A Host of Comics

Sep 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The decision to have a round-robin of comics anchor the 2003 Emmys instead of a single host was the byproduct of the new Emmy broadcast deal, which gives greater editorial control to the producers and television academy, insiders said.
“We are starting a new page, a new chapter in our relationship, and so this year we tried very hard to book from all four sponsoring networks on the wheel,” executive producer Don Mischer told TelevisionWeek. “I think that you are going to find more equality across the board in terms of how many presenters or comics or appearances on the show come from each of the four networks than has ever been the case before.”
Nine comedians, including previous Emmy hosts Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O’Brien, were recently announced as performing in the show. Producers also have booked Bernie Mac, Dennis Miller and Ray Romano. Each will have a two to three minute slot to perform between award presentations.
The format marks a departure from previous years, when the sponsoring network would often try to pack a show with performers from their programs.
“The new contract helps make the selection process stronger,” said National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chairman Bryce Zabel. “The most embarrassing thing you could do is put on a network performer who’s a flash in the pan and has his sitcom canceled two weeks later. The academy’s `veto’ prevents that-though that’s not the best word, everybody has been very congenial.”
A second factor in the decision was a lack of a single ideal host candidate from sponsoring network Fox.
“Fox looked around and presumably said, `There is no single person we think exemplifies Fox. We’d like to think of other possibilities,”’ Mr. Zabel said.
A Fox representative said the Emmy producers were responsible for selecting the hosts this year and declined further comment.
The Emmys have aired with more than one host before; three performers divided the duty in 1991. Five years ago, the awards experimented with a host-free format. This is the first year in which a pack of performers will be trading off the duties traditionally performed by one host.
“By not having an overall host, we’re able to have 12 comics and able to give each one a more substantial time to score comedically,” Mr. Mischer said.
The only problem has been deciding what to call the cadre of comics.
Early press reports dubbed the performers “hosts,” which has sent Emmy representatives into a corrective frenzy.
“We’ve had to struggle over that,” Mr. Zabel said. “You’re not a host if there are 12 of you. You’re not a co-host, and you’re not a presenter. I’ve decided to refer to them as `embedded comedians.”’