The Television Academy announced Monday that Fox will air the 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 22, airing live coast to coast. Emmys kick off the fall TV season, and the show’s host(s) often set the tone for broadcast TV’s premiere week. And with that, let the hosting speculation begin.
With awards shows’ ratings in steady decline, the host is a key driver. It’s a tall order: Recognizable and trusted are essential. Internal talent preferred, but must have the skills to keep energy fun and high. A sitcom star with standup roots, like TK? Song-and-dance experience, like Neil Patrick Harris? When all else fails, there’s the talk-show hosts: Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert may be less flashy, but they’re reliable.
And then there’s the timing. Networks like to showcase a newer talk-show host, or the star of a hit show early in its run. That’s partly why Fox is in no rush to name a host; the awards don’t take place for another 10 months, and there’s no telling where the news and culture cycles will take us by then. Last year, NBC’s choice of “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update duo Colin Jost and Michael Che was a flop (six years in a row of men hosting, the cultural shift for gender equity), and the public also lambasted Che for defending Louis C.K.’s return to comedy.
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That is not to say that controversy doesn’t play. The return of “Roseanne” proved that despite, or perhaps because of, Roseanne Barr’s outspoken public persona, viewers were willing to tune in out of curiosity and nostalgia for the original series. However, outright courting controversy can backfire if it turns away loyal viewers or inspires a boycott.
Fox has traditionally had to be the most creative in finding an Emmy host, as it lacks a late-night franchise. Early Fox hosts included Bruce Willis, Candice Bergen, John Larroquette, and Dennis Miller, and duos like Jason Alexander and Cybill Shepherd, or Jenna Elfman and David Hyde Pierce. More recently, it has leaned on internal talent like Ryan Seacrest, Jane Lynch, and Andy Samberg.
And so, armed with the criteria for a good host and Fox’s past data, here are the best and worst contenders to host the 71st Emmys:
The Most Likely Candidates
Seth MacFarlane: He has an incredibly strong relationship with Fox. Not only has he created three animated series that has run on the network, but “Family Guy” is still going strong, the sci-fi series “The Orville” was surprisingly embraced by viewers despite critical panning, and MacFarlane also executive produces “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” Beyond that, he’s also a song-and-dance man who previously hosted the 85th Academy Awards, albeit to disastrous reviews. He’d have to update his old-school Hollywood repertoire and avoid any numbers like the ill-conceived “We Saw Your Boobs.”
Jamie Foxx: The Oscar winner currently hosts and executive produces Fox’s popular game show “Beat Shazam,” now in its third season. The network is also where he started in the groundbreaking sketch comedy series “In Living Color.” His comedy and musical chops can’t be denied, and he’d be the smart choice for Fox to break the white streak of Emmy hosts. As for his other hosting experiences, he’s emceed the BET Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, and “Saturday Night Live.”
Queen Latifah: The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning performer began her acting career on Fox’s “Living Single,” and her career hasn’t slowed down since then. Like Foxx, her musical and comedy skills are sharp, and she’s had plenty of hosting experience ranging from the Grammys to her own talk show. The “Star” actress would be a smart choice.
Tim Allen: This standup-comic-turned-actor would be Fox’s most interesting and perhaps strategic choice. He’s drawn plenty of attention lately after “Last Man Standing” was canceled at ABC and saved by Fox for its seventh season, which has been performing well in the ratings. Allen, who is himself a Republican, has cultivated his persona’s conservative point of view to great success, which could spell a broader audience for Fox. Not since he shared the stage with Kirstie Alley and Dennis Miller in 1992 — more than 20 years ago — has he hosted anything of this level (and no, “Tool Time” doesn’t count). Because of this, Allen seems more like a host who would be paired rather than solo.
Neil deGrasse Tyson: The “Cosmos” host isn’t the most obvious choice, but he has an energetic and charismatic crossover appeal. However, he’s been known for killjoy tweets that dissect the scientific inaccuracies in pop culture, which would only play well at the Emmys if it were done as a bit, say, in relation to “The Orville.” Like Allen, the astrophysicist would be a nice addition to the ceremonies if he’s paired up with the right person.
Cat Deeley: The Emmy-nominated Brit has decades of hosting experience that would rival Ryan Seacrest’s. Sadly, there’s no guarantee that “So You Think You Can Dance” would return to Fox to keep her eligible for the gig, and she’s not really a huge name on her own. That said, it would be be bold of Fox to put a woman front and center, and why not one as charming and upbeat as Deeley?
The Jury Is Out
Rob Lowe, Dax Shepherd, Nick Cannon: These actors will be hosting Fox’s upcoming reality competition/game shows “Mental Samurai,” “Spin the Wheel,” and “The Masked Singer” respectively. Depending on their release schedule and how well they perform, these hosts could see their profile be elevated enough for consideration.
Multiple Hosts: As seen with Jost and Che, having more than one host is one way to spread out the load and balance strengths and weaknesses. This would be a great solution for Fox to appeal to different crowds as long as the chemistry is right, just as long as 2008’s debacle is never repeated: That year introduced the category of Best Reality Host and in its honor, the five nominees — Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, and Ryan Seacrest – shared hosting duties for the ABC telecast. It was predictably a mess.
No Host: Every network has tried this (NBC did it in 1998, CBS in 1975), and in 2003 Fox rotated out 11 presenters throughout the telecast. More was less: It made the ceremony feel flat.