Ryan Seacrest, Joe Biden get almost political in radio chat
When it became clear last month that NBC might turn to Ryan Seacrest as the next host of the “Today” show, some newsies inside the network groaned. Would the top-rated morning show, once the home of serious news man Tom Brokaw, go irretrievably soft?
NBC has not shown its hand on a possible replacement for Matt Lauer, who has signaled he would like to move on. But Seacrest seems to be letting his interest show.
The “American Idol” host on Monday had Vice President Joe Biden on his radio show for what seemed to be an attempt to bring his gravitas quotient somewhere closer to his Q rating, the latter the traditional measure of the familiarity of public figures.
Seacrest teed up seven easy questions for the vice president and had listeners call in with another three on the theme of education and college affordability.
Not surprisingly, Biden would not rise to Seacrest’s attempts to get him to pick a preferred GOP opponent for the fall campaign. He also rejected the notion, despite persistent speculation, that Hillary Rodham Clinton might replace him on the Democratic ticket. And he got the chance to call Republicans "Darwinian" when it came to foreclosure; i.e., not so concerned with the feelings of those losing their homes.
Seacrest’s foray into “hard news” won’t evoke memories of, say, Sam Donaldson or Dan Rather. Listeners could hear some "uh-huhing" in apparent assent during the interview. But the host would appear to be aiming at a lower bar — showing he’s familiar with significant issues of the day and avoiding embarrassing gaffes.
Seacrest made his news foray as his biggest perch, “American Idol,” opened last week to relatively disappointing ratings. The show drew 21.6 million viewers to start its 11th season, still very strong compared with other programs but a shadow of the 37.4 million who watched the 2007 opener.
While the end of the “Idol” phenomenon might not be in sight, Seacrest is savvy enough to be planning a soft landing elsewhere. And "Today" would seem to be on the itinerary if he can manage it. He has signaled his interest in luring other newsmakers on to the radio, including the presidential hopefuls.
Then why not on to some foreign affairs? Who knows who could be next: Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are you listening?
-- James Rainey
Photo: Ryan Seacrest Credit: Matt Sayles /Associated Press