Reality TV hosts bomb at Emmys

Mon Sep 22, 2008 6:14am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Snarky backbiting, on-camera confessionals and alliances dividing the room -- reality television's coming-out party at the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday had enough unscripted intrigue for its own series.

The drama started early in the ceremony when the five emcees nominated for the newly created Emmy host category took the stage for an awkward sketch that was supposed to celebrate, well, nothing.

"If you look at the teleprompter, there is absolutely nothing there," "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest said.

"We are like on Sarah Palin's bridge to nowhere," said Howie Mandel, the host of "Deal or No Deal." "The government can't even bail us out of this. This is not a bit."

To some nominees in the Nokia Theatre, however, the lengthy sketch was not only unfunny but insulting to the medium -- especially with producers quickly cutting off winners' acceptance speeches.

"I thought we were being punk'd," "Entourage" winner Jeremy Piven said backstage of the sketch. "I was confused. (In the room) it was like in 'The Producers' when they do 'Springtime for Hitler.' From Lucille Ball on, television has been so entertaining. And this was a celebration of nothingness."

Kirk Ellis, who won an Emmy for writing HBO's "John Adams," also was critical of the bit. He had been abruptly cut off mid-speech while extolling the benefits of Adams-era oratory where politicians "articulated complex thoughts in complete sentences."

"I love freedom of expression, and as soon as I opened my mouth they were signaling to wrap it up," Ellis said. "I find it interesting we can do 30 minutes devoted to reality show hosts but none for the people who actually (write the programs)."

"Survivor" emcee Jeff Probst, who won the inaugural outstanding host Emmy, later explained that he and his fellow nominees -- also including Heidi Klum of "Project Runway" and Tom Bergeron of "Dancing with the Stars" -- were unable to agree on a sketch. So they went onstage with nothing planned.

"It's hard to get five people to agree on anything," Probst said. "Every time we had one idea, we had two people who didn't like it. Did it work? I don't know."

The reality genre has exploded exponentially during the past six years with new hits joining the field every season. But you wouldn't tell by looking at the best competition series Emmy category where CBS' "The Amazing Race" nabbed a record sixth victory in a row, winning every time since the category was introduced.

"Race" executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer was asked if he'd consider withdrawing the series from competition next year to give other programs a better chance to win.

"I doubt it," Bruckheimer said. "I really do. We love these statues."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter