Seacrest's Emmys gig raises host of concerns


I thought it had to be a joke -- and frankly, it kinda was. We learned Monday that Ryan Seacrest will be pulling himself away from E!'s preshow coverage of red-carpet arrivals long enough to actually host the 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 16, and I'm guessing it's because Sanjaya (or possibly the carpet itself) turned the gig down.

We all know why Seacrest landed the assignment despite his being utterly miscast in this venue. Fox has the Emmy telecast this year. Fox also airs "American Idol," which Seacrest hosts. Hello, corporate synergy. Conan O'Brien hosted last year because it was NBC's turn in the rotation. This is how the game works. Rocket surgery it is not.

The difference, of course, is that O'Brien is a legitimate television personality with a writing staff that understands how to craft topical irreverence for a guy who knows how to deliver a punch line. Ryan Seacrest is ... um ... Ryan Seacrest. He doesn't sing. He doesn't dance. He doesn't act. He doesn't tell jokes. He reads. And his skin is all clean and shiny.

Seacrest's appointment affords Fox the opportunity to promote the Emmycast like so: "The Emmy Awards, with host Ryan Seacrest, America's foremost deliverer of prepared text. He's not old like your parents!"

This makes roughly as much sense as recruiting Lindsay Lohan to front a "Just Say No" campaign. Seacrest seems an affable enough guy and is agreeably polished, but let's just say he lacks the requisite charisma to preside here. He also hasn't come close to earning this kind of honor just yet, unless we believe it's high time to lay a career achievement Oscar on Dakota Fanning.

It all smacks of a certain desperation on the part of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The Emmy TV ratings are not at, shall we say, "American Idol" levels. The academy appears to feel that what's needed to boost interest in the show with the 18-34 demographic in particular is somebody youthful and generic presiding over it.

Let's forget for a moment that the Emmys have rarely been a young demo draw to begin with. I'm not sure that Seacrest is the answer any more than Chris Rock was for the Oscars. Rock, however, is at least an entertainer. Seacrest is a human TelePrompTer.

It isn't as if Fox couldn't find someone else in its ranks with more legit cache. Seacrest isn't even the most logical choice connected with "Idol." That would be Simon Cowell. And if they wanted a comedian, a three-time Emmy winner named Brad Garrett (starring in Fox's " 'Till Death") could have fit the bill just fine, as would "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" host Jeff Foxworthy. Heck, they could have simply drafted Homer Simpson -- and you just know he'd have worked cheap.

Nonetheless, this year's Emmy telecast executive producer Ken Ehrlich has two words for anyone who questions the Seacrest decision: Dick Clark.

"I'm not sure anyone would have called Clark an entertainer, either -- and I don't mean that disparagingly -- but he did pretty well hosting awards shows," Ehrlich stresses. "Ryan is good on his feet. He's a huge draw, with his morning radio show and syndicated weekly show and of course being on 'Idol.' There's a lot of cache there, and we all felt he had the potential to bring some of that to the Emmys. It was an easy choice."

We'll all just have to wait and see whether Ryan's hope can truly inflame the passions of the young and the restless, or if as predicted he embodies another daze in our lives. It's nearly time for America to vote.
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