A scene at the Oscars. Image Credit: Reuters

The Oscars have no host, Rihanna turned down the Super Bowl, and the White House dinner will be MC’d by a historian.

What’s behind the sudden demise of entertainment’s biggest jobs?

The loss of the Oscars’ latest host is, on the one hand, just another mishap to add to the list.

From 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite to 2017’s wrong delivery of the best picture award, the ceremony now seems like a particularly slow bloopers reel.

Yet the loss of Kevin Hart – who quit after old homophobic tweets resurfaced – is also a sign of something else. The fact that no one has replaced him, and that it’s difficult to think of many people who could, or would, reveals a much deeper malaise: a scary loss of nerve across showbiz’s top-tier events.

Within weeks, the Super Bowl half-time show will air.

In the past, the American football final has been an epic showcase for the likes of Madonna, Prince and Beyoncé, a 20-minute, legacy-defining megamix.

This year, though, with Rihanna and Cardi B having turned it down in solidarity with the activist NFL player Colin Kaepernick, we will be left with the hardly epochal sounds of Maroon 5.

Count me out … Rihanna declined to perform at the Super Bowl half-time show. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

A certain blandness seems to threaten all proceedings.

Earlier this month the Golden Globes made do with the anodyne pairing of Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh as hosts, while the White House correspondents’ dinner – historically a raucous roast for America’s political class – has now asked a historian to host April’s televised event after the comedian Michelle Wolf was deemed to have taken last year’s proceedings too far.

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Too hot to handle … Michelle Wolf roasted the president at the White House correspondents’ dinner. Photograph: Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters Image Credit: Reuters

And now, for the first time in 30 years, the Oscars look set to have no official host. It’s rather worrying, not least because the last time this happened, in 1989, an infamous debacle ensued – a strange opening number involving Snow White, Rob Lowe and a rendition of I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.

'Feels like a failure'

“It feels like a failure, and an ominous sign of our inability to sustain any kind of shared stage,” says Spencer Kornhaber, a pop culture journalist for the Atlantic. “No one is able to step up to the plate and just tell some jokes and get out of the way.”

This confusion is one place where the Oscars can claim a type of relevance, although not the type it wants.

As its TV audience has dwindled, the Academy has tried to shake things up by hiring a variety of “edgy” hosts.

Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Seth Macfarlane, the bizarre pairing of James Franco and Anne Hathaway: you can’t say they haven’t tried. But the reception has been lukewarm.