Show about nothing

Kickoff sketch with reality show hosts falls flat

Snarky backbiting, on-camera confessionals and alliances dividing the room — reality's Emmy coming-out party had enough unscripted intrigue for its own series.

The drama started early at the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards when five emcees nominated for the newly created Emmy host category took the stage for an awkward sketch that was supposed to celebrate, well, nothing.

"If you look at the teleprompter, there is absolutely nothing there," Ryan Seacrest said.

"We are like on Sarah Palin's bridge to nowhere," Howie Mandel said. "The government can't even bail us out of this. This is not a bit."

To some nominees in the Nokia Theatre, however, the lengthy sketch was not only unfunny but also insulting to the medium — especially with producers quickly cutting off winners' acceptance speeches.

"I thought we were being punk'd," "Entourage" winner Jeremy Piven said backstage of the sketch. "I was confused. (In the room) it was like in 'The Producers' when they do 'Springtime for Hitler.' From Lucille Ball on, television has been so entertaining. And this was a celebration of nothingness."

Kirk Ellis, who won an Emmy for writing HBO's "John Adams," also was critical of the bit. Ironically, Ellis was played offstage while exposing the benefits of Adams-era oratory, when politicians "articulated complex thoughts in complete sentences."

"I love freedom of expression, and as soon as I opened my mouth they were signaling to wrap it up," Ellis said. "I find it interesting we can do 30 minutes devoted to reality show hosts but none for the people who actually (write the programs)."

The reactions came after an interview during the weekend with WGA president Patric Verrone, in which he called the Emmy Awards "an injustice" against writers by focusing on reality hosts when most unscripted shows are not signatory to the guild.

Nonetheless, presenter Jimmy Kimmel helped salvage the reality quintet in a spoof leading up to the award for best reality show host.

"Survivor" emcee Jeff Probst, who won the inaugural outstanding reality host Emmy, later explained that he and his fellow nominees were unable to agree on a sketch, so they went onstage with nothing planned.

The reality genre has exploded exponentially during the past six years, with new hits joining the field every season. But you wouldn't tell by looking at the best competition series Emmy category, where CBS' "The Amazing Race" nabbed a record sixth victory in a row, winning every time since the category was introduced.

"Race" executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer was asked whether he'd consider withdrawing the series from competition next year to give other programs a better chance to win.

"I doubt it," Bruckheimer said. "I really do. We love these statues." (partialdiff)