Neil Patrick Harris suits up to host the Emmys

I am a TV enthusiast but I also have a great love of Broadway musicals and the deepest admiration for the actors and actresses who star in them. I fact, I first became aware of Neil Patrick Harris and How I Met Your Mother by stumbling across a Youtube video involving Harris and co-star Jason Segel singing “Confrontation” from Les Miserables. Although I usually watch the Oscars, and always the Emmys, I often find these award shows tedious and wonder at some of the nominees. I have nothing against Monk but has Tony Shalhoub really deserved to be nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series every year since 2003? How about Charlie Sheen, nominated three times for Two and a Half Men? Worse than the nominees can be the choice of hosts. I know I’m not the only TV enthusiast who cringed through last year’s Primetime Emmy awards, which were hosted by the five nominees for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. I suspect I’m also not alone in wondering why Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance) and Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race) were snubbed, but that’s an article for another day. Let’s just say that by the end of the telecast I was wondering how any of them could be considered an ‘Outstanding Host’.

While the Emmys and Oscars often leave me feeling frustrated, the Tony Awards, recognizing the best in American theatre, have the opposite effect. Each year the Tonys present a group of extremely talented actors and actresses, all of whom are genuinely thrilled to be there. Unlike the Oscars, where the only performances are the nominees for Best Original Song, the Tonys present numbers from the nominees for Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical, as well as an opening number. Where else would you have the chance to watch Sarah Jessica Parker shimmy alongside Hugh Jackman?

The Tonys are not nearly as popular as other award shows. This year they were watched by 7.45 million people, an increase of 20% over last year. In comparison, last year’s lowest rating Emmy telecast ever garnered 12.2 million while the Slumdog Millionaire dominated Oscars boasted an audience of 36.3 million. Yet these more popular award shows are beginning to take their cue from the Tonys.

Before he hosted the 81st Annual Academy Awards, Hugh Jackman spent three years (2003-05) as host of the Tony Awards, winning his own award in 2004 for playing Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz. When he was announced as host of the Oscars, this TV enthusiast jumped for joy. Sure enough the Australian actor was charming, performed a great musical number with assistance from Anne Hathaway, and proved he didn’t need adamantium claws to capture an audience.

Earlier this year, How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris was announced as host of the 2009 Tony Awards. Although best known for his television work playing Doogie Howser and Barney Stinson, the actor had previously appeared on Broadway in Cabaret and Assassins. The Awards faced sound issues and a couple of touring cast performances that did nothing to convince the viewer to buy tickets, but the host himself was a hit and his presence likely contributed to the increased audience turnout.

With last year’s Emmy telecast hitting its lowest ratings ever, Emmy producers are under pressure to boost ratings. Taking a page from the Tonys, they’ve chosen Neil Patrick Harris as the emcee of the 61st Annual Emmy Awards, which are set to air September 20th on CBS. It’s worth mentioning that the Tonys and Emmys both air on CBS, the station which also airs Harris’ sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Additionally, HIMYM is set to begin its fifth season the night after the Emmys, airing in a new timeslot and without its former lead-in The Big Bang Theory.

Between his Award hosting duties, scene-stealing performances in How I Met Your Mother and his leading role in last summer’s Internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, it seems Neil Patrick Harris can do no wrong. I’m certainly more excited about the Emmys now that they have a host with musical talent and comedic timing. Just watch Neil Patrick Harris’ witty closing number from the 2009 Tonys, which I’ve embedded below, and don’t forget to watch the Emmy telecast, it promises to be legen…dary!

The 61st Annual Emmy Awards airs September 20th on CBS.

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