The tapping this week of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel as a first-time Oscars host come February kicked off a sub-competition amid the usual show businesss awards scramble.
The announcement sets a prime time stage for the late night comedy battles: Jimmy Fallon is slated to host the Golden Globes next month, while CBS’ James Corden will helm the Grammys in February and appears likely to return to the Tonys in June. It's a good bet that CBS will turn to Stephen Colbert for the Emmys in the summer.
Fallon enters the game with a big advantage: He gets to go first. The Jan. 8 Globes broadcast offers the NBC "Tonight Show" host a golden opportunity to set the tone – and the bar – for the major awards show season.
Fallon gets to try to build on the work of Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who transformed the once-sleepy Globes into a must-see event over the last six years.
Their edgy performances gave the Globes a running start on the Academy Awards. Sure, the Oscars still pull in a bigger crowd, but the Globes get the host buzz. Academy Awards bids to grab back some luster by recruiting relatively youthful hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and Neil Patrick Harris largely failed.
ABC apparently hopes that Kimmel, whose fun post-Oscars specials sometimes outshine the show, can successfully transport his smart-and-smart-aleck persona to the three-hour-plus main event.
While Fallon's "Tonight Show" remains late night ratings champ, he lands at the Globes as an underdog. The informal format won't allow for the kind of spectacle that made his 2010 Emmys gig a star-enhancing turn (remember his epic “Born to Run” opener?).
Perhaps more challenging will be inevitable comparisons to the sharp elbows thrown by Gervais, who mercilessly poked the likes of Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson, and Fey and Poehler, who memorably targeted Bill Cosby. Viewers also may tune in expecting pointed post-election political jibes.
That's not Fallon's style. But he's armed a quick wit and enjoys a strong rapport with celebrities that lets him get away with mocking at will, sans the animus generated by Gervais.
Fallon's humor is no less funny for its gentle delivery, as seen in his recent promo airing ahead of Monday’s Globes nominations announcement. He’s off to a good head start, but his hosting stint will test whether being first will be enough to last through a long awards season.