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CHANNEL ISLAND EXTRA / SCOTT COLLINS

Host With The Most?

He's no comedian, and edgy he's not, but Ryan Seacrest isn't bothered by those who question his getting the top Emmy job.

September 12, 2007|SCOTT COLLINS | Times Staff Writer

As soon as it was announced that Ryan Seacrest got the job to host Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards, the longtime DJ and MC received a cryptic, one-word text message from his "American Idol" rival, Simon Cowell.

"Unhappy," the message read.

"So happy," Seacrest told me he shot back.

It could have simply been good-natured ribbing, but Seacrest believes that Cowell was indeed not pleased to see his on-air sparring partner presiding over TV's biggest night. "Any time the spotlight is starting to shift from him, he starts to panic a little bit," Seacrest explained.

Turns out Cowell isn't Seacrest's only Emmy skeptic, though. Some TV critics have questioned Seacrest's credentials, pointing out that unlike most previous Emmy hosts, he's not known as a comedian.

His work on "Idol" and a blizzard of other media projects is putting him at risk of serious overexposure (he's even hosting E! Entertainment's red-carpet arrivals show before his Emmy-hosting chores begin).

"Clearly, I have difficulty saying no," Seacrest said.

Davie Brown Talent, a Dallas-based marketing firm, released a consumer survey last month that rated Seacrest with considerably less marketing appeal than some Emmy predecessors, including Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O'Brien.

And while TV academy officials have maintained that the 32-year-old Seacrest is popular with the young viewers sought by advertisers, analysts doubt he'll deliver much buzz, or much of a ratings boost, for the Fox telecast.

By comparison, O'Brien last year captured attention (not all of it favorable) for mocking NBC and TV in general.

Seacrest will put "Fox on safer ground but won't create added interest in the telecast," predicted John Rash, senior vice president at ad firm Campbell Mithun.

Seacrest told me he's not bothered by the doubters, although he agrees his lack of comedic chops will give the Emmys a different tone than usual. He also notes that with TV inundated with award shows, he'd be happy with the most modest ratings increase compared with recent years.

So does this mean he won't be funny at all?

"Didn't you laugh when you heard I'd been picked?" he joked, then added: "I'm not trying to be something I'm not. But we should get some laughs along the way."

To do that, Seacrest is counting on help from "some faces we haven't seen before on Emmy night," he said.

For example, the producers will give the actors from HBO's recently ended "The Sopranos" a proper send-off with an onstage serenade from the cast of the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys."

But Seacrest said there's one familiar face viewers shouldn't expect to see come Emmy night: Cowell.

Although "Idol" has received many Emmy nominations over the years, it's never won an award (it's up again this year in the reality competition series category). And Seacrest figures it would be too painful for Cowell "to be forced to look at me any longer than he has to."

"He's said to me he doesn't think he'll go," he said. "But we're friends . . . I think he wants me to do a good job."

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scott.collins@latimes.com

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TUNE IN TO THE EMMYS

The 59th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast Sunday on Fox from 8 to 11 p.m. (live Eastern Daylight time, tape delayed on the West Coast) from the Shrine Auditorium.

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