Fox Alternative Boss Explains How the No-Host Emmys Will Work This Year

The Emmys won’t have a host this year, but it will have several semi-hosts anchoring various portions of the telecast, Fox alternative entertainment president Rob Wade told Variety.

The network and Emmy producers are currently sending out offers to several stars to host segments devoted to awards in key categories including comedy, drama, variety, limited series and unscripted.

“What we’ll have is we’ll have a kind of lead host for each of those sections,” Wade said. “And they’ll come out and introduce the category, and then we’ll have presenters in between. And then that lead host will come back and finish the category… Offers are out to those people now and we’ve started to get feedback.”

Key awards — including outstanding drama and comedy — will still be saved for the end of the night.

Joint producers Done+Dusted and Don Mischer Prods. are also mulling right now how to open the show, including the possibility of a non-host host — someone who might come out, kick things off and then be done for the night. This year’s hostless Oscars took a similar approach, as Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler opened that show (after a performance by Queen) and gave what amounted to a mini-monologue.

“I think there will be a central point,” Wade said. “We’ve talked about a few different opening possibilities. But yes, I think there obviously needs to be a human being that’s kind of ring leading the opening of the show in some way. So there will be a tentpole person. And we’ve talked about that person.”

The selection of an announcer will also be key to keeping the show moving along, and producers are also now figuring out who will be the voice of the show.

“And there’s other things we’re doing, for example, like the way that we’re shortening people’s walk ups, and all kinds of stuff to save as much time as we can,” Wade said. “So you can actually hear people speak and have color commentary about the awards themselves, rather than just sort of trying to fit the awards around comedy bits.”

Fox talent will likely be included in the mix, although Wade noted that because the Emmys are split by all four major broadcast networks on a rotating annual wheel, they don’t see it as “Fox’s Emmys.”

“You really are just borrowing it for a year,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think you need to be solely focused on your network. I think you should be celebrating the rest of television, quite frankly. And if you get a good positive reaction from the viewers, then I think you’ve won. I think that that’s the main goal of this is to get that.”

The host-less experiment also comes as the Emmys has experienced ratings declines in recent years (last year’s was the least-watched on record). “We’re obviously hoping to kind of control that to some extent, and that’ll be the real victory,” he said.

Fox, the TV Academy and the producers had been mulling going without a host for some time, which Variety first reported in June. But the idea was being kicked around as early as January, while the Oscars faced their own absence of host. This year’s Oscarcast wound up ticking up in the ratings, which also helped convince the Emmys to go the same route.

The decision also came “without an obvious candidate putting their hand up and stepping up,” he said. “People are aware that the Emmys are on, and I don’t think an obvious candidate came to us that we felt was going to be really convincing. We started very early on to realize that there was a narrative with these shows. And we were kind of like, ‘this feels like the right way to go.'”

Still, Fox and the producers waited until the network’s Television Critics Assn. appearance on Wednesday just to make sure a last-minute alternative idea didn’t pop up. “I always say to producers, you never know, maybe someone does put their hand up, maybe an idea pops up, who knows. I don’t want to just shut it down. We’re not doing a host because we’re so adamant against it. It’s more like, it feels like the right way to take the Emmys for this year. But we’ll see.”

It’s probably safe to say “The Masked Singer,” Fox’s breakout hit celebrity reality series from last season, will play a role on this year’s Emmy telecast. But Wade said he’s very aware of the dangers of overusing it.

“I think you want to be careful,” he said. “We obviously will be utilizing Ken Jeong in there somewhere as a presenter and some of the other talent on the show. I don’t know if you want to go straight there. But if the idea is right, and it’s fun, anything goes. You don’t have to be too precious with it, either.”

Speaking of “The Masked Singer,” the show’s second season is currently in production, and just shot a holiday-themed episode that will air late in the season. Beyond new costumes, Wade said this year’s clues will be harder to keep the mystery of the celebrity contestants harder to figure out.

Wade said the network is also working hard to keep the identity of the singers secret — but it’s difficult.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure there’s no paper trail,” he said. “The problem with keeping this a secret is the agents and lawyers. If you engage someone to be on a TV show, it needs to be contracted out. And then various people get involved and it starts to get out.

“Maybe I’m being a little naive or maybe it’s a bit wishful thinking, but you have to have that hope that people” aren’t going to seek out spoilers, Wade added. “It’s a fun game to play with the family. And I think by cheating it, what do you get out of that?”

The 71st annual Emmy Awards will air live from the Microsoft Theater at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Fox.

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