CMA Awards 2019: How did Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood do as hosts?

Kelly Lawler

Hey Hollywood, take a note from Nashville: Hosting is in again. 

This year both the Oscars and the Emmys telecasts went without hosts, getting oh-so-close to setting a trend that declares audiences don't need jokes in between the rich, beautiful and famous giving each other trophies. Spoiler alert: They do. 

The Oscars snuck through with a watchable ceremony by a hair's-breadth, but the Emmys were all the proof we needed that hosts are essential to an awards show. Gaps need to be filled, segues need to be made and costumes need to be changed. 

The 2019 CMA Awards, which aired Wednesday on ABC, understand this, and when they took a big swing with their hosting this year, they (correctly) assumed that more is better. 

After several years of Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley hosting the show to varying degrees of success, the Country Music Association instead tapped Underwood along with legends Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire for a show themed around celebrating female artists in the genre. The trio led an upbeat night full of affirmations, sequin dresses and a lot of jokes about Parton's, ahem, assets. 

The CMAs have always had a more casual vibe than other awards shows, and not just because of the black-tie-optional dress code. And while Underwood and Paisley always did an adequate job, linking Underwood with Parton and McEntire gave the whole event the vibe of a family reunion, an intimate gathering between people who like one another, and probably like you at home, too. 

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The three had an effortless chemistry, and their casual banter was far more successful than scripted gags. Thankfully the bits were kept to a minimum (another improvement over the Underwood/Paisley years) and the chuckles and smiles were free-flowing. 

The Emmys need a host because they're overflowing with categories, and the CMAs are likewise overflowing with performances. Underwood, McEntire and Parton were clutch in keeping the evening moving (and helping get the few awards handed out during pauses in the singing). 

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Thankfully, the entertainment industry hasn't left hosts behind entirely. NBC announced this week that Ricky Gervais will return to host the 2020 Golden Globes (although that comes with its own set of problems), and the Grammys confirmed that Alicia Keys will be back to emcee music's biggest night. 

As famous as Gervais is for his mean streak, these events don't need someone controversial or edgy to keep things rolling, as the CMAs proved. Sometimes you just need a host (or hostess) with the most, someone to keep the lights on and the smiles flowing, and make it worth staying up until 11 on a weeknight.