Dave on Demand: Cryin' for Ryan

Ryan Seacrest makes a mere $15 million from Fox. If the network plays hardball, is it ready to lose an announcer of such remarkable caliber?
Ryan Seacrest makes a mere $15 million from Fox. If the network plays hardball, is it ready to lose an announcer of such remarkable caliber? (WARWICK SAINT / Fox)

Can you believe the network wants to cut the pay of the hardest-working "Idol" announcer on television?

Posted: January 07, 2012

Look, I'm not about to tell Fox how to go about its business. The network that brought us 'Til Death and Bob's Burgers clearly knows what it's doing.

But I've been reading with some dismay reports in the last couple of days that Fox is preparing to take a hard line when it comes to renegotiating Ryan Seacrest's contract for American Idol, which expires this season.

Why pay Seacrest his current salary of $15 million a year, the argument goes, when he could easily be replaced for a fraction of the cost?

Sure, NBC gave Howard Stern the same amount to sign on for America's Got Talent, but Stern is a big, galvanizing personality.

Seacrest is the announcer on Idol. He should get paid Nick Cannon money, right? Besides, if the last couple of years have proved anything, it's that the Idol Monster Truck rolls on no matter who is jettisoned from the front seat. No Simon? No problem.

That's what those bean-counters would have you believe, anyway. A closer look at the situation reveals just how flimsy their logic is.

Sure, hosting Idol is both part-time and seasonal, so you could probably find someone desperate enough to do the job for $2 million or $3 million a year. But would that person be willing to go the extra mile the way Seacrest does?

When you think about it, his duties don't really begin until the elimination rounds in Hollywood, yet Seacrest, of his own volition, goes out to all the audition cities.

He's the one who draws out the wacky schizophrenic contestants, the hard-luck stories that are sadder than a country song, and those incorrigible old codgers who show up to sing even though the age cutoff is like 25.

Seacrest's the one who waits outside the door after the audition to see if those people who caught our eye are going on or going home. And he does it all because he cares. Well, that and the off chance he might get picked up by some obese grandmother from Oklahoma and shaken like a rag doll.

Think Seacrest would be easy to replace? You'd want someone under the age of 40. That cuts out a big section of the population right there. Snowy dentition and good posture. The latter takes on importance because the height maximum for host has been capped by fiat at a robust 5-foot-2.

And the duties are more demanding than they seem. The judges only have to lounge around, and make some wifty comment about the performance. (Randy Jackson is taxed with the additional burden of knowing who recorded the original song so he can claim that he was in the studio with them.)

Seacrest has to remember all the singers' names and keep his eagle eye trained on the clock so he can throw the show into commercial break precisely every 53 seconds without fail. He's busier than a short-order cook during breakfast rush.

And Seacrest is too modest to brag, but he's no one-trick pony. Bet you didn't know he provided the voice for the Father of Butter Pants in Shrek Forever After. Look it up. Try to put a price tag on that, Fox.

Strange board members. If you haven't already circled the date on your crisp new 2012 calendar, it's Sunday Feb. 12. That's the night Donald Trump opens the boardroom for a new season of Celebrity Apprentice, or as I call it, A Group of People Who Should Never Have Been Assembled in the Same Room Together.

I'm going to give you a list of celebrities. I want you to see if you can tell how many are real contestants and how many are made up. No peeking at the answers, or Meat Loaf will get up in your grill.

Lou Ferrigno of The Hulk; Clay Aiken, American Idol runner-up; Teresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey; NASCAR announcer Jerry Punch; Sandra Denton, a.k.a. Pepa from the rap duo Salt-N-Pepa; model and furniture designer Kathy Ireland; Jim Starr, a.k.a. Laser on American Gladiators; Frank Roessler from The Real World: Las Vegas; Bree Boyce, onetime Miss Teen South Carolina; Last Comic Standing finalist Gary Gulman; Anya Monzikova, briefcase holder on Deal or No Deal; former NFL running back Ricky Watters; Christopher Knight from The Brady Bunch.

Actual contestants: only the first three - Ferrigno, Aiken and Giudice. They will be joined by IndyCar scion Marco Andretti; actress Tia Carrere and comic Adam Corolla, both veterans of Dancing With the Stars; pop singer Deborah Gibson; mob princess Victoria Gotti; former talk-show host Arsenio Hall; magician Penn Jillette; roast comic Lisa Lampanelli; former Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza; Danity Kane singer Aubrey O'Day; headbanger Dee Snider; Star Trek's Lt. Sulu, George Takei; American Chopper's Paul Teutul; model Cheryl Tiegs; and actress Patricia Velásquez.

The smart money's on Gotti. Or else.

Contact television writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552, dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or @daveondemand_tv on Twitter. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.

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