BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- As he prepares to host the 64th annual Emmy Awards (8 p.m. Sunday, WTAE; pre-show at 7 p.m.), Jimmy Kimmel can take solace. Odds are good he'll do better than the hosts the last time ABC aired this awards show in 2008. Back then, five reality show hosts shared Emmy hosting duties with disastrous results.
"Everyone, especially you guys, seemed to hate how the broadcast came out," Mr. Kimmel said during a July press conference at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "I was able to look good by not doing anything at all. That's my goal in life, by the way."
But Mr. Kimmel also has an ace up his sleeve: He actually watches and enjoys television; this is obvious to anyone who sees him on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (12:05 a.m. weeknights until January when it moves to 11:35 p.m.).
While a love of TV might seem like a given for anyone who works in the entertainment industry, it is not always the case. Many performers are so busy making TV -- 14-hour days are not unheard of on a prime-time drama -- they have no time (or interest) in watching in their limited downtime.
"I did not study in high school or college, and that's why I know so much about television. I watch a lot of shows," Mr. Kimmel said. "I guess I shouldn't be, in this room, embarrassed to say it, because we all watch television for a living, and for me, that's something that I can comment on that everyone knows about and it's a big point of reference for all of us."
This year the big contest at the Emmys will be in the drama and miniseries/movie categories. In drama, can AMC's "Breaking Bad," Showtime's "Homeland" or PBS's "Downton Abbey" dethrone reigning champ "Mad Men"? And in the miniseries/movie category, will FX's "American Horror Story," which viewers didn't realize was a recurring miniseries until the end of its first season, win over History's "Hatfields & McCoys," PBS's "Sherlock" or HBO's "Game Change"?
Regardless of how members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences vote, Mr. Kimmel said viewers should expect him to have a presence throughout the telecast.
"Sometimes in award shows the host is there in the beginning and then he or she disappears until about 45 minutes later, and it's nice to be able to comment on things as they're happening," he said. "Hopefully I will be able to insert myself in the entirety of the broadcast."
Executive producer Don Mischer said having the host present throughout the broadcast will help move it along.
"Out of the three hours, we have 26 awards to present, which is a lot of awards and more than any other awards show," Mr. Mischer said. "When you boil it down, we have about 21 minutes or 22 minutes of time for all the other things. So how we do that and how Jimmy weaves himself in and out of the award presentations or brings people on or makes comments about somebody who just won and walked off, that's what makes these things move and gives it the pizzazz that he's talking about. That's what we're hoping we can get."
And, of course, there will be an In Memoriam package, which some viewers like and others take as their cue for a bathroom break.
"The general practice is that about 34 to 36 names are included, and it's really difficult because there are many more people who, in fact, deserve to be in there," Mr. Mischer said. "Making those decisions is tough. ... What we really try to do is identify those people who will create some sort of emotional response among the viewers. In all the testing on the Emmys, other than the host the favorite segment is the In Memoriam section."
Mr. Kimmel said he's a fan.
"I love that even in death, you're subject to a popularity contest," he quipped. "Some people get a big round of applause, some people don't."
Fans of classic TV variety programs, take note: Tonight PBS offers "From Dust to Dreams: Opening Night at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts" (9 p.m., WQED), featuring performances by Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, country stars Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris and Martina McBride, singer-songwriter Carole King, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, classical violinist Joshua Bell, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member John Fogerty, gospel singer Mavis Staples, Train lead singer Pat Monahan, and American Ballet Theatre dancers Marcello Gomes and Luciana Paris.
Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") hosts the telecast, which was taped earlier this year to celebrate the opening of Las Vegas' new $470 million performing arts center.
"Las Vegas was known as the entertainment capital of the world, but we didn't have our own world class performing arts center, particularly for the people who live there, to celebrate the arts on the level of a Carnegie Hall or a Lincoln Center," said Myron Smith, president of The Smith Center at a PBS press conference in July.
Michael Stevens, who produces CBS's "The Kennedy Center Honors" with his father, George Stevens Jr., produces "From Dust to Dreams," which also features an appearance by singer/actor Cheyenne Jackson ("30 Rock").
As viewers gear up for the new TV season, I'll offer a PGU course -- that's Post-Gazette University -- called TV 101, 7-9 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies.
We'll discuss how TV shows get developed, why shows are put on the air, why they're canceled and how the TV business works generally. We'll watch clips from shows that have been retooled, and of course there will be time for a live TV Q&A session.
The cost is $35 and you can register online at http://old.post-gazette.com/PGU/ or by calling 412-263-1302.
FX has ordered an additional seven episodes of "Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell" that will begin airing Oct. 11. ... WPXI will air "Take This Job and Love It," a new one-hour special on employment opportunities in Western Pennsylvania, at 7 p.m. Sept. 28. ... A locally produced program, "Inspiring Lives With Dr. Shellie!," was filmed in Channel 11's studio and producers are buying time to air the show on PCNC beginning Monday at 7:30 p.m. The show's first season, hosted by Robert Morris University associate education professor Shellie Hipsky, will spotlight 26 nonprofit charities and feature 13 guests. ... Pittsburgher Donald Trent Sr. will be a contestant on "The Price Is Right" (11 a.m. weekdays, KDKA-TV) on Tuesday and Thomas R. DeFelice of McKeesport will be on the show Oct. 2. ... Comcast has added Aspire, an African-American cable network spearheaded by NBA Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson, as Channel 137 on traditional Comcast cable systems and on Channel 159 on former Adelphia systems.
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about late-night shows, "China Beach" on DVD and on-screen cable guide errors. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Hot Set," "The Office" and a "Modern Family" book. Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.
This week's podcast includes conversation about "Revolution," "The Mob Doctor," and "Boardwalk Empire." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.tvradio
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.