In 2019 the Academy Awards and the Emmys decided to skip having a master of ceremonies. They made this move for different reasons, but their attempts to play safe and save time left both live broadcasts coming up short of being entertaining. God forbid the engagement experience of the audience (live or television viewers) would be the priority. Having an Event MC is the glue that holds a show together. When the right person brings the energy and fun to the live event, there is a better experience. When we cut the corners (for whatever reason), the show cannot be its best.
The movie and television industries have a lot of politics and I cannot imagine the pressure that the show producers and the Academy’s are under to make sure the show is entertaining, non-offensive, has diversity, and at the same time get through dozens of awards. The purpose of the show, however, is not just to give out trophies. That could be done at a lunch that is not shown in prime time television. The Emmys should be the best of television. The broadcast itself should be eligible for an Emmy.
Having wanted to be an actor in my youth, I remember watching the Oscars and Emmys. Hosts were the part you remember years later. From Johnny Carson to Ellen DeGeneres, the best hosts leave a memory. And maybe nobody could ever be as good as Billy Crystal hosting the Academy Awards. Of course there are some flops if you look back at the lists of hosts (I can’t imagine the 1976 pairing of John Denver and Mary Tyler Moore was the best, but maybe?).
The Atlantic has an article the morning after the show that summed it up well. “The Emmys Missed The Point To Having No Host” pointed out that there is more to the show than running on time.
But not host for these broadcasts leaves a lost feeling. It was less of a show. Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert’s skit about the show not having an Event MC was meant to be a parody, but it really drove the point home that the show was somehow missing something important.
An Event MC matters. I have seen the audience reaction to a business conference when an association decides to add a host. People are often surprised to see a master of ceremonies after decades of sitting through board members trying their best to fill that role. A professional EmCee comes in and people are drawn in and get more engaged. When the host connects well, it changes the experience for everyone.
The Atlantic article I sited above had a subtitle. “An autopsy of an awards show without the cohesion of an emcee”. It got me thinking about the corporate events I host, and I am pretty sure no event organizer would ever want anyone to write about their conference as a “autopsy”. That implies it was dead. And the 2019 Emmys (and Oscars) were both on life-support at best.
Am I biased. Sure. I make part of my living as a professional Event MC for business and association events. I realize I could NEVER be hired to be the EmCee of the Emmys or Oscars. The Academy’s would never put a regular person (non-famous) to host their broadcasts…. (although I wonder out loud if that is not a great idea for their shows – ha). Yet, business oriented conferences can learn from the failures of the TV Awards Shows. No Event MC is a bad idea.
But the point in all this is that finding the right Event MC is difficult, which is why the Oscars and Emmy’s have moved away from making the decision. The wrong master of ceremonies can also undermine the success of the event. But the effort needed to find a great host will make the whole event memorable. I know it is hard for company events and association conferences to figure out where to find the best master of ceremonies – but you would think in Hollywood they have enough talent to figure it out.
Thom Singer is a keynote speaker and professional Event Host. He is the host of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast and the author of 12 books.