The hostless award show looks better with every showing. On Sunday, the Emmys followed the Oscars’ lead in eliminating the traditional host, opting instead to move things along by leaning on presenters and a commentator. It’s probably not a popular opinion, but that’s my main takeaway from the broadcast, which predictably honored the final season of “Game of Thrones” with Outstanding Drama Series and 11 other awards.
Amazon’s “Fleabag” was the story of the night, taking home the award for Outstanding Comedy Series over stiff competition from “Veep’s” last season and “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” in particular. Creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge robbed Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, the award that would have broken her tie with Cloris Leachman for most acting wins ever. “This is just getting ridiculous,” Waller-Bridge joked upon accepting the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, “Fleabag’s” fourth win of the night.
The broadcast supplied suitable send-offs for “Veep” and “Game of Thrones.” Leftist politics were broached in acceptance speeches, but in mostly vague terms, as has come to be the case in recent Trump-era ceremonies. A strong stable of A-list presenters capably kept the show on a good pace, and peppered it with genuinely enjoyable comedy. (Amy Poehler and Catherine O’Hara were particularly enjoyable.) I wasn’t as offended by Thomas Lennon’s sometimes awkward commentary as the rest of the Internet—his deadpan self-awareness was fairly amusing—but could envision the concept succeeding with better execution.
There’s something liberating about going hostless. An excellent host functions as the icing on the cake, but more often than not, it seems they end up functioning more as nuts in the middle of it—adding an uninvited crunch every few bites. A flubbed performance is stressful for viewers and even mediocre ones can bring the energy down.
Sure, there’s some sport in watching to see a major personality sink or swim in the spotlight, and good comedians could really elevate the show’s entertainment value. But why take the risk when you can write good bits for the presenters, while also keeping the focus on the awards?
For their 71st ceremony, the Emmys could have done worse than nobody. Television’s Golden Age may be at its tipping point, but Sunday’s broadcast reinforced the ongoing generosity of our embarrassment of riches.