The 2008 Emmys telecast ended only a few short hours ago, and yet I’m hard-pressed to recall more than a couple specifics about the woeful performances of emcees Tom Bergeron, Jeff Probst, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Ryan Seacrest (all of whom were nominated for Best Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Show).

Sure, there was the initial shock when the five highly paid professionals opened the show with neither a single funny joke nor an effort to cut to the trophy-fest proceedings with businesslike brevity; instead, the quintet just stood around, shooting the breeze like bored strangers at a bad trade-show awards dinner, waiting for the buffet line to open. Then there was the general feeling of queasiness when Bergeron and William Shatner ripped off Klum’s tear-away tuxedo, the former supermodel’s shriek of shock just a little too convincing. (Yes, like Nina Garcia, I question the gag’s taste level.) Other than those opening moments (and Probst gamely trying, but failing, to survive a set piece that put him in an old-tyme gumshoe costume), however, what else did the hosting panel do that couldn’t have been handled by a trophy kiosk and an unseen voice-over announcer?

No joke, by the time I turned off my set at 11:01 p.m., it wouldn’t have taken much to convince me that Seacrest had left the Nokia Theatre after the first 30 minutes of the show, only coming back long enough to find out he’d lost out to Probst in his division. (Seriously, has anyone ever seen the American Idol host so…muzzled?) Mandel, meanwhile, could’ve used a muzzle, as every one of his attempted punchlines fell to the stage with a thud louder than Bergeron dropping Klum like a mannequin to show the difference between comedy and drama.

I know, I know…hosting a big, nationally televised awards show is no easy gig, especially not with all the armchair emcees second-guessing you the morning after. But when a five-person emcee squad manages to get upstaged by the ten-thousandth airing of that (still hilarious) Tina Fey-Martin Scorsese American Express ad, it’s time to rethink your strategy. I know I’m not alone, as Neil Patrick Harris and Jeremy Piven couldn’t wait till the end of the show to express their annoyance (see clips below). Are you with me, or did you feel differently about the Klum-Bergeron-Probst-Mandel-Seacrest tag team?

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