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Spying on Emmy rehearsals

September 20, 2009 |  2:09 pm

Emmy Awards stage

Right now I'm sitting in the audience, spying on the Emmy rehearsal. Here's what I'm seeing.

Neil Patrick Harris is jumping up and down cheering the announcement that "How I Met Your Mother" won best comedy series. Of course, that's just pretend. They have to announce some winner while acting out the ceremony for timing. Neil knows that, but he still acts slaphappy, roaring, "I'm so drunk!"

Neil Patrick Harris Emmys

Then he trots across the stage to return to his position at a podium reserved just for him throughout the show, so he can be ever close by, moving things along. If he wins an Emmy (for best supporting comedy actor), as I think he will, he'll become the second Emmy host in history to have that experience, after Tom Selleck (best dramatic actor for "Magnum P.I."), who did the exact same trot across the stage to a side podium when he triumphed while hosting in 1984, by the way.

Dressed casually in a white T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, Neil is handling his emcee job with casual aplomb. He's a good choice for this gig, which you realize the minute the Emmy ceremony starts with him singing a new song, titled "Put Down the Remote!"

The "In Memoriam" segment is especially touching as Sarah McLachlin sings "I Will Remember You" while we see photos and clips of dearly departed Bea Arthur, David Carradine, Farrah Fawcett, Don Hewitt, Eartha Kitt, Karl Malden, Ed McMahon, Paul Newman and Patrick Swayze.

Something else I saw: Last week's winners of best acting in guest slots team up as presenters. For example, after an announcer shows pix of the nominees for best guest stars in a drama series, he says, "The winners were Ellen Burstyn and Michael J. Fox, who are here to present the next award." They walk out together to present prizes for best drama directing and writing.

The nominees for writing and directing are introduced by showing whimsical, taped snippets that are well produced in which they all answer a question like, "Is it really exciting to write for a TV series?" Since "Mad Men's" Matt Weiner is nominated for four of the five slots reserved for scribes, he makes four cutesy appearances, one of them roaring to get ice for office booze.

Dana Delany will present the award for best drama actor; Sigourney Weaver the prize for best drama series.

Photos by Tom O'Neil / Los Angeles Times

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