Early on in the E! Live From the Red Carpet show preceding this year’s Emmy Awards, the program’s longtime host, Giuliana Rancic, gamely engaged in an experiment intended to make the show more interesting. As she talked with celebrities on the red carpet—Milo Ventimiglia, Sterling K. Brown, and Ryan Michelle Bathe—Rancic motioned to a jar filled with pieces of paper. The strips contained questions, she explained, from E! viewers who had, throughout the week before, provided them to be asked of celebrities. “We really want to engage the fans in this red carpet more than ever,” Rancic explained.
Ventimiglia was among the first group of stars to be part of E!’s engagement experiment. He drew a card from the jar and chuckled. “If your life had a motto, what would it be?” he recited from the paper. Ventimiglia pondered for a moment and said, “Um … Live with love.”
Then came Brown and Bathe. Their card: “What celebrity would you like to have dinner with?” Bathe picked Rihanna. Brown picked Eddie Murphy because he was a part of Brown’s childhood, and “I just feel like he would have a lot of information to share.”
The cards and their choose-your-own-adventure aesthetic introduced moments of unpredictability into an exercise—the arrival of celebrities to the awards-show red carpet—that is typically lacking in surprises. The carpet’s events may not be scripted (indeed, the promise of the interactions it offers, between celebrities and interviewers, is that truly Anything Might Happen); they are, however, traditionally staid. But E!’s audience-driven question cards proved to be, perhaps, too experimental. As the red carpet went on, the card thing … stopped. The fan-engagement attempt ended. Things went back to the standard format: hosts asking celebrities questions—“How are you doing?” “Who are you wearing?”—and celebrities dutifully answering them.