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'Idol' has its effect on Emmy at last

Ryan Seacrest, who already hosts the top-rated show, will do the same for the TV awards ceremony.

August 21, 2007|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

The 59th Annual Emmy Awards will have a touch of the biggest show on television after all -- "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest was tapped Monday to front this year's ceremonies.

"I've covered the Emmys before from many different angles, and I'm thrilled, honored and excited to be hosting it this year," Seacrest said in a brief phone interview Monday afternoon. "With my schedule, there's always that final check to make sure I could do it all, but with the Emmys you make the time."

Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer of the Emmy broadcast, said of Seacrest, "He brings youth, he brings enthusiasm and he brings an ability for live, spontaneous television that is crucial for a reasonably unpredictable show."

He continued with a familiar comparison: "What I see in Ryan is Dick Clark."

The appointment of the multimedia talent, who also hosts a leading morning radio show in Los Angeles at KIIS-FM (102.7), was far less surprising than the timing -- less than a month from the Emmys' Sept. 16 airdate on Fox television. Typically, hosts are named months before the broadcast.

"It's a process," said Ehrlich, who noted that other major awards shows in the past have also waited until the final weeks to name a host. "You wish you could have this piece of the puzzle worked out early, but sometimes it doesn't always work out."

Like all awards programs, the Emmys has seen its audience erode and is hoping Seacrest's widespread appeal can reverse the troubling trend. Last year, the Emmys gathered an average audience of 16.2 million on NBC, sliding 13% compared with the previous year on CBS and off nearly one-fifth compared with the 2002 broadcast, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

In what was considered a bold move to revive the franchise, the Emmys originally hired "American Idol" executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick in February to spearhead the show. At the time, Warwick told The Times the "American Idol" producing team was going to "shock" viewers, but the pair backed out in the spring, citing a jam-packed schedule. Ehrlich, who has produced the Emmys show three times already, stepped in.

Seacrest, who accepted the Emmy hosting offer Monday morning, after which a press release was quickly sent out, said the program may change slightly to play to his improvisational skills.

"Since I'm not a comedian and I don't write my own jokes, you're probably going to see a different layout," Seacrest said. "I prefer to be in those live moments and listen, observe and react as opposed to having a monologue already prepared."

Despite being one of the most talked about shows in American television history, "American Idol" has never won an Emmy, though it has been nominated 29 times. Along with shows including "Entourage" and "Two and a Half Men," "American Idol" picked up seven nominations this year.

Seacrest likes his show's chances to end the drought. "American Idol," which in January will enter its seventh season, is still the No. 1 show on television. And last season's charitable work through "Idol Gives Back," which raised more than $75 million for poverty in Africa and the United States, may score points with academy members, he said.

"We're going in with our fingers crossed," said Sea- crest, who has a won a daytime, not a prime-time, Emmy. "But we're not going to hold our breath."

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