The last time FOX broadcast the Emmys, it opted to go without a host, instead going through a rotation of comics who kept the show rolling along. For as little as Ryan Seacrest was on the air Sunday, the network might well have done the same thing.
That’s not really a knock against Seacrest; when he was actually on camera, he was fine. But I can’t remember the last time, save that hostless FOX broadcast in 2003, that an Emmy emcee was less present over the course of the show.
His opening monologue went about as well as it could have for a non-comedian. He and the folks who wrote his material cannily took the criticism the TV academy and FOX’s choice head-on, as he joked right away about how some 6,000 people were in attendance Sunday night — and every one of them turned down the hosting gig.
Seacrest also kept the opening mercifully short, although he did manage to work in a squirmy-funny moment with his briefly rumored paramour from a year and a half back, Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher, and make rumors that he’d do a musical number into a joke to close his monologue. He instead yielded the stage to Ray Romano, who was there to present the night’s first award but turned his time into a couple minutes of stand-up about how he’s home all the time now.
After that, though, Seacrest was absent for very long stretches of time as the show’s producers opted to let other presenters handle transitions and other bits of business. Also missing were the small snippets of commentary that other hosts have offered on the night’s unfolding stories. Past hosts provided a running voice throughout the marathon that went missing a little this year.
Seacrest and everyone else who took the stage Sunday were done no favors by the theater-in-the-round setup. I’m sure it sounded like a good idea, but at least on TV, it appeared that all the presenters and winners were playing to the same side of the room. That couldn’t have been fun for the folks stuck staring at people’s backs all night.
The telecast also suffered from several technical glitches. At least three times, the sound cut off while the picture cut to a weird overhead shot of the partially obscured stage — including during best drama actress Sally Field’s acceptance speech. Field, of ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, thanked all mothers who are waiting for their children to return from places of danger and war. She closed with "If mothers ran the world, there wouldn’t be any god***n war" — or I think so, anyway. The mike went dead at "god…"
Unless Seacrest, who also did red-carpet duty for E! earlier in the day, was in the production booth for those, no one can blame him for that. He did all right, but he was let down a little by the folks running the show.