Ryan Seacrest — bombed by opening the show with adlibs.
Fallon offers a solution: Even though the Emmys switches networks every year, “they should just have one host sign up for the next 10 years and be like, ‘Like it or not, that’s our host!’ And then just enjoy it.”