Early ratings numbers for last night’s Emmys show a 10 percent slip over last year’s numbers, and there’s a fairly good reason for that beyond the fact that it was moved to Monday night: Colin Jost and Michael Che were not very good hosts. The Emmys are not a platform for “getting to know” the hosts; they’re where established presences can show off their emcee skills. Chost had very little to show off.
As promised, Che and Jost steered clear of election politics; in fact, Donald Trump’s name was not mentioned once during the entire telecast (John Oliver theorized it was because the Emmys wanted to keep those who play drinking games sober). The closest the ceremony came to mentioning Trump may have been the unusual decision to include John McCain in the In Memoriam segment, and I’ve decided that including this particular politician in a TV segment devoted to the passing of folks from the television industry can only be seen as a dig at Trump.
Michael Che did open their part of the show with a mostly toothless #MeToo joke (after a far more successful, though given the award results, ultimately empty musical number devoted to diversity led by Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson) before the co-hosts delivered a tedious, though mercifully short 7-minute monologue. In it, they managed to promote NBC several times, make a few tired jokes about the death of broadcast television, the small viewership numbers for the Emmys, and the dominance of Netflix (Che managed to compare Netflix to an Instagram influencer, who I believe he suggested probably made most of her money through prostitution).
The monologue itself felt like the awkwardly delivered back half of a “Weekend Update” segment (the non-political portion) without the crutch of their “Update” desk to disguise the fact that they barely moved. Those of you who regularly watch “Update” undoubtedly recognized what is now familiar: There’s a gentle back and forth, but there’s not much interplay. They don’t feed off of each of other so much as they fill in the awkward spaces of the other’s jokes or listlessly try to sell each other’s punchlines, “Wow.” “Of course, of course.” “That’s true, that’s true.”
They stuck to the script. It was like one of Donald Trump’s teleprompter speeches. There was no life in the delivery, and each seemed constrained by the other, limited in their own movements by the need to fit both faces into the same camera angle. There was absolutely no warmth, and nothing inviting about them. They’re not faces, like those of Jimmy Kimmell or Ellen Degeneres, that we regularly welcome into our homes, or who we may spend a lot of time with on YouTube like Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert.
Most damning about their monologue — and their limited role in the remainder of the show — is that they have very little repartee with the rest of the audience. Che and Jost are writers, who appear once a week on “Update,” but they don’t really have guests. Unlike the talk show personalities who normally host these ceremonies, they don’t have relationships with the other actors and actresses in the room, so they were unable to engage with them. They couldn’t really even make fun of the others in the room because they have not earned the right by building personal relationships with them. The jokes are only half the equation, and it wouldn’t have mattered how good they were if they couldn’t play them off of the other people in the room, which is something that even Ricky Gervais can accomplish in his cruelty.
Note that the best part of the entire monologue was not a joke, but Brian Tyree Henry’s reaction to a joke.
Much of the fun in a awards ceremony monologue is the crowd reactions, but Che and Jost gave them very little of which to react. The only other notable reaction in the entire monologue came from Chrissy Teigen, who seemed to want to hide from the awkward joke.
Thankfully, after the monologue, the Emmys mostly stashed Chost backstage, which was probably for the best. There was no life in their performance — they were like two Francos without a Hathaway. They were the hosting equivalent of making out with a fish. With Seth Meyers, Kenan Thompson, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and even Jimmy Fallon in their stable, there was no reason at all to trot out two guys with all the warmth of an Elizabeth Jennings interrogation to host one of the biggest telecasts of the year.
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