'AFV' Host Tom Bergeron on His Perpetually Renewed Gig and Wooing Bob Saget Back

ABC's double-duty emcee tells THR about how he spent a year and a half -- and a lot of money -- to bring "America's Funniest Home Videos'" original host back for its anniversary season and the clip that still slays him.
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Tom Bergeron has several affectionate nicknames for America's Funniest Home Videos -- "the annuity" and "the Duracell battery of network shows" among them.

But in spite of the jokes, the 11-year host of the series is constantly surprised by how far the job, recently renewed for a 22nd season and easily longest gig of his broadcasting career, has taken him. 

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"When I signed the contract, they were going to pick it up for a 13-episode trial," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. AFV, which first premiered in 1989 with Bob Saget as host, had been relegated to just specials for nearly two years. "It was a five-year contract, and I got a little skittish because I'd never signed anything that long before -- not that I have anything against being employed, I'm just a bit of a commitment-phobe.  But their own lawyer said to my agent at the time, 'Don't worry, it won't last that long.' And now I've signed two five-year deals, and I'll be in the second year of a two-year extension when we debut in the fall."

In that time, Bergeron parlayed his relationship with ABC into an additional hosting job on Dancing With the Stars, still one of the most-watched series on television after 14 cycles. It's a hefty time commitment when both series are in production, but the pre-taped nature of AFV does give him free time to think of new ways to liven up the show -- like his personal passion project to woo Saget back for the series' anniversary season in 2011.

"I spent about a year and a half and a lot of money cajoling him to come back and do an episode to celebrate the 20th year," says Bergeron. "I didn't think it was right to celebrate the show without seeing Bob come back."

The money, which all went to a good cause, was spent on a trip to Bali at a benefit for the Scleroderma Foundation -- which Saget is actively involved with.

"I was a ridiculously high bidder, and I thought that would do it," he says. "And it didn't."

His window came in 2009 when ABC had Bergeron do a promo with Saget for the latter's short-lived sitcom, Surviving Suburbia. "We were in quid-pro-quo territory," he recalls, adding that when Saget finally did agree, it was well worth it. "I'm a broadcaster and he's a comic, so I was really just his audience for that. He breaks me up, he really does."

As for what else he finds funny, Bergeron says that he's always happy to see pompous men humiliate themselves on camera -- but there is one clip from his time on the show that he's still especially fond of.  

"There was a golden retriever on a couch, eating a bone, and one of his hind legs was a jimmy leg," he says, laughing. "He kept thinking that his own leg was trying to steal his bone. So he'd be eating the bone, his leg would start to shake, and he'd growl at it until it stopped. He'd go back to the bone and it would start shaking again and he'd growl."

America's Funniest Home Videos closes out its 21st season Sunday night at 7 p.m. on ABC.

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