- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Media’s new king

Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed “King of All Media,” got a bit steamed when a potential heir to the throne entered his studio a few weeks back.

Ryan Seacrest took some ribbing when Mr. Stern read a press account dubbing the “American Idol” host the new king, but a glance at his workload reveals a young man who one day could claim kingly status.

Mr. Seacrest recently became the new host of “American Top 40,” the radio show hosted for years by Casey Kasem.

Earlier this month, Mr. Seacrest took charge of his own daytime talker, “On-Air With Ryan Seacrest.”

Can a companion book and clothing line be far behind?

The live show, seen locally at 5 p.m. on UPN20, finds the hardworking host combining the traditional talk-show format with MTV’s “Total Request Live.”

The live aspect allows Mr. Seacrest to riff on the news of the moment, but people aren’t tuning in for hard-hitting commentary. The 29-year-old is about as cutting-edge as his idol, Dick Clark. He’s handsome without being threatening, eager without Eddie Haskell-like unctuousness.

It all may look easy for him, but he insists his success was nothing of the kind.

“I’ve always known what I wanted to do, be in broadcasting, even as a little kid,” says Mr. Seacrest, who once worked for Merv Griffin so he could learn from the television veteran. “I had to apply a work ethic that at least, in my mind, was more aggressive than anyone else around me.”

“If I don’t get up at 6 [a.m.], somewhere someone else will get to [do] what I want to do,” he says.

After two weeks on the air, Mr. Seacrest says he’s getting a feel for the talk-show job.

Most television shows start with a pilot, in which the kinks can be worked out before showtime. Not so with live television, says Mr. Seacrest, who has the advantage of being genuinely self-deprecating through the best and worst of times.

He’s not complaining. He asked for this.

“When I pitched the idea … it was a deal-breaker to me if we were gonna tape it,” he says. A live, infotainment-style show should be “extremely spontaneous. You never know what’s gonna happen. We never stick to a plan.”

Golden ratings

Fox’s “American Idol” continues to mow down the competition like Simon Cowell letting loose on a tone-deaf warbler.

Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards drew huge year-to-year increases for NBC, but Fox’s singing contest proved unstoppable, Reuters News Agency reports.

Monday’s “Idol” premiere at 8 p.m. was last week’s top-rated program in the key 18-to-49 demographic as well as the top premiere of any series, new or returning, on any network this season, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

The Wednesday and Tuesday “Idols” were the demographic’s No. 2 and No. 3 programs, respectively, leagues ahead of one of NBC’s Thursday “Friends” repeats and the Golden Globes telecast, which tied for fourth. The “Idol” trio also were the week’s three most-watched programs, an unusual distinction for typically youth-skewing Fox. The Wednesday “Idol” was tops, with 29.4 million average viewers, helping drive the youth soap “The O.C.” to series-high demo ratings and viewership.

The Monday “Idol” hampered a two-hour “couples edition” of NBC’s “Fear Factor,” with audiences somehow favoring pop standards over “Factor’s” taste for chewing maggots, worms and bugs.

Tuesday’s “Tracy Morgan Show” got worse news, plummeting to record-low ratings, and will be transplanted to Saturdays.

The best news for NBC, of course, was the Globes, which scored the network’s highest demo ratings in five years, climbing 27 percent compared with last year’s telecast. Of course, last year, the Globes competed with the NFL’s AFC Championship game.

Fox’s success with “The O.C.” was likewise tough on ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” which was forced to settle for No. 2 in the demo. The reality romance was ABC’s sole top-20 entry in the 18-49 category.

Miller scores

Maybe it had something to do with the monkey.

Former “Saturday Night Live” mainstay Dennis Miller made a splashy ratings debut Monday with his new chat-fest on CNBC. The self-titled talk show drew 746,000 viewers, more than four times the average audience in the same 9 p.m. time slot last season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The premiere of “Dennis Miller,” with guest appearances by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a chimpanzee named Elle, also scored with the coveted 25-to-54 age bracket, making a 475 percent leap from last season’s average, Reuters News Agency reports.

The CNBC debut of the hawkish yet liberal comedian also more than doubled the 307,000 viewers averaged at 9 p.m. by Deborah Norville on sister network MSNBC. CNBC still was dwarfed by its larger rivals, Fox News Channel and CNN. Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” led the hour with 1.7 million viewers, while CNN’s “Larry King Live” averaged 1.3 million.

Still, the initial boost in ratings for the time slot was a welcome start on a network whose prime-time audience had fallen through the floor.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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