Emmy Awards get boost from Neil Patrick Harris

Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:33am EDT
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By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Proving that he could well succeed as a critic should his current gig not work out, Jeff Probst summed up it nicely.

"Neil Patrick Harris ... this is how you host the Emmys," said the "Survivor" maven as he accepted his award for best reality host.

Jon Stewart later echoed the sentiment, noting that "these shows, they usually suck."

Of course, as Probst well knows, the bar wasn't set too high after last year's reality show-star-hosted debacle. But Harris, in his third awards show gig in the past year, demonstrated yet again that he's the perfect man for the gig. The star of "How I Met Your Mother" did a standout job -- starting with the hilarious opening number, during which he showed his musical talent, and continuing with his mock outrage over losing to Jon Cryer. Harris was affable, charming and simultaneously self-deprecating and comically self-aggrandizing.

But it wasn't just him. Everything about the show seemed sharper, faster, punchier: the amusing introductions of the presenters, who mentioned their most embarrassing credits; John Hodgman's witty, deadpan commentary accompanying the winners on their way to the podium; even the acceptance speeches, which for the most part were amusing, moving and mercifully brief. The speech highlight probably was that of Ken Howard, who won for "Grey Gardens."

"This is very encouraging," the never-nominated veteran actor noted, before hoping that he wouldn't be "interrupted by congressmen or rappers" and thanking both his wife (celebrating her birthday) and the woman who donated him a kidney.

The evening was divided into segments according to genre (comedy, reality, movie/miniseries, variety, drama), which lent the normally random proceedings a welcome cohesiveness. Each section was prefaced by well-edited clip montages, though, thankfully unlike last year, there weren't so many as to give the show the air of a DVR on crack. Despite being forced to acknowledge on-air the contributions of such apparently minor aspects of the medium as writers, directors, movies, miniseries and cable networks, the producers still managed to keep the show at a well-paced clip; it ended a mere three minutes late. If they really had wanted to cut the running time, they should have banned all shout-outs to Lorne Michaels. Perhaps as a mea culpa, the nominated writers and directors were spotlighted via taped, generally amusing comments about the process.

Normally painful moments, such as the dreaded appearance of the accountants, were flat-out funny -- in this case thanks to a taped bit in which Harris reprised his Internet character Dr. Horrible.   Continued...

<p>Host Neil Patrick Harris throws his cards after his loss in the category for best supporting actor in a comedy series at the 61st annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California September 20, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>