Why can't Britain find any decent hosts for award ceremonies?

As Ant and Dec take over the Brit awards and Nick Grimshaw fails to lift the Mercury music prize, we ask: where are our Amy Poehlers and Tina Feys?

Everyone remembers what they were doing when it happened: 22 February, the Brit awards 2012. As Adele took to the podium to collect her prize for British album of the year, the singer was interrupted by presenter James Corden, who proceeded to savagely cut her thank yous short . Her shocking reaction was caught on camera – a defeated grimace, a single middle finger raised.

This very corporate controversy – an acceptance speech rushed to make way for an ad break – was largely regarded as the most heinous crime committed during a British award show in recent years. It is symbolic of the award show slump in which we find ourselves – a state that is likely to continue in the hands of Britain’s Got Talent hosts Ant and Dec, who have been confirmed as 2015’s Brit presenters. News of their recruitment marks the end of Cordon’s three-year hosting stint, and will be McPartlin and Donnelly’s first time back since 2001. The former Byker Grove duo are failsafe old pros and the nation’s sweethearts, but while the enduring hilarity of the Let’s Get Ready to Rumble windmill choreography will forever raise cheers from the crowd, this recruitment feels like the latest in an endless regurgitation of plodding past presenters and snug TV mainstays.

A similar wash of soft mundanity was felt at Wednesday’s Mercury prize, presented by totem of youth culture Nick Grimshaw. His depleting figures on the Radio 1 Breakfast show have not stopped unadventurous execs believing that he remains the official go-to guy for all things in need of a teen spring clean, an assertion based solely on the height of his quiff and the fact that he spends weekends ramped up on rioja with Kate and Sadie in the Cotswolds.

Elsewhere, the Baftas have rolled on Stephen Fry’s presenting contract this year: he is a man who is undoubtably an expert in wry delivery and is as efficient as an Aga. Perfect Bafta fodder, of course, but isn’t it time we try something new? A Breville toaster, perhaps?

These predictable bookings remind me of the homogeny of every white male comedy panel programme each night of the week – and is in stark contrast to the current award show climate in America. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s fearless and sophisticated attacks on the Hollywood audience during the 2013 and 2014 Golden Globes (and surely 2015 too) has been an excruciating and exhilarating watch.Ricky Gervais – no matter how divisive his atheist Twitter rants and bids for the big screen have become – was a brave and brutal booking for 2010 and 2011.

Although the Academy has made some weird Oscars host choices of late – notably Seth MacFarlane and his disastrous “we saw your boobs” ditty, and the shambles that was James Franco and Anne Hathaway (described by one writer as “the Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox” of the Oscars) in 2011 – at least you can’t knock them for trying something slightly imaginative.

The current cosy booking formula may be symptomatic of contemporary British culture in general. The sense of control that now appears to dominate could be a reaction to the wider world, which feels less secure than ever. There is less of an appetite to create anarchy when a nation feels so vulnerable, unlike the certainty of the 1990s, which was encapsulated most obviously by Cool Britannia – Chris Evans, Elton John & RuPaul, Richard O’Brien. They were not entirely the height of edginess, but were a gaggle of oddballs and eccentrics none the less.

The last time two presenters dared to step out of line – Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand – they were relegated to relative purgatory (ITV, in Ross’s case). So it’s no wonder the trend for playing it safe has become a default position, one which primarily ensures that we disregard risk and rebellion to keep calm and carry on.


Harriet Gibsone

The GuardianTramp

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