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Emmys dump Probst for Clooney -- wouldn't you?

What with TV critics being consumed by all the brouhaha about "American Idol" judges getting whacked and the head of programming at ABC resigning suddenly and being replaced by the guy who foisted "Kyle XY" and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" upon an unsuspecting public, you'd think there was nothing going on at Summer TV Press Tour 2010 the past couple days.

Not so.

The executive producer of this year's Emmy broadcast on NBC, and the head of the TV academy, stopped by so we could thank them for deciding to cut Jeff Probst's annual acceptance speech for best reality-show host from this year's trophy show.

Turns out, "Survivor" host Probst -- or whoever else is going to win that category this year (yeah, right) - is being thrown over to make room for George Clooney, which makes so much sense on so many levels you'd think it hardly needs explaining.

And yet, some TV critics at the tour demanded an explanation, noting that when the reality-host category had been added to the derby two years ago, they'd been sold a bill of goods about how it was going to young-up the audience for the trophy show, blah, blah, blah.

Don Mischer, Emmys executive producer, noted that this year, for the first time ever, the show is going to be broadcast live on the West Coast, at 5 p.m. (on Sunday, Aug. 29) and that it will then immediately be re-run on the West Coast, for all of those people who haven't yet got it through their heads that it's going to be available live, or who do not have DVRs and think watching a trophy show in the late afternoon, instead of in primetime like God intended, is the same as having a cocktail in the morning.

So this year it's extra-important the live show end on time. Because nothing kills a good trophy-show viewing like tuning in at 8 and seeing the winner being announced for best drama series - the last category of the live broadcast. It's like reading the last page of a murder mystery before sitting down to read the book.

Getting off the air on time hardly ever happens at the Emmys - it may have never happened in our lifetimes. The Emmy show has about 27 categories to get through - more than any other trophy show. Then there are all those ads - did you know there are only two hours and six minutes of actual Emmy show in a three-hour Emmy broadcast?

Last year's show ran nearly 6 minutes long, and that's only because two winners didn't show up, which means two fewer acceptance speeches than expected.

Making matters more complicated, this year, for the first time in six years, the academy's Bob Hope Humanitarian Award is going to be handed out during that Sunday broadcast.

Because this year's winner is George Clooney.

The TV academy said it's recognizing Clooney for being among those who used the power of TV to mobilize the entertainment industry for the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" in the wake of 9/11, "Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope" in 2005, and, most recently, the "Hope For Haiti Now" telethons.

What the academy's not saying is that it wants to goose the show's numbers, seeing as how it does not yet have a closed contract to keep broadcasting the show on the broadcast networks. A new contract may not be a slam-dunk, given that the Emmys have become a big fat plug for cable networks, which annoys suits at the broadcast nets mightily.

And, when you're trying to attract viewers to a show, you do not want to lose sight of the fact that Clooney is Clooney, while Jeff Probst is, well, Jeff Probst.

And yet, despite this undeniable truth, Mischer and academy president John Shaffner continued to insist during their appearance at the Press Tour, that that is not why Probst's annual win will not be seen during the televised portion of the Emmy ceremony.

The academy had no choice, they explained. Other categories you'd think would be high on the Whack This List are protected from cutting by deals the academy has with networks and/or various guilds. Try to cut one of those categories and, for instance, a guild might decide you'd violated that pact and inform you that you're going to have to pay its members residuals on that boatload of clips you air during your trophy show. Ouch!

"When you boil it all down, you really don't have a whole lot of flexibility," Mischer told TV critics, using his Sad Face.

The reality-series host competition, has no such guild commitment in terms of whether it had to be on the broadcast or not, Mischer added.

It's not like Probst, or whoever unseats him (yeah, right), is not going to get an Emmy. He will just have to pick it up during the so-called Creative Arts portion of the two-night orgy of trophy dispensing - an edited version of which is telecast by E!.

So, you see, cutting the reality-host category really was not, as some have speculated, payback for the sabotage job reality-show hosts Probst, Ryan Seacrest, Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, and Howie Mandel did on the show when they collectively hosted it in 2008. That year, they came up with the bright idea of tossing out their opening dialogue because it would so much more who-they-are if they got up on stage and winged it. To this day, it's considered maybe the greatest debacle in Emmy history.

It's about making on-screen time to hand an Emmy to a guy who has caused more women to be unfaithful to their significant others, in their heads.

Or Jeff Probst.

We rest our case.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  July 31, 2010; 3:31 PM ET
Categories:  Emmy Awards  
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