Emmy's 'slap in face' to reality show hosts

Banishment to Creative Arts show has execs, talent fuming

They're used to kicking out contestants, but reality-show hosts like Jeff Probst are none too happy now that they're getting the boot from the Primetime Emmy telecast.

Accustomed to snuffing torches on "Survivor," Probst told THR he's feeling burned by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' decision last week to consign the outstanding reality show host category to the Creative Arts Emmys event.

"It's disappointing news," Probst said. "Collectively, this category represents several of the highest-rated and most popular shows on all of television."

ATAS has defended its decision to drop the reality-host category, citing how the Emmys will be particularly tight this time because the show will be replayed on the West Coast after its first-ever live airing and is including a Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for the first time in six years. George Clooney will accept that award.

Dropping the category has been all the more head-scratching for many in the industry considering the genre is dominating the TV ratings this summer. NBC's "America's Got Talent," ABC's "Wipeout" and CBS' "Big Brother" have been solid performers as scripted programming has struggled to get a foothold.

"It's the latest slap in the face to the genre," said Jen Bresnan, exec vp alternative programming at CBS Entertainment. "These shows have brought new and younger viewers to television, it's really a shame."

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The grumbling over the Emmy snub has prompted rumblings that some big faces from the reality biz may boycott the Aug. 29 Primetime Emmys or the Aug. 21 Creative Arts Emmys. The nominated hosts this year include Probst; Heidi Klum of "Project Runway"; Ryan Seacrest of "American Idol"; Phil Keoghan of "Amazing Race"; and Tom Bergeron of "Dancing With the Stars."

Probst won't attend the Creative Arts bash, but that's because he'll be in Nicaragua filming "Survivor." He had carved out time in the show's shooting schedule so he could attend the Primetime Emmys, "but it's too late for us to change our shooting schedule again," he said.

"If you count up all the viewers that those five shows with nominated hosts represent, that's 200 million viewers," Bresnan added. "My guess is that those 200 million viewers probably disagree with the academy's decision."

The exclusion of the reality hosts category is all the more stunning considering just two years ago many of the nominated hosts served as hosts of the Primetime Emmy telecast itself -- a programming stunt that was roundly panned by TV critics. And that may have factored in the decision this year, suggested Andy Cohen, senior vp original programming and development at Bravo and a host himself of Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live."

"Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like five really talented hosts are being punished for that ill-advised opening monologue two years ago, or maybe there's just no time," Cohen said.

Bravo star Kathy Griffin lamented her own banishment to the Creative Arts Emmys -- what she calls the Shmemmys -- during an appearance Monday night on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," suggesting she might sneak in as a seat-filler. (Watch the clip below.)

Joked Cohen, "For placement in the Shmemmys, I'd nominate that category where they award other award shows -- I have never understood that."

Matthew Belloni contributed to this report.

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