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The Column

Seacrest! Out!
7/18/04

There were no warnings. I saw no horsemen. I saw no signs of earlier plagues. Could someone please explain to me how we let Ryan Seacrest happen?

The first time I heard of Ryan Seacrest was when I accidentally watched twenty minutes of the first season of American Idol. It was a proud moment, as I picked Kelly Clarkson to win the whole thing just from just that episode (I haven't watched the show since). But that's just because she was the hot one.

Seacrest hosted the show with some other guy whose name it took me an hour to find on the internet. The other host turned out to be Brian Dunkleman, who has done little to nothing on TV since. There was that one cameo in "Miss Match." Slightly less impressive than being the new golden boy of pop culture.

I respect how hard Seacrest works. But I don't understand why he was able to get this famous. He doesn't ask interesting questions. He's not particularly witty. He's twice as old as his fan base. But he does have really spiky hair, so maybe that's it.

Seacrest started in radio, but broke into TV as a correspondent for "Extra" in 1994 when he was just 20 years old. His TV career didn't see much action after that, until he guest hosted "Talk Soup" five years later. A guest spot on "Hey Arnold!" and another on "Beverly Hills 90210" were the only other things he landed before American Idol. And then it happened: Ryan Seacrest was thrust upon America.

I don't have a particular problem with Seacrest. Sure, he's kind of annoying, and "Seacrest Out" is the most forced catch phrase I've ever heard. But he could be a nice guy – just a regular dude with hundreds of millions of dollars, who puts his leather pants on one leg at a time. My problem, however, is twofold. One, he's famous because someone wanted him to be and two, if he does have any talent, no one cares.

American Idol is an incredibly manufactured show. Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman were hired to be good cop bad cop, or maybe good host bad host, and Dunkleman was cast to the side pretty quickly. Rumor has it Dunkleman wasn't asked back because he wasn't mean enough – because he didn't play Simon Cowell's game.

Seacrest, in the meantime, was given a contract for almost a million dollars for the second season. Maybe audiences genuinely vibed with him. Maybe it was the spikey hair. Or maybe you just can't become famous if your last name is Dunkleman. My condolences to Tim Dunkleman, who coaches high school basketball in Christiansburg, Virginia and will probably not make it to the big leagues. Thank you, internet.

We know where Brian Dunkleman's talent lies– he's now breaking in as a standup comic. I can't tell what Seacrest is talented at, however. That's because I've only seen him pander to celebrities and read terrible copy off a teleprompter. Maybe his talent is being able to read that garbage with a straight face.

Seacrest has one of the biggest stages in the world – his own TV show. But all his show really does is promote hair products. David Letterman and Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno and Jon Stewart all have talk shows because their personalities are a large part of the product. And I can't figure out Seacrest's personality because his talk show has nothing to do with him. If Fox wanted to pluck another spiky headed metrosexual out of their talent pool and pump him as just much, Seacrest could be replaced. (And probably will be as he gets older).

I know that he's got a lot of fans. And I know that I'm going to get a ton of letters telling me I don't know what I'm talking about and Ryan Seacrest is a very talented individual and he's soooooo hOT!!!!!!1111. And I welcome those letters as long as they explain one thing – what is Seacrest's talent? Don't just tell me he's a good host or he does his job well or he's soooooo hOT!!!!!!1111 Tell me why Ryan Seacrest is indispensable.

And make sure you tell the Dunkleman's, too.

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