Gonna go with the unpopular opinion here and defend Ryan Seacrest, who’s getting crushed over being named NBC’s new late-night Olympics host (Bob Costas will still man the big chair, assuming his eyes aren’t pink).
Seacrest, to me, is a lot like Joe Buck– people reflexively hate him because they’re supposed to or something, but fail to consider that he’s actually quite good at his job. Now, you may not like Seacrest’s job – hosting American Idol, a radio show, a show on E!, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest Why Can’t They Just Rename The Show Already Come On, and more – but you have to separate that from his abilities. He’s supremely talented, especially as a live TV host. Anyone who’s ever watched American Idol – a live show with a massive audience with many moving parts (many of them amateurs) – knows that Seacrest can handle just about anything that comes his way. He takes direction in his ear while simultaneously giving direction with ease. He effortlessly handles gaffs, awkward moments and pacing missteps. So he’s well-equipped to host a live studio show like the one NBC back-bones its Olympics coverage with.
Yet, two of the most notable sports media critics dug into this one:
Well, “internationally-acclaimed” is one way to describe Seacrest. He’ll have big shoes to fill, too; Carillo has done a stellar job of providing the late-night shows with their own flair in over the years while also contributing features for other parts of NBC’s coverage. She has an impressive journalistic reputation for her work with NBC, with HBO’s Real Sports, with CBS, with ESPN, and with Tennis Channel, and she hasn’t lost her fastball, either, earning our pick as one of the top-10 Olympic announcers from Sochi. Thus, it seems like an odd choice to replace a well-respected sports journalist with a plethora of Olympic experience (Carillo has covered nine Olympics, first doing skiing and tennis coverage and then shifting into more of a host role in 2004) with someone who’s best known for his work on E!, American Idol, his radio hosting, and “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Even the “trying to reach a younger demographic” idea doesn’t really work here; Carillo’s 58, but Seacrest is 40, so he’s hardly someone all those kids are identifying with.
First of all, fortunately or not, respected sports journalist is not as important as well-equipped to handle a live studio show broadcast to millions of people. NBC has long abandoned trying to cover the Olympics like they’re sports and instead embraces them as the entertainment product they are. We don’t care about swimming, track and field, or beach volleyball the other three years and 11 months of the cycle, so it’s hypocritical to argue that so-and-so violates the sanctity of cherished sports. The Olympics on NBC are entertainment. Compelling entertainment. Sports people love to hate their coverage, but in reality, it’s the best reality show around. That doesn’t mean the coverage is perfect – NBC often makes weird, self-serving decisions to the detriment of the viewer – but when they get it right, their format just works. [I wrote about this last year.]
Seacrest– he’s perfect for this sort of thing. And while he may be 40, that’s still a full 18 years younger than Carillo. He’s extremely well-known by the younger demographic, regardless of his age. There’s a whole generation of kids – now in their 20s – who grew up watching Seacrest. They’re the ones up late enough to see the late-night coverage. Seacrest is their Dick Clark. So this works on many levels. The Olympics are a live entertainment program, and that’s literally what Seacrest does. Hell, he is modern live entertainment programming. For all the praise The Voice gets, Caron Daly is not remotely as adept at his job as Seacrest (and Daly is also synonymous with live entertainment TV– TRL). Seacrest is the gold standard, and he’ll do just fine as the late-night host on NBC for 31st Summer Olympiad LIVE on the networks of NBC!