According to everyone at the American Idol dream factory, Ryan Seacrest had an aggressive strain of stomach virus in the hours leading up to Wednesday's Queen-themed performance show. (I feel ya, Ry. The prospect of six kids singing Freddie Mercury makes me feel nauseated, too.)
You might not have even noticed Seacrest was under the weather by the time he took the stage, for the same reason it's always hard to tell how hung over Snooki and her posse are: When you're sporting that much spray tan, it's impossible to tell if your skin has turned green underneath.
But trust me, Seacrest was in bad shape. So much so that Nigel Lythgoe was having his own blood supply heated to room temperature in the event he might have to take the stage as a last-minute replacement for Seacrest.
Stand down, Nigel. The four horsemen of the apocalypse couldn't keep Ryan out of the Idol spotlight.
The reason is simple: Brian Dunkleman. Who? you may well be asking yourself. You see, boys and girls, when Idol began in 2002, it had two announcers. They shared duties. Until Dunkleman didn't show up for work one day, and Seacrest convinced the producers he could handle the job solo. Dunkleman was found hours later bound and gagged in a Dumpster on Fairfax Avenue.
From that humble putsch, Seacrest has built an empire, rooted on the fascinating bedrock of the Kardashian krowd. He's even going to handle Olympic coverage for NBC this summer — answering the question: Does Seacrest's ambition know no bounds?
Under no conditions will he give up the seat of his power. Seacrest is terrified that if anyone takes his job on Idol, even for one night, the world will realize what a monumental fraud he has perpetrated. If his corporate masters at Fox were to see how easy that job is, how little effort it would take to replace their glorified announcer, they would immediately say: "Why are we paying this mannequin $30 million? He couldn't hold Johnny Olson's cue cards."
But fear of exposure isn't the only thing that had Seacrest dragging himself into work Wednesday. He had gone to a great deal of time and expense to arrange for his new "girlfriend," wholesome Julianne Hough, former Dancing With the Stars hoofer, to get some camera time on the show that night. And he wasn't about to let this "romantic" opportunity go by the boards. Even if it killed him.
Isn't it rich? Earlier in the week, Seacrest had hosted Fox's 25th Anniversary Special (which may also explain the sour stomach). The celebration began with a lengthy self-appreciation of the network's "Animation Domination" programming block Sunday nights. Really? A quarter century of programming, and this is what you're most proud of? The Cleveland Show. American Dad. Bob's Burgers.
I don't care how spotty your track record is, Fox, I still wouldn't lead with that.
Bring out your dead. This is traditionally the time of year when we say goodbye to some long-standing TV favorites. It's a challenge to find an appropriate capstone for a veteran series, one that honors the tradition of the show, maybe ties up a few loose threads, and sends it off with a clever flourish.
Having said that, I'm not sure where House and Desperate Housewives are headed with their series finales next month.
Death does not seem to be an impediment. There are reports that Kal Penn is slouching his way back to the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, despite the fact that his character, Kutner, committed suicide several seasons ago on House.
On Wisteria Lane, they're apparently waking up the entire graveyard, from the newly deceased (James Denton's Mike) to the long departed (Christine Estabrook's Martha Huber).
Come on, guys. This is supposed to be a farewell party. Let's not get morbid.
Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.