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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Okay. So maybe there was a day when you look at the person hosting that TV game show or reality program and thought to yourself, gee, I could do that. Maybe you had the same thought listening to the radio, I don't know.

Anyway, it raises the question of whether somebody like Ryan Seacrest really has talent, or really needs talent to host the Emmy's and the Super Bowl, in addition to hosting "American Idol."

NPR's Kim Masters investigates.

KIM MASTERS: It may be easier to appreciate the art of hosting after you've seen it done badly.

(Soundbite of the show "What's the Buzz")

Ms. MERRY MILLER (Host, "What's the Buzz"): Holly, thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. HOLLY HUNTER (Actress): Okay. Thank you.

Ms. MILLER: All right, Holly, thank you so much for joining us. Oh. Okay, we love the show. So tell us…

MASTERS: That's Merry Miller's botched attempt to host an ABC News Now interview with actress Holly Hunter about the new television show "Saving Grace." Miller's struggles amused millions who made her an unwilling star on the Internet.

(Soundbite of TV show "What's the Buzz")

Ms. MILLER: So are you nervous at all tackling something so controversial?

Ms. HUNTER: No. You know, I leave that to other people.

Ms. MILLER: True, true, true. All right. Anything else you want to tell us about "Grace?"

MASTERS: In that one segment, Miller referred to her outlet as NBC instead of ABC and gave the wrong premiere date for Hunter's show.

Capitalizing on the embarrassment, ABC decided to run a hosting contest. Still, no one from the network responded to our request for an interview. We had better luck with the Food Network.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Next Food Network Star")

Unidentified Man #1: I did, I grilled off some scallops. And then the tiger prawns I marinated in lime…

Mr. BOB TUSCHMAN (Vice President, Programming and Production, Food Network): We have to consider everything you've done through all these weeks today, not just what happened in this set of challenges.

MASTERS: Bob Tuschman is an executive there and judges the hosting competition called "The Next Food Network Star." Succeeding as a host, Tuschman says, takes a seemingly contradictory combination of skills.

Mr. TUSCHMAN: You're a star, and you're a little bit untouchable, and you - there's something more glamorous about your life than mine. But at the same time, I relate to you, I want to have coffee with you, I want to tell you my problems, and I feel like I know you.

MASTERS: When it comes to hosting, John Tesh is a veteran. He had a long run on "Entertainment Tonight," and he's worked all sorts of sports events. He says different kinds of shows require very different skills.

Mr. JOHN TESH (Former Host, "Entertainment Tonight"): There's a cadence to it. It's almost like when you're doing a baseball game, you can tell when the announcer is just not comfortable. I can remember in the old days at CBS Sports when I was doing the Tour de France bike race and the next day I had to a horserace. And that horserace just crashed and burned because I didn't have that cadence.

MASTERS: When it comes to the Food Network hosting contest, Bob Tuschman says cooking is not the critical ingredient.

Mr. TUSCHMAN: It is very difficult to have a great sense of yourself when you have 40 people in the room staring at you with the lights going and, you know, 10 cameras on you. It's - I know how hard it is. It is much harder than it looks.

MASTERS: John Tesh says "Entertainment Tonight" was pretty simple. It just required reading off a teleprompter. Still, Tesh worked at it.

Mr. TESH: For me, I studied Cronkite and also especially, Brokaw, who told me personally, he said, you know, the real power of a communicator is knowing when to produce silence.

MASTERS: Tesh says big, live events like the Olympics present the greatest challenge of all. Tesh is in awe of Bob Costas and other hosts who chat before millions of viewers while taking cues from a director in one earpiece and a producer in the other.

Still, the principle of knowing when to stop applies, something he observed when he worked the U.S. Open tennis tournament with Pat Summerall.

Mr. TESH: McEnroe would hit an amazing winning shot and Summerall would just go, McEnroe — and that's it. That's all he would say, you know. And because that's all it really needed.

MASTERS: Let me try it.

Masters.

INSKEEP: Producing silence, huh? Okay.

We can hear more from John Tesh on how hard a TV host job is and why "The Price is Right" didn't appeal to him at npr.org.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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