Three minutes to showtime, and Cristian de la Fuente still hadn’t decided whether he would continue after tearing a tendon in his biceps. The producers of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” the mega-popular live dancing competition, had themselves in a tizzy.
Tom Bergeron, meanwhile, was loving it.
The affable host thrives on the adrenaline rush of anything-can-happen live TV — and he can handle anything that comes his way.
A contestant strains a muscle mid-dance? Bergeron has it all under control. Marie Osmond faints on the air? He cuts to commercial — and reports back to the audience that all’s OK. The judges acting up? He keeps a straight face, cracks a joke and winks at viewers back home.
Bergeron has been driving this top-rated circus show for three years — and now, he’s finally getting recognized for it. The 53-year-old was nominated Thursday for an Emmy Award in the new category of best host for a reality or reality-competition show.
Other nominees were the equally unflappable (and punctual) Ryan Seacrest of “American Idol”; the showy Howie Mandel of “Deal or No Deal”; Heidi Klum, the uncannily steady presence on “Project Runway”; and Jeff Probst, the sensible puppet master of “Survivor.”
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced it was adding the category earlier this year. As John Shaffner, the CEO of the Academy, put it: “Reality television has become such an integral part of television and our culture, so it only made sense for us to create this new highly competitive category.”
Bergeron felt validated.
“It was an acknowledgment by the Emmy people finally that reality television has a considerable presence both on network television and cable,” he told The Associated Press. “And folks like me and Jeff and Heidi and Howie and Ryan all do ... we all have a particular skill set, more or less, that they were finally willing to recognize. Which was very flattering.”
Bergeron said he emailed Probst, texted Mandel, his neighbor in Los Angeles, and called in to Seacrest’s morning radio show after Thursday’s Emmy nomination announcements.
“We talked about taking each other down,” Bergeron said of his conversation with the “Idol” traffic cop, adding: “It’s just sort of mutual congratulations, and it’s fun be part of this inaugural group of nominees.”
Both reality hosts were happy to see their shows also nominated for TV’s most prestigious awards.
In a statement, Seacrest said: “I am grateful to be nominated in this new category and am thrilled that the Academy (of Television Arts & Sciences) is continuing to recognize unscripted programs. I am looking forward to attending and covering the red carpet so I can ask Tom Bergeron who he is wearing.”
Heidi Klum in the boys' club
Klum, who also produces “Project Runway,” stands as the lone female in this boys’ club.
Hosting “Runway” was initially difficult for Klum, who’d never done that kind of thing before, but, she said, the gig “got better and easier for me as the years went on, and second and third and fourth season in, I really got to love it and I really enjoy it now.”
Mandel is relishing this moment.
“In today’s world, in television, there are 600 channels going 24 hours, to be recognized for anything — just to be recognized — is an honor. For someone to say, ‘Are you that guy from that show?’ — that’s huge for me,” he told the AP.
Mandel said he turned down the offer to host NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” three times.
“It’s been the best time professionally that I’ve ever had, to be a part of this show,” he said. “Just being a game show host, the connotation that I had in my head is not what it’s become for me. They kind of just let me be me.”
Bergeron, who won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2000 as game-show host of “Hollywood Squares,” ostensibly gets paid big bucks to be himself: cheeky, familiar and ready for anything. Especially on live TV.
“That’s what love about it,” he said. “The fact that it is live — that there’s no second take, that you have to be totally present — is really a large part of it’s appeal to me.”
He said he’s more comfortable doing “Dancing” than making small talk with strangers at a cocktail party.
“In a lot of ways, it’s the most relaxing hours of my day,” he said, without a sliver of irony.