Harris launched into an energetic opening number at the 2013 Tony Awards, in which Mike Tyson joined Harris onstage for a verse. The moment sparked some controversy when Harris sang a line that sounded like it included the n-word directed at Tyson. But he didn't actually say it! The real line: "Mike Tyson had a one-man show. Let's give the man a hand and make things bigger." Evan Agostini, Invision/AP
Neil Patrick Harris didn't need to have his arm twisted to host a show celebrating television.
"I love TV and the motley crew of people that are part of it," says Harris, who will host the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday on CBS (live, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). With so many TV offerings of every type, "I think that makes for a better viewing experience of television than ever, and I'm happy to be the guy in charge of honoring that."
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Harris, a How I Met Your Mother star in his second stint as Emmy emcee, has earned high praise (and three Emmys, including one at Sunday's Creative Arts ceremony) for his awards-hosting skills. He says being a jack-of-all-trades while growing up helped.
"I dabbled in magic and juggling and I sing some," he says. "Those are all, as it turns out, good attributes for being a host."
Harris praises other awards hosts, including Billy Crystal, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen DeGeneres, but says he doesn't model himself on anyone. "I want to do my own thing and hope people respond to it. I think the key is to try and be nice. I'm not so wild a fan of comedy at people's expense."
His opening song-and-dance number at the Tony Awards in June was so well received he's not going to try to match it. Viewers willsee Harris in at least one dance number conceived by nominees for the choreography award.
The show will feature more music thanusual. A tribute to the late pianist Liberace (the subject of nominated HBO film Behind the Candelabra) features a performance by Elton John. And a 50th anniversary segment honors television's vital role in covering John F. Kennedy's assassination and introducing The Beatles to a mass audience onThe Ed Sullivan Show a few months later. Music from the era, including Beatles songs, will be performed by Carrie Underwood.
"It's fortuitous, because (music) goes hand in hand with who Neil is," says executive producer Ken Ehrlich. "He's multi-layered, but there's that musical side of him that's great fun to work with."
In addition to the traditional In Memoriam segment, the Emmys will feature tributes to four stars and a producer from well-known people who were close to them.
Edie Falco will honor her Sopranos husband James Gandolfini; Jane Lynch will talk about her Glee co-star, Cory Monteith; Michael J. Fox will pay tribute to Family Tiescreator Gary David Goldberg; Rob Reiner will remember Jean Stapleton, his All in the Family mother-in-law; and Robin Williams will honor a mentor, comedian Jonathan Winters, who worked with him on Mork & Mindy.
Ehrlich says the separate tributes, an extension of the traditional memorial montage, are not meant to diminish the loss of other industry notables.
Monteith, who died in July at 31, had less of a TV history than others, Ehrlich says, but "It was important to be responsive to younger viewers to whom (he) meant as much as perhaps these other four individuals meant to their own generations."