Critic's Notebook: Jimmy Kimmel Is an Easy, Safe Emmy Hosting Choice

Jimmy Kimmel Emmy Host Stage - H 2012
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Jimmy Kimmel Emmy Host Stage - H 2012

As expected, Jimmy Kimmel and ABC officially announced on Monday morning that the network's long-running late-night stalwart would return for his second time hosting the Primetime Emmy Awards.
Kimmel last hosted in 2012, not coincidentally ABC's last time in the Emmy rotation. Way back then, there was actually rather great anticipation for Kimmel's hosting. When ABC had come up in the rotation in 2004, the network turned hosting duties over to five reality MCs with disastrous and often embarrassing results and the two previous ABC Emmys had been hosted by Garry Shandling, a conspicuous change of pace from the recent Emmy trend toward giving the mic to a key piece of on-air comedy talent.
Kimmel, who debuted Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2003, had built an industry legend around his annual evisceration of both his own network and the competition at upfronts each May and there was some excitement about whether he would similarly slaughter the sacred Hollywood cows on the Emmy stage. He did not. He did a simple, professional, unremarkable and unembarrassing hosting job kicked off with a shorter-than-normal monologue. You probably don't remember Kimmel being good or bad, and that's probably exactly what the TV Academy wants.
Unlike the Oscars, the Emmys aren't in need of an enema, of a purgative. Thanks to host Andy Samberg and emotional wins from Viola Davis and Jon Hamm, last year's show was as well-reviewed as any award show in recent memory. We remember the opening and then the last hour of the show, rather than the sea of predictable repeat winners in the middle, or perhaps the long stretch of Olive Kitteridge prizes that even the winners weren't excited about.
Kimmel won't turn out to be a great hosting choice if somehow the Emmys end up with an Oscars-esque whitewashed slate of nominees, which seems absurdly unlikely given the nature of the TV landscape. But maybe that would be the kind of aberration that would bring out Upfronts Jimmy.
Kimmel also isn't the sort of host likely to make much of the upcoming election, if that matters to you. In 2012, Kimmel made one joke about how very few people in the room were likely voting for Mitt Romney, but that was about it. It's just luck that ABC has the Emmys every election year, but Kimmel won't be the guy to over-politicize the show.
The ABC choice also continues the recent semi-rut of networks using the Emmys to promote late-night talent, if available. Only late-night-free Fox gets the liberty to pick a Samberg or a Jane Lynch, if that seems like a good thing. NBC goes back and forth between its Tonight Show and Late Night hosts every four years. You can almost guarantee that either James Corden or Stephen Colbert (or both?) will host in 2017 when the show returns to CBS. If ABC is going this route, without a 12:30 late-night host in the wings, Kimmel is the easy and only option.
As the home of network TV's best sitcoms, ABC has a stable of primetime comedy talent that it seems unprepared to tap for Emmys duties. If The Muppets hadn't been a disaster this year, maybe there would have been temptation to break the felt barrier and have one of those beloved characters host. The cast of Modern Family is definitely past its sell-by date for Emmy hosting. The hilarious Fresh Off the Boat isn't fronted by clear hosting candidates.
Personally, my own pick to host would have been Black-ish star Anthony Anderson, who has earned strong notices for his repeated Image Awards hosting stints, toplines one of the network's best shows and was an Emmy nominee last year. Anderson has hosted a number of award-giving events but has yet to take the reins on one of the biggies and with the Oscars' prejudice against TV stars, ABC is unlikely to give him that gig any time soon. Maybe Anderson will be ready for Emmys 2020?
But Kimmel will be just fine. Barring, again, the appearance of Upfronts Jimmy, he'll make a couple of jokes, keep things moving fast and painlessly and come close to bringing the show in on time. Unlike the Oscars, the Emmys aren't broken.