I hope Neil Patrick Harris does in fact wind up hosting the Emmy awards. He’s the obvious choice. I just hope it doesn’t interfere with his ability to win the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmy that should have been his already. This may be his best chance to beat the absurdly over-awarded Jeremy Piven, since this wasn’t a great season for Entourage, and Piven’s reputation is down after the Mercury Incident. But will NPH be helped or hurt in the voting by the news that he’s probably going to be the host?
There is some precedent for an actor winning an Emmy while hosting. Myles McNutt pointed out that Raymond Burr won while he was hosting the show. (I haven’t checked the other nominees that year but I assume one of them was Hamilton Burger. That guy always loses.) And I found that Mary Tyler Moore won while co-hosting the 1975-6 Emmys, while Candice Bergen, the Jeremy Piven of her time, received one of her 20 kajillion Murphy Brown Emmys when she was one of the hosts of the 1989-90 show. And of course last year’s much-hated reality show hosts experiment was tied in with the new award for best host.
So if NPH loses to Piven again, it probably won’t be because he’s the host, but because of a built-in structural problem with the acting Emmys: since many voters understandably vote based on the submitted episodes (understandably because there’s no reason why they should see every episode of every show), the winner often tends to be the one who can pull off the showiest performance in a single episode. Piven, like Candice Bergen before him, is playing a character without a lot of range, but looks great in the single-episode screeners.