The 71st Primetime Emmys got underway Sunday night with one major traditional element missing: the show’s host.
As planned, the awards show jettisoned having the usual comedian host this year in the wake of the Oscars experimenting with a hostless format in February.
Instead, the show opened with an animated Homer Simpson taking the stage.
“Thank you. For those of you out there who are without hope, this has been my impossible dream!” Homer said. “If it can happen to me —” and then a piano fell on him with a “D’oh!”
Then in a pre-planned skit, Black-ish star Anthony Anderson stepped up from the crowd and scrambled to “save” the show. “I will get this show back on track! Taraji [P. Henson], we will not let this empire fall!”
There was then a backstage moment where Anderson is handed a Starbucks cup and — riffing on the infamous cup showing up in a Game of Thrones final season episode (the cup was not actually from Starbucks but everybody assumed it was). “This is not Game of Thrones, there are no Starbucks cups on television!” Anderson said.
Declaring that what was needed was an Emmy winner who could talk about the power of television, Anderson grabbed Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston to give a speech about the medium’s power, and referenced shows such as Thrones, Stranger Things, Bachelor in Paradise, Modern Family, and This Is Us.
The hostless trend was born out of the controversy that followed Kevin Hart initially being named the host of the 2019 Academy Awards. The pick was slammed on social media for homophobic jokes Hart made in 2009 and 2010. Under pressure, Hart pulled out of the production and a search for a replacement host proved fruitless. The resulting hostless show resulted in a viewership uptick and generally favorable reviews. So few were surprised when Fox decided to follow in Oscar’s footsteps for this year’s Emmys, especially considering the network doesn’t have a pool of late-night talk show comics to draw from anyway.
“The conclusion was reached that because we were highlighting so many shows going away [after airing their final seasons], that it would be useful to save the time,” Fox president Charlie Collier told reporters last month. “If you have a host and an opening number, that’s 15 minutes you can’t use to salute the shows.”