Tom Bergeron is not going to waltz around the fact that his two hosting jobs –“Dancing With the Stars” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” — are quite different.
“One of the shows features some of the most elegant, coordinated people you’re likely to come across, and the other one has complete, inept wrecks,” he says.
That diversity is just the way he likes it because it gives the avowed gym rat the chance to exercise two sets of hosting muscles.
Bergeron landed each job relatively easily. The first, “AFV,” came when he was hosting a New England Emmy Awards ceremony the same night “AFV’s” creator and executive producer, Vin Di Bona, was being honored.
“Much like live television, I was up there pretty much ad-libbing my way through the evening, and Vin’s mother, God bless her, leaned over to him and said, ‘You should hire him,’ ” recalls Bergeron, who also was hosting “Hollywood Squares” at the time. “Vin asked if I would like to host it, and I said, ‘Well, sure.’ It was that easy. That was the difficult part of the negotiation right there.”
Di Bona says Bergeron brings a different set of qualities to the table than “AFV’s” original host, Bob Saget.
“Bob was a comedian’s comedian. Tom is an everyday guy,” Di Bona says. “Tom’s comedy comes from being much more at ease, much less trying to make a joke than enjoying the joke, so the voiceovers are thinner, and his on-cameras are less joke on joke on joke and more directing toward the video. Neither is better than the other, they’re just different.”
Throughout “AFV’s” Bergeron era, the show has been a solid performer for ABC, placing either first or second in its respective time periods (Fridays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.) in the key 18-49 demo five of the past six seasons.
For “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC approached him with what originally was going to be a six-week gig — hosting an adaptation of the British skein “Strictly Come Dancing.”
“They sent me a DVD of the show, and I immediately got it,” Bergeron says. “I thought this is a pretty interesting hybrid of old-style variety shows and modern reality shows and, unlike many, it really doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. It’s got good humor and a wonderful sense of sexuality with the costumes and flamboyance and a live orchestra.”
Instead of being a temp job during the summer of 2005, however, the show became a monster hit, and “Dancing With the Stars” has become a consistent top-10 performer and a rare “event” series along the lines of Fox’s “American Idol.”
“‘Dancing’ is actually much easier for me because it’s live, and I just love going out there knowing there’s no net, there’s no second take,” Bergeron says.
Still, it was a challenge for Bergeron to figure out the right way to host the program, which sprinkles taped segments throughout each episode. A turning point came when he decided to train with dancer Ashly DelGrosso Costa so he could do a quick step during one of the results shows.
“I needed to understand emotionally and physically what these celebrities go through as opposed to just having an intellectual understanding about it,” Bergeron says. “From that point on, my hosting of the show became much more focused and confident than it had been in the earlier segments.”
Bergeron had already been through the process of finding his footing when he arrived at “AFV” in 2001, developing his groove after Saget spent seven years leaving his mark on the skein.
“Bob is a standup comic, and I think of myself as a broadcaster, so my approach is much more laid back and drier than Bob’s was,” Bergeron says. “I worked with the writers to find out what would work for me and what wouldn’t, and that sort of happened over the first couple seasons.
“Anybody who takes on a new job in any field knows that there’s a process of getting acclimated and finding your way around the office, what’s the good watercooler talk, where’s the best restaurant in the neighborhood and all that stuff,” he continues. “Hosting a television show isn’t any different. The only difference is you’re learning on the job in front of millions of people.”