The race for reality and reality competition host trophies got pretty interesting this year, with nominees representing a wide range of styles.
There are two returning nominees — past winners RuPaul Charles (VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) plus Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn (Lifetime’s “Project Runway”) — joining four newcomers: Alec Baldwin (ABC’s “Match Game”), W. Kamau Bell (CNN’s “United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell”), Gordon Ramsay (Fox’s “MasterChef Junior”) and Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg (VH1’s “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party”).
“To be in the host category, up against those people? I can’t even get into that party,” says Bell, a first-time nominee for host. “It’s an honor to be included.”
That said, Bell doesn’t feel like a host in the traditional sense.
“The show works best when I’m a person experiencing life on camera and looking for interesting conversations,” he says, noting that a good host is an attentive listener. “You also have to not always want the glory. Sometimes, as a comedian, I have to be fine if the other person gets the laugh. Or I have to be fine when the laugh is at my expense, because it all benefits the show. If you’re better than me in this segment but it does something that’s interesting and compelling, then great. It’s about not being selfish, which is hard, because in this business we’re trained to be selfish.”
Bell says the show works best when he puts himself into conversations he’s never had about racial topics that are in some way charged.
“It doesn’t have to be dangerous but it’s a topic we as a country don’t talk about enough,” he says. “It’s getting people to be comfortable in those conversations so we can have real conversations that just happen to be taped for TV.”
For “Match Game,” executive producer Jennifer Mullin, CEO of FremantleMedia North America, says she was looking for a host who is quick with a sharp sense of humor. She found that in Baldwin, who, she says, was familiar with the show and saw an opportunity to bring it back and make it his own.
“It’s not scripted and you don’t know where the game is gonna go,” she says. “You don’t know what the contestants will say, you don’t know what the panelists will say. We needed someone on their toes who would be able to maneuver the game and maneuver the action in a way that helps the viewer along. Alec has more than lived up to any expectations that I had. He has really contemporized a very classic game.”
On “MasterChef Junior,” Ramsay says he has to do more than modulate how he reacts to the show’s young contestants versus the adult competitors on “MasterChef.”
“Not only are you multi-tasking in a very competitive, dangerous environment, these kids are using some of the best knives found anywhere in the world and one slice done incorrectly could take their fingers off,” Ramsay says. “I’m a bit of a mentor-coach, but I adapt to their needs without them knowing. I put myself in the position of making them trust me so the more they trust me, the harder I can push them.”
Ramsay says it’s a completely different experience from the reaction he gets from contestants on “MasterChef.”
“They’re more wary; these kids show no fear,” he says. “I pick up on that natural talent and hunger for success with the kids. It’s a raw talent.”
Ramsay says he admired the work of Ryan Seacrest on “American Idol,” a past Emmy nominee in the reality host category.
“He’s spontaneous and natural and puts up with comments from the judges,” Ramsay says. “You watch him carefully and admire how he could be so multifaceted and then there’s the live aspect of it, too.”
The odd couple pairing of Stewart and Dogg is part of the appeal of “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.”
“They have such respect for and trust in each other,” says executive producer Kim Miller Olko of Stewart’s Sequential Brands Group.
“Their genuine interest for learning about life and other people and having a good time is what it takes,” says executive producer SallyAnn Salsano. “The best hosts are people that are generally interested. When Martha doesn’t know a guest she gets excited because she gets to know them.”
Ted Chung, executive producer for Snoop’s Merry Jane shingle, says the magic of the chemistry between the pair is that they each have mastery of such distinct, different domains.
“Martha is the queen of cooking lifestyle and everything having to do with pots and pans, and Snoop is the king of pop culture and everything having to do with pot and brands,” he says. “When you put those two together, you get an awesome combination on screen.”