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Mark Burnett: Nominees in new Emmy host category should be split


By Christopher Rocchio, 08/15/2008 

Mark Burnett feels comparing Survivor host Jeff Probst to American Idol host Ryan Seacrest is like comparing apples to oranges, and adding Deal or No Deal host Howie Mandel into the mix is a whole different type of food altogether.

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"Certainly, an unscripted show like Survivor is not the same as a talent show, which is not the same as a gameshow," Burnett told Daily Variety in a Thursday report. 

Burnett was commenting on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' new Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program category for the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

"I have great respect for the Emmys, and while any gain for nonfiction programming is great, hopefully every year we'll move a bit more in the right direction," Burnett told Variety.

Seacrest, Probst, Mandel, Dancing with the Stars host Tom Bergeron and Project Runway host Heidi Klum are the inaugural set of nominees for the first-year category, and will also host the Emmy ceremony. 

It should come as no surprise that Burnett is partial to Probst.

"Jeff is a huge reason why Survivor has been such a success. He strikes this balance between providing information and taking an editorial view. He calls the contestants to task, but has such real warmth about him that everybody loves Jeff," Burnett told Variety. "He's not only a great ambassador for our show, but he's a great ambassador for our country."

Soon-to-be-former Project Runway producer Dan Cutforth agrees with Burnett that Probst is top dog, however he added all of the nominees have their positives.

"Jeff is a pioneer -- no other show like [Survivor] ever existed," Cutforth told Variety.  "Ryan has been at the forefront of the biggest show to hit primetime television. Howie took a gameshow and made it special. Heidi made viewers feel like insiders in the fashion world. And Tom made this ridiculous ballroom competition make sense. Everyone in this category has done something remarkable with their shows."

Cutforth continued that Project Runway "had no business working" but Klum "became the face of the show" and made its subject matter a hit with viewers.

"It's about people sewing and living in a world that's quite closed off. You can't even buy tickets to go to Fashion Week in New York," he told Variety. "But Heidi made it all relatable to the audience and brought them into a part of the fashion world. She's not mean, but she speaks her mind and is open and honest, which comes across well in the show."

Dancing With the Stars producer Conrad Green said -- like Klum with Runway -- Bergeron also took something most viewers aren't familiar with and helped make it successful.

"Tom knows how to make us laugh, but also knows when things need to be taken seriously. He's spontaneous and sets the tone for the show," Green told Variety. "There have been some difficult moments on the air, with people dealing with family members dying and other members dying and other tragedies, then moments of great humor, and Tom can handle it all. Doing a live program like this was a lost art for a long time. Not that many people can do it."

Idol producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz can name another person who has the skills Green described in Bergeron.

"No one is better at this than Ryan. He's incredibly professional, and he's very good on his feet. He can build the dramatic moment or react quickly with humor. He's endearing and knows how to connect with the contestants," Frot-Coutaz told Variety.

"You can rely on him to bring the show in on time, and he can handle anything that comes up. Every time we look for a host for another one of our shows, we say we need another Seacrest. Unfortunately, there isn't one. If there were, it would be much easier to produce reality shows."

While Mandel might seem to be the category's square peg, Deal or No Deal producer David Goldberg said the host is Emmy worthy in the category.

"When casting, we needed someone like Howie who had experience in a variety of entertainment genres," Goldberg told Variety. "This show has some extremely tense moments. A person on the brink of winning a million dollars can end up with a dollar in their pocket. You need someone who can play to those highs and lows, and Howie does that beautifully. Howie is the glue that holds this show together -- you just can't imagine anyone else hosting this show."

Frot-Coutaz added that she thinks the Emmy's will eventually distinguish between "field vs. stage shows the same way we have seen dramas vs. movies categories," according to Variety

But for now, Cutforth said he's just glad reality hosts are finally being recognized -- period.

"I've always felt reality is the unmentionable bastard offspring no one wants to acknowledge, but has to be invited to family events anyway," he told Variety. "If I was to be cynical, I'd say [the reality hosts] were brought in for the viewers because, frankly, people are more interested in seeing the hosts of their favorite reality shows than some balding, bespectacled producer thanking his parents."

(Photo credit )


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