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Reality bites, critics of Emmys show say

September 22, 2008 | 11:46 am

Last year's reviews of the Emmys ceremony with just one reality TV host — Ryan Seacrest ("American Idol") — in charge were bad enough.

This year, four more such stars joined Seacrest to emcee the diamond anniversary Emmy awardscast. And the critics thought this quintet definitely not ready for the reality of hosting TV's biggest night.

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As Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times said, "If we come away with nothing else from this year's Emmys, let us all agree that having a host with some experience actually entertaining people is not a luxury, it's a necessity. The show never quite recovered from its unforgivably bad opener or its less-than-useless hosts. By the halfway mark, the show was running long and many presenters whined about their bits being cut. Most of the winners were long-agreed-upon favorites ('Damages' ' Glenn Close! 'John Adams' ' Paul Giamatti! 'Mad Men's' Matthew Weiner! Tina Fey, Tina Fey and again Tina Fey!), but still, it would have been nice to let them speak for more than 15 seconds."

Frazier Moore of the AP recalled, "There have been boring, listless and otherwise ham-handed Emmy broadcasts among the past 59. Sunday's Emmycast was all of those things. But 'The 60th Primetime Emmys' also seemed an inadvertent homage to the 100 days of the Hollywood writers strike last season, when the shows that were able to continue demonstrated what TV without writers is like. ABC's Emmycast seemed to recapture that dreary world, despite the strike having been settled seven months ago, and the credits for the Emmycast listing writers and script supervisors." For Moore, "Not nearly soon enough, the program was nearing its conclusion. Jimmy Kimmel handled the chore of presenting the best reality host Emmy. With his customary wryness, Kimmel offered all five nominees a bit of backhanded praise for their shared Emmycast performance. 'Haven't they been sufficient, everybody?' he said. He was being too kind."

Robert Bianco of USA Today thought, "The lesson ABC's Sunday slog seemed to be striving to impart is that the Emmys are a joke — and a bad one at that. From Josh Groban's musical montage to that monumentally terrible, time-wasting quintet — Ryan Seacrest, Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Jeff Probst and, in particular, a dithering Howie Mandel — the show seemed Emmys_reviews_2designed to convince us that we shouldn't be watching. Not just the Emmys, mind you, but television itself. Why, in a year when so much good work was done by writers and actors, would Emmy turn itself over to five performers from unscripted TV — and reward them for their incompetence by devoting extra time to their unnecessary category?"

David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun said, "While it was exciting to see history being made, as entertainment, the telecast emceed by five reality hosts was without a doubt one of the worst in history. It was tedious from the moment Tom Bergeron ('Dancing with the Stars'), Howie Mandel ('Deal or No Deal'), Jeff Probst ('Survivor'), Heidi Klum ( 'Project Runway') and Ryan Seacrest ('American Idol') hit the stage and did 12 minutes of chatter about not having an opening monologue or remarks. The segment ended with two of the reality guys ripping off Klum's tuxedo to reveal a skimpy showgirl outfit. Yawn. The boredom was momentarily relieved only a couple of times."

For Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times, "Live award shows always have found it awkward hitting the right note in uncertain times — the contrast between the glitz and celebrity self-celebration and war or hurricane devastation is too acute. This year, the awards show tried for a self-deprecating tone, poking fun at television (Josh Groban singing a medley of television theme songs like "Love Boat" and "Happy Days") while keeping references to the real world solemn and subdued."

Tom Shales of the Washington Post found "dramatic moments were few, hilarious moments were few, sentimental moments were scarce and deeply moving sequences were nonexistent. Television has expired like the dinosaurs and been replaced with something else. Whatever that something else is, it was celebrated with forced cheers at the Emmy show last night."

Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe said, "If only the reality hosts had been a fraction as funny as Don Rickles or Ricky Gervais, who demanded his Emmy back from Steve Carell, referring to last year when presenters Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart gave the absent Gervais' Emmy to Carell. Gervais actually tickled Carell, who sat through the gag, deadpan, in the front row. Lest the reality TV hosts make the Emmys look too trendy and opportunistic, the show was peppered with uninspired references to classic TV."

As per Kathy Lyford of Variety, "After hitting a creative and ratings low point in 2007, the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards bowed a new home, the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and a new approach — a hosting team comprised of the five nominees from the nascent reality show host category. Reaction from the outset — remember, the majority of the audience members still rely on scripted fare for their bread and butter — was something akin to 'How many hosts does it take to screw up a kudocast?' All this effort amounted to nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.'

Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter said, "Budding physicists would do well to study the broadcast of the 60th Emmy Awards. They would discover a new scientific principle: The closer a televised awards show gets toward its conclusion, the faster it goes. Presenters and winners alike were virtually short of breath as they raced frantically not to run past the show's allotted three hours. Presentations were curtailed, speeches were cut off, and the shots of the nominees flew by with such rapidity that there was a danger of inducing seizures."

And finally, Michael Slezak of Entertainment Weekly admitted, "The 2008 Emmys telecast ended only a few short hours ago, and yet I'm hard-pressed to recall more than a couple specifics about the woeful performances of emcees Tom Bergeron, Jeff Probst, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Ryan Seacrest (all of whom were nominated for Best Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Show)."

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