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Emmy casts Gumbel

Former “Today” anchor Bryant Gumbel will be the lone host of “The 49th annual Primetime Emmy Awards” Sept. 14 on CBS, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced Tuesday.

The fact that the Emmys are airing on CBS — the network that in March snagged Gumbel with a five-year, $25 million deal — makes Gumbel in some ways an obvious choice. Except that he neither sings nor dances nor tells jokes, limiting his entertainment potential as the only host of an awards show.

“No, I don’t sing or dance; the myth stops with me,” admitted Gumbel, 48, in a phone interview Tuesday. “I don’t do standup, either. And I have no intention of getting up there and trying to be something I’m not.

“But anyone who ever watched me on the ‘Today’ program knows that I do have a sense of humor, I do like to laugh, and that I’m capable of responding to things live as they happen.”

What he hopes to accomplish as Emmy host, Gumbel said, is bring a level of dignity and class to the festivities that may have been lacking in recent years.

“It’s really become hip to demean the whole thing,” Gumbel said. “So (Emmy executive producer) Don Mischer and (CBS Entertainment prexy) Leslie Moonves and I want to take the telecast in a little different direction. We want to say, ‘Hey look, there’s a lot of good on TV, and we’re here to salute what’s good in an intelligent fashion.’ ”

There is some precedent for using a news personality in the Primetime Emmy host role. Back in 1967, Hugh Downs co-hosted the ceremony from New York City as Joey Bishop handled things in L.A. And in 1990, former “Today” anchor Jane Pauley co-hosted with Candice Bergen and Jay Leno.

That makes Gumbel the second “Today” alumnus to preside over the Emmys, but the first to do it alone. But he claimed Tuesday not to be overly concerned about the potential for disaster, or at least embarrassment.

“Anytime you do something different, you run a risk,” allowed Gumbel, himself a three-time Emmy winner. “My approach will be that people aren’t watching to see me, anyway, but to enjoy the program and see who wins.”

Of the choice of Gumbel, ATAS prexy Richard Frank said, “We feel certain he will bring the right mix of personality, charm and dignity to the occasion and be ready for the unexpected from his vast experience with live shows.”

Moonves added that Gumbel’s “versatility, charm and style make him the ideal choice to successfully and gracefully host any event.”

The last time the Emmys were hosted by a single individual was Angela Lansbury’s stint in 1993. Dennis Miller also flew solo on the Primetime Emmys in 1991.

Emmy hosting tandems have been more common in the 1990s, however. Paul Reiser was the primary Emmy host last year, but received significant assists from Oprah Winfrey and Michael J. Fox. Jason Alexander and Cybill Shepherd shared the Emmy duties in 1995, Ellen DeGeneres and Patricia Richardson in 1994. And Miller co-hosted with Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley in ’92.

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