Give Emmys to Craig
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/28/2008 8:00:00 PM
Apparently, not many people enjoyed the comedic stylings of the newly formed Seacrest-Probst-Klum-Bergeron-Mandel Laugh Troupe. Watching the early part of this year's Emmy show was like sitting through L.A.'s rush-hour traffic: You were stuck in your seat and bored out of your mind—and someone nearby had guns in their car.
I understand why ABC and the Emmy powers that be went with the reality crew. But if I were running a network—given that truly bankable hosts are tough to come by, and with the Emmys still delivering a big audience—I would have used the slot to boost one of my own stars.
ABC didn't tap its current late-night franchise, Jimmy Kimmel, and in hindsight it could be easily argued that was a mistake. But Monday morning quarterbacking is too easy, so I'll put myself out there: CBS should name Craig Ferguson next year's host.
The reality hosts were picked this year because ABC and the Emmy folks knew the show was going to be ratings-challenged at best. Many of the big nominees (and, as it turned out, winners) were great shows with relatively few viewers, like Mad Men and 30 Rock. Given that ABC was probably unable to land a huge name, the network tried to broaden the appeal by playing up the popular reality aspect.
The hosts proceeded to tank with their unprepared silliness. To their peril, they shunned advice from professionals, like Kimmel. As one producer flatly put it, the opening felt like the writers' strike was still on.
If you're at a network airing the Emmys, your first choice should be a host people will tune in to see. You know, big TV stars, like Britney Spears or Sarah Palin. But landing a huge name to host the Emmys these days is tough, so if you aren't able to bag a big fish, you should use the opportunity to promote one of your own.
Jimmy Kimmel could have fit that mold. Granted, he wouldn't have drawn huge tune-in based on name alone, and his pre-Emmy special did sink—albeit against tough competition from football and the Yankees' last game at the Stadium. But it would have created a marquee moment for Kimmel, and the opening would have been infinitely funnier (not like that's a tough bar to hit). And if you've ever been to an ABC upfront, you know Kimmel can work a room of TV execs.
Next year is CBS's turn in the Emmy round-robin. And I would skip over all the bother of trying to grab a big name and hand the job to the resident Scotsman.
Despite getting very little public support from his boss, David Letterman, Craig Ferguson has quietly steadied into a decent little asset for CBS, and he even performed at the White House Correspondents' dinner this year. And his inviting but awkward persona would probably play pretty well to the older crowd that Emmy still wants to keep happy, as evidenced by the time allotted for old favorites like Laugh-In and Tommy Smothers.
He also has the rare ability to keep things fun without getting too nasty, as ripping anyone (besides a Republican, anyway) apparently is still taboo when hosting awards shows. I was reminded of that when Conan O'Brien made a joke at the expense of every writer's least favorite actress, Katherine Heigl, and I saw uncomfortable looks on some people's faces nearby me in the orchestra level.
If CBS tapped Ferguson early, the network could have a lot of fun with it leading up to the show, and build in some bits and ongoing promotions, as Ferguson successfully did with his citizenship bit.
CBS might just manage to land someone externally who could truly move the needle, and that would be understandable. My friend Joe Adalian, the insightful columnist at Television Week, last week suggested Ricky Gervais, who slayed at the Emmys. Apparently Oscar was listening, as Gervais is already being talked up to host the Academy Awards.
But if Emmy can't dig up the bigger names, the networks should just keep the hosting in their own backyards.
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