Don't Laugh -- Ryan Seacrest Is Larry King's Best Replacement
By Joel Keller Posted Jun 30th 2010 04:10PM
Pop-Ed: Soon after Larry King announced last night that he was giving up his daily 'Larry King Live' show in the fall, his guest, Bill Maher, turned the tables on King and asked him a question: Who would he like to see as his replacement?
Larry's answer was surprising, at least to some: Ryan Seacrest.
Snickers went up all over America. Seacrest? He's a lightweight, right? He kisses up to folks on red carpets, laughs with Lady Gaga on his radio show and talks to Crystal Bowersox as if she's a superstar. There's no way he could hold his own with world leaders, controversial figures in the news and feisty politicians ... could he?
Well, he could, and he'd be pretty darn good at it, too. And the reason why Seacrest can be King's replacement is that he's pretty much just like King, minus the suspenders and multiple marriages.
Earlier today on TV Squad, I discussed why I thought King got results despite not being perceived as a tough interviewer, and Seacrest has a lot of the same qualities. Yes, he can be a kiss-ass, but that actually has been one of his assets over the years; he draws his subjects in and allows them to trust him. And there's a difference between being a kiss-ass and being a fawning, drooling fanboy. From all the interviews I've seen and heard Secreast do, the word "fanboy" never crosses my mind.
Take this example, from Seacrest's KIIS-FM radio show: He's doing a phone interview with Jennifer Aniston while she's promoting 'Love Happens.' It's not a very long interview, maybe six minutes or so. And he doesn't ask her about Brad or Angelina or anything like that -- I mean, heck, it's a quick radio phone call. But we do manage to find out that Jen loves Mexican food and what she's currently reading. Nothing earth-shattering, but her seeming comfort with Seacrest, a person she's never met, lays the groundwork for a more intimate interview later on.
Seacrest has a curiosity that will serve him well as a talk show host. Even in the most benign interviews, he likes to ask the questions the average viewer would like to know, mainly because, for the most part, he's still looking at show business from an outsider's perspective.
Last year, for instance, he interviewed 'American Idol' winner Kris Allen on King's show. And while the topic was in his wheelhouse and he'd likely gotten to know Allen a bit during the 'Idol' season, Seacrest still asked questions about "the Christian vote," what Allen's toughest week was, and why Arkansas doesn't get a lot of respect.
The advantage Seacrest has over King right now is that he's more current on pop culture. He'd be able to speak to Lady Gaga and not look like he's tuning out. He'd know that 'Seinfeld' didn't get canceled. It won't look completely uncomfortable to see Seacrest interview cast members of the 'Twilight' series that are young enough to be King's grandchildren. And he's such a hard worker -- come on, you know he is, the guy's everywhere -- he'll doubtlessly be well-prepared no matter who he's speaking to.
If there's anything about Seacrest that's a bit of a mystery, though, it's how he would do with political figures. Even King wasn't sure, telling Maher, "I don't know how he feels about politics." But there's no reason to think Seacrest couldn't hold his own, if only because his style is so similar to King's. He's likable, curious and allows people to speak -- he doesn't pontificate.
That should be enough to let any candidate, congressman, senator or even president let down his or her guard just enough to get a good soundbite. You don't always need to be a policy wonk in order to host a good interview with a politician. In fact, people tuning in every night aren't looking for 'Meet The Press.' They're looking to be informed and entertained. And Seacrest will give his best to do just that.
What do you think? Does Seacrest have what it takes to replace Larry King?
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