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CAT DEELEY '. . . THINK YOU CAN DANCE'

The Hosts With The Most

They welcome us. Now Emmy welcomes them.

June 11, 2008|Claire Zulkey

WE'RE on a first-name basis with them: Tyra is fierce, and Ty wipes tears even as he swings a hammer. Their accessories are iconic: Howie's got models with briefcases, and Jeff presides over fifth-graders. And then there are those signature lines: Padma doles a gentle blow ("Please pack your knives and go"), while Heidi's kiss-off is less than sweet ("You're out.") No wonder Emmy has decided to give it up for the hosts of prime time, a job that can entail herding contestants through a worldwide scavenger hunt, judging amateur dancers or building dream homes. We talk to some of those who will be in pursuit of Emmy's first reality TV show host award, including "American Idol" frontman Ryan Seacrest, "So You Think You Can Dance" emcee Cat Deeley, Jeff "The Tribe Has Spoken" Probst of "Survivor," and the well-traveled "Amazing Race" guide Phil Keoghan.

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SURE, Cat Deeley, the British host of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," now in its fourth season, is easy on the eyes, but what really makes her stand out as a host is her infectious enthusiasm and empathy. She doesn't only interview the contestants: She dances with them, lets them cry on her shoulder (literally) and cheers them on.

"When I first started the show, I said that I'd really like to be involved in the audition process. I wanted to develop a relationship with the dancers right from the beginning. I didn't want them to suddenly turn up to the studio eight weeks into the process and say, 'Hold on a second, who's the English bird?' If it's 5 a.m. and freezing cold and snowing in New York City and they're lining up outside for auditions, I am too."

Deeley works to be a conduit between dancers and viewers. "I want the dancers to have a lovely experience because they're ordinary people who we're plucking from obscurity and putting into this extraordinary world. Yes, it's reality TV, but these people's lives are not disposable."

Is it tough when judges send contestants away? "Sometimes it's hard to dash people's dreams, but we try to have a level of fairness and also for people to enjoy being on the show."

On the new host category, Deeley is magnanimous. "Ryan Seacrest should get it. He's brilliant. He's an absolute professional. . . . But if he is busy, I will be more than happy to clip myself into a frock . . . and get down there."

-- Claire Zulkey

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