Seacrest Out-Of-It

In past “American Idol” seasons, viewers looked to Paula Abdul to supply the show’s requisite loopy comedy and awkward moments. But now, with Paula gone, host Ryan Seacrest seems to have stepped into that buffoon role, exhibiting increasingly bizarre behavior all season long. Until this week, his oddest antics had occurred when sparring with Simon Cowell (seriously, the two of them have practically come to blows during their “witty” banter). But on Tuesday’s Elvis Night episode, Ryan took his cray-cray shenanigans to a whole new level–or more specifically, a new low–thus setting the blogosphere and Twitterverse ablaze.

For instance, while Tim Urban (suddenly nicknamed “Turban” by Ryan) was performing “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Ryan started slow-dancing in the aisles with a stocky male audience member, nearly throwing Tim off-track. The cameras never shot a close-up of this same-sex dancing duo, but Ryan later claimed that his partner had been Season 8 finalist Michael Sarver–a revelation that was met with a smattering of amused applause.

However, the next morning, a confused Michael Sarver tweeted that he hadn’t actually attended the taping. (It turned out the beefy gentleman was a friend of contestant Lee Dewyze.) Reports from the scene later revealed that Ryan also danced a solo jig during Andrew Garcia’s “Hound Dog” number and played air guitar to Lee’s “A Little Less Conversation” performance on Tuesday.

Also, while interviewing guest mentor Adam Lambert–who had reassured skittish viewers, via his Twitter, that his stint on the show this week would be “beyond family-friendly”–Ryan tossed out some not-exactly-family-friendly double entendres. Most notable, and most icky, was the remark, “My tongue’s not as talented as yours.” Um, okay. Awkward.

But the weirdest Ryan incident had to be when he quite straightfacedly announced that next week’s “Idol Gives Back” charity special would be co-hosted by his former cohort, Brian Dunkleman, who left “American Idol” after Season 1 and has since pretty much vanished into obscurity. The surprising news of Brian’s return to the “Idol” stage elicited delighted gasps and cheers from the live studio audience…before Ryan revealed that he was just kidding. And no one laughed. Considering how Ryan’s star has risen since he started hosting “Idol” on his own, while Brian’s career has completely stalled, such a joke at Brian’s expense seemed nasty and totally uncalled-for.

All this made me miss Paula’s seal-clap, slurred speech, and tendencies to critique songs that have yet to be sung, aggressively promote her QVC jewelry, and draw Sharpie mustaches on her fellow judges. Paula may have been zany, but she was zany in a lovable way. She was never mean. She was always the butt of her own jokes.

What all this especially weird was that Ryan’s own mother was in the audience Tuesday night, watching all of this go down. Surely she noticed her son was acting a little strange. The contestants certainly noticed. Crystal Bowersox told “We were worried about Ryan a little. He was kooky, in a sweet Ryan kind of way.” (Again, in my opinion, the Dunkleman diss was NOT sweet.) Katie Stevens even confronted Ryan about his batty behavior, according to “I asked him, after dress rehearsal, ‘Ryan, what is up with you?’ And he goes, ‘You know, I’m really, really tired right now, so I’m trying to fool myself into thinking that I’m awake.’ [He was] over-caffeinated.”

If that’s what Ryan’s like on too much caffeine, someone please keep him away from the free supply of Coca-Cola backstage from now on

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Posted in American Idol.

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