Emmy for Best Reality Host: Is this category poised for a major shake-up?

Seven talented hosts have been nominated for this year’s Emmy for Best Reality Host.

Number of Emmy nominations between them: 63
Number of Emmy wins between them: 7

This is one interesting bunch of hosts. We have one familiar face returning after last being cited in 2013 (Ryan Seacrest in “American Idol”), a previous winner on his ninth straight nomination in this category (Tom Bergeron in “Dancing with the Stars”), a hosting team who won in 2013 (Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn in “Project Runway”), a comic actress who is the category’s reigning champion having won the past two years (Jane Lynch in “Hollywood Game Night”), and a couple of very intriguing newcomers (Steve Harvey in “Little Big Shots,” RuPaul Charles in “RuPaul’s Drag Race”).

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As this category has developed over the last decade, three kinds of reality/competition hosts have become the most frequent contenders. There’s “The Presenter” — the host who introduces the acts and interacts with the judges. This year Seacrest, Bergeron, Harvey and Lynch probably fit most comfortably in this category.

Then there’s “The Judge” — the host who critiques and in some cases determines just who the departing contestant is. Klum is probably best known for this part of her job.

Finally, there’s “The Mixer” — the host who personally intermingles with the contestants in a workroom, for example, and at times helps to shape the drama to come. The most famous practitioner of this style is “Survivor’s” Jeff Probst, who won this category in its first four years, and this year, it is Gunn and RuPaul who carry on the Mixer tradition.

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That being said, let’s take a closer look at this year’s nominees:

Ryan Seacrest, “American Idol” (FOX) (14 nominations, 1 win)
Given the phenomenal ratings of “American Idol” in the 2000s, Seacrest was likely the first (and for some the only) reality/competition host many Americans had ever known. But Seacrest’s only Primetime Emmy win came not for “Idol,” but for producing Best Reality Program winner “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” in 2010. (He also won a Daytime Emmy in 2006 for co-hosting the “Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade.”) When Seacrest failed to be nominated here in 2014 and 2015, many assumed that his nomination run was over. But he came back strong in the series’ final season and is thought by many to be a sentimental favorite.

Tom Bergeron, “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC) (11 nominations, 1 win)
ABC’s go-to host Bergeron has been nominated for hosting “Dancing With the Stars” every year since 2008 — nine consecutive nominations in all, the most of anyone ever in the category, and he was the one who finally snapped Probst’s winning streak by taking home the Emmy in 2012. Bergeron’s characteristic lighthearted style, particularly in his banter with the often stern judging panel, has proven to be enormously durable over the years and is a large reason why his nomination streak has continued. (That same charisma also helped him win a Daytime Emmy back in 2000 for “Hollywood Squares.”)

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Jane Lynch, “Hollywood Game Night” (NBC) (8 nominations, 3 wins)
Lynch is the reigning champion in this category, notching two Emmy wins from her two nominations. Of course, prior to “Hollywood Game Night” Lynch was primarily known as a comic actress, and quickly became an Emmy favorite. She won the trophy for Best Comedy Supporting Actress in 2010 for her performance as Sue Sylvester on “Glee” and hosted the Emmy ceremony the very next year, becoming only the third woman in history to host it solo. Her background in improv gives her hosting a distinctly comedic flair, which has helped her to stand out among her fellow nominees.

Steve Harvey, “Little Big Shots Starring Steve Harvey” (NBC) (1st Primetime Emmy nomination)
“Little Big Shots” may mark Harvey’s first primetime nomination, but he is no stranger to Emmy, having won three Daytime Emmy Awards for both his self-titled talk show and hosting the game show “Family Feud.” Harvey’s ease and experience in talking to people on camera (not to mention his radio show and public speaking appearances) give him the kind of relatability that not only puts audiences at ease but also the show’s young contestants, several of whom are probably scared out of their wits but are coaxed into performing their best by Harvey’s encouraging approach.

Emmy Awards cliffhanger: Will Ryan Seacrest finally win for hosting ‘American Idol’?

Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, “Project Runway” (Lifetime) (Klum: 18 nominations, 1 win; Gunn: 8 nominations, 1 win)
The Klum/Gunn combo is the only hosting team nominated this year, but they weren’t always nominated together. Klum received solo nominations from 2008-2010, then disappeared from the Emmy ranks for several years until Gunn was added as her co-host in 2013 — as a result, the team won the Emmy. Though Klum appears throughout each episode, she is most famous as the show’s judge delivering her famous catchphrase “One day you’re in, the next you’re out,” while Gunn’s “Make it work” is directed to contestants in the workroom, where his comments as a mixer can stir up the drama pot. Judging from their total nominations and win, they make a highly effective team.

RuPaul Charles, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (Logo) (1st Emmy nomination)
This may be the wild card in the race, since it is unprecedented for a host to earn his first nomination for a show in its eighth season. What is it about RuPaul’s work hosting the series this season that has suddenly brought him to the attention of Emmy voters? RuPaul is the judge in the competition, with each reveal of the booted contestant prefaced with a clap and “Silence! I have made my decision.” But he is even more effective as a mixer in the workroom, stirring up drama as well as bringing it out, encouraging his drag contestants to tell their stories, whether it’s being thrown out by their families for being gay or feeling empowered once they put on their first pair of heels. RuPaul’s singular blend of comedy, spectacle and heart may well make his work here stand out from the rest of the pack.

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