BLOGS

The Bizarre Reality of Emmy Hosts

by Diane Werts September 18, 2008 8:00 am
The Bizarre Reality of Emmy Hosts

Sorry, Ellen DeGeneres. No thanks, Conan O'Brien. The host-picking committee for this weekend's Emmy Awards has spoken: We don't need no stinkin' funny people!

Unless you think Ryan Seacrest is funny. (We hear you snickering.) Or Jeff Probst. (OK, it's getting out of hand.) Maybe Heidi Klum? (Stop with the guffaws already.)

And those are only three of the five reality show hosts who'll be helming the 60th Prime Time Emmy Awards this Sunday (Sept. 21) -- en masse -- in another of those "brilliant" innovations that isn't one. Doesn't anybody remember that early '90s Emmycast when dais duties were split among Tim Allen, Kirstie Alley and Dennis Miller? It was the show's first time on the naughty new Fox network, and with no one really in charge, the show devolved into a parade of people saying bleepable things just because they could. Not because they were funny.

But maybe funny isn't the point this time, either, not with the host's mic being shared by Seacrest, Probst, Klum, Howie Mandel and Tom Bergeron. None is particularly known for humor, although Dancing With the Stars host Bergeron is demonstrably light on his feet -- and not only when Marie Osmond is falling off hers.

We know this because discerning tubeheads like us were there back in the mid-'90s when Bergeron was cutting his TV comedy teeth on an obscure morning show on a tiny cable channel. In fact, we know where all these people buried the pasts they don't want dug up, don't we?

* Tom Bergeron, host of ABC's Dancing With the Stars -- He knows how to wrangle a puppet. Bergeron's initial TV splash came as co-host of the live Breakfast Time morning show on fX back in the mid-'90s when it was a cable network practically nobody had access to (or even wanted to, what with that weird logo capitalization). Those early days were freewheeling enough that a loosey-goosey Bergeron got a humorous "hand" from a co-host named Bob the Puppet. Of course, the Fox network soon took over their cable sibling's wacko hit and normalized it, which led the renamed Fox After Breakfast to flop. That sent Bergeron off to host the revived Hollywood Squares game show. He added Good Morning America and America's Funniest Home Videos to his resume before finally stepping into Dancing With the Stars, where his nimble wit paces the show in ways that are underappreciated. He knows how to keep things lively on live TV.

* Jeff Probst, CBS' Survivor -- Rock & Roll Jeopardy, anyone? That's where we remember discovering Probst, back on VH1 in the late '90s, posing questions about KISS. But before that, he paid his dues in crazy-capitalization fX land, too, answering letters from the channel's viewers in Backchat, a time-filling series that was "interactive" long before the word became ubiquitous enough for us to hate it. In 2000, Probst landed Survivor, thus avoiding those years in the wilderness Bergeron spent taking gigs like the Miss America pageant.

* Ryan Seacrest, Fox' American Idol -- Gee, how come the busy young deejay/producer/mogul wannabe never mentions his initial host gig? Maybe because it's Gladiators 2000, a 1994 syndicated TV spinoff of the original American Gladiators in which the competitors were kids. Seacrest went through his geek phase, too, on series like the computer-centric game Click and the high-tech report The New Edge. No fashion shows for this metrosexual, though.

* Heidi Klum, Bravo's Project Runway -- She's a supermodel who married hot-stuff singer Seal. Isn't that enough of a resume? Her tube roots reach all the way to her native Germany, where Klum won a TV modeling competition back in 1992. On this side of the Atlantic, she starting doing the play-herself cameo thing on The Larry Sanders Show and Spin City, before learning the host ropes on specials like World's Greatest Commercials.

* Howie Mandel, NBC's Deal or No Deal -- This guy, people actually knew! Mandel was an in-demand standup comic before turning dramatic actor in NBC's '80s hospital classic St. Elsewhere. He's had his own shows, too, including the 1990 Fox sitcom Good Grief and the cartoon Bobby's World. But even Mandel has that video skeleton in the closet. The Shape of Things was a deservedly short-lived "women's perspective" sketchcom produced by George Schlatter (Laugh-In) for NBC primetime in 1982. Comic Elayne Boosler was one of Mandel's castmates. But so were the man-dance Chippendales.

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