Emmys snub the real Best Reality Hosts

Three years ago, the TV academy created an Emmy category honoring reality TV hosts. Prior to that, they had contended alongside producers for Best Reality Series (a category since 2001) and Best Reality-Competition Series (since 2003).

Survivor,” which ignited the reality competition boom, has never won that race, although it did earn a special class award in 2001. However, its emcee, Jeff Probst, has owned the hosting award since it was created. While all Emmy voters can nominate programs in both categories, only members of seven of the 27 peer groups fill in the host nominating ballot. They are: Casting Directors, Daytime Programming, Non-Fiction Programming, Producers, Production Executives, Professional Representatives and Television Executives.

Probst’s competition has been drawn exclusively from hosts of the most popular reality-competition series like “American Idol ” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Their duties include introducing contestants, presenting the rules to challenges, and announcing eliminations. These tasks, performed with varying degrees of panache, are secondary to the talents and personalities of their contestants.

Was it the expert torch-snuffing of Jeff Probst that made “Survivor” a smash hit, or the outsize personalities of competitors like Sue Hawk and Richard Hatch? Do you remember Ryan Seacrest‘s pregnant pauses before eliminations on “American Idol,” or the star-making performances of Fantasia, Kelly Clarkson, and Carrie Underwood? While I’m a longtime fan of “The Amazing Race,” I wonder what has two-time hosting nominee Phil Keoghan done exactly to warrant Emmy consideration?

Compare their efforts to the those of the perennially-snubbed hosts of non-competition reality series. Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” apply engineering, special effects, and robotics expertise to make science cool. Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer,” uses his animal-training skills to rehabilitate badly-behaved pets. Jo Frost, of the now-defunct “Super Nanny,” performed a similar service for such children. Bear Grylls of “Man vs. Wild” teaches survival skills; just seeing what he is willing to eat to survive is worthy of an Emmy nomination.

Perhaps the grossest oversight has been Mike Rowe who is in almost every frame of every episode of “Dirty Jobs” doing, as per the show’s tagline, “the kinds of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us.” From cleaning elevator shafts to painting bridges to sexing chicks (it’s a real thing – look it up), Rowe showcases difficult and sometimes dangerous work by doing it himself, and presents it to the viewing audience with quick wit and charisma. The show has been nominated three years in a row for Best Reality Series, so we know Emmy voters are watching it; perhaps they think those dirty jobs do themselves.

In 2008, the first year of the Best Reality Host race, the TV academy tapped the five nominees to emcee the Emmy telecast, which was roundly panned by critics. I bet Mike Rowe could have done that job; after you’ve sorted out the sex of live poultry, corralling Hollywood elite would be child’s play.

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