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The Emmys Get Real

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Can you imagine if the host of the Grammys used his monologue to gripe about the popularity of rap music and how it was crowding the kind of music he liked off the charts? Or what if the host of the Oscars blurted out, "You know what? Sound effects editing is for hacks!" Well, what Garry Shandling did to reality television as the host of the Emmys last night was no different.

Like it or not, reality television is here to stay. It's popular with audiences, and it's starting to win over critics as well. Like any genre, it has its good and bad, but that's exactly what the Emmy categories for reality programming are intended to recognize. Yet instead of honoring all of television's best last night, Shandling took every opportunity to denigrate and mock an entire range of programs he clearly didn't even watch. He cracked that he can't tell reality shows apart, that nobodies are stealing the jobs of professionals, and he made a running gag about doing a reality show based on his security camera footage, a joke which fell flat specifically because it showed a complete misunderstanding of the popularity of the genre.

There was nothing good-natured (or, for that matter, funny) about most of Shandling's cracks. And by attacking a genre which many people in the audience worked hard to excel at, he showed himself to be not just out of touch but also lacking in class. That's not to say that Shandling's opinion isn't valid. The surge in popularity of reality TV has caused networks to cut way back in their scripted programming, which has translated into job losses for actors, directors and writers alike, and that's obviously a bitter pill for old school performers like Shandling to swallow. But last night's telecast wasn't the place for Shandling's derision, which was not only disrespectful to the reality professionals gathered at the Shrine Auditorium but could only have served to alienate the audience at home, most of whom enjoy at least an occasional dose of unscripted programming. If the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences truly intends to honor reality shows, it should find itself a host who appreciates the entire range of programming television has to offer, or at least get them to pretend for three hours.

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