With the news last week that Ryan Seacrest had signed Kevin Jonas and his wife to a New Jersey-based reality show, the American Idol host-turned-TV-personality has proven yet again how business-savvy and driven he is. This is a man who should have come and gone after hosting the music reality show — or at best, been constrained only to Idol land for his career — and instead he’s consistently worked his way up the showbiz ladder until he executive produces nearly all of your beloved reality programs. He’s behind the camera with Ryan Seacrest Productions’ guilty-pleasure successes, he’s in front of the camera with red-carpet coverage, he’s buddy-buddy with the stars on his radio show and all the parties. In the reality-TV world, he is the ultimate self-made man.
Perhaps the biggest measure of Ryan’s success is that he’s become a mold that other people want to emulate—notably, Bravo personality Andy Cohen. In discussing Ryan’s calculated rise to power, we couldn’t ignore that Andy has had a similar career arc, though he’d spent several years laboring behind-the-scenes before he got his reward of going on-camera. Naturally, we had to compare the two… and for us, Andy Cohen reaches valiantly for Ryan’s fame but falls just a little bit short.
Really, how can you compete with the guy who burst onto the scene in 2002 with American Idol and became one of its early stars despite wearing silly outfits and imploring viewers to text their votes? His ambition was clear as he slowly gained a foothold over co-host Brian Dunkleman and by the start of season 2 had proven that you only needed one Idol host as long as he was charismatic and looked good in a suit.
Once he was cemented into the Idol family, Ryan wasted no time starting up his own entertainment ventures. But even when his 2004 talk show On Air with Ryan Seacrest was cancelled after nine months, he changed tacks and figured out where he was most useful. Just two years later, E! signed Ryan on as host and celebrity correspondent; that’s the time when he started developing reality programs like his juggernaut Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Denise Richards: It’s Complicated. (A recent New York Times profile points out that his failures have been forgiven in favor of the franchises, like the Kardashians, that just keep multiplying.)