Will host Seacrest lure younger viewers?


Ryan Seacrest will be a busy guy on Sunday. Not only is he scheduled to interview celebrities on the red carpet for E!'s Emmy pre-show, he's also taking on hosting duties for the 59th Emmy Awards ceremony, airing at 8 p.m. on Fox (live on the East Coast, tape-delayed on the West Coast) from the Shrine Auditorium. It's akin to singing the national anthem before the World Series, then playing third base during the game.

Emmy Awards executive producer Ken Ehrlich isn't concerned. "I have no doubt he can do both," he says simply.

Seacrest, who hosts Fox's "American Idol," is something of a departure for the awards ceremony, which for nearly 10 years has been presided over by comic personalities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O'Brien and Garry Shandling. But he brings a younger sensibility to the table and Ehrlich is counting on that sensibility to appeal to the Fox network's typically younger-skewing audience.

"The show is always a product of its network," says Ehrlich. "It has to be. Fox has a younger viewership, and our broadcast will absolutely reflect that."

A never-before-attempted "theater-in-the-round" set design and appearances by such presenters as Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Katherine Heigl, Jon Stewart and Kiefer Sutherland reinforce Ehrlich's desire to rack up the ratings in the 18-49 demo, as do a diverse crop of musical performances.

Brian and Stewie, two animated stars of Fox's "Family Guy," will perform an original number about television "live on stage." Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera will duet on "Steppin' Out (With My Baby)"; and the cast of the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" will showcase a three-song medley of what Ehrlich calls "songs that speak to 'The Sopranos,' augmented with key footage from the show." That performance will lead to an introduction of the "Sopranos" cast.

While a breezy tone will prevail, expect some moments of solemnity too, as the TV academy recognizes those who have left us this past year, including television giant Merv Griffin.

For Seacrest, who got his first break in show business from Griffin and considered him "a mentor, a friend and my idol," Sunday night will be an opportunity to make his idol proud.