Heidi Klum, Tom Bergeron, Howie Mandel, Ryan Seacrest, Jeff Probst

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Reality bit for the Emmys.

If ratings estimates hold, last night's show could go down as the least-watched Emmy telecast on record.

From 8-11 p.m., the ABC telecast averaged 12.2 million, down 6 percent from last year's Nielsen-challenged affair, and on par with the record-low 12.3 million who caught the show in 1990.

This year was the fourth straight year of ratings decline for the Emmys, which last topped 20 million viewers in 2000.

Judging by the numbers, slightly more people were interested in this year's Emmy telecast than last, at least until the show started.

ABC's Jimmy Kimmel-hosted red-carpet preshow, which aired from 7-8 p.m., averaged 4.6 million viewers, up a tick from the 4.4 million Fox scored for its preshow in 2007.

Last night's show took hits from critics, and even Emmy winners, for its emphasis on reality TV as embodied by its squadron of reality TV hosts: Survivor's Jeff Probst; Project Runway's Heidi Klum; American Idol's Ryan Seacrest; Dancing with the Stars' Tom Bergeron; and, Deal or No Deal's Howie Mandel.

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