The title remains “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” but more than ever, it’s Ryan Seacrest‘s show now.
With the death in April of iconic showman Clark, who was joined since 2006 by “American Idol” host Seacrest for one of television’s most popular holiday events, the pop music showcase that rings in a new 12-month cycle will be different by nature. Yet it will stay much the same, as Seacrest and others strive to maintain the tradition that Clark initially set on New Year’s Eve 1973 on NBC, where he produced the special for two years before moving it to ABC and becoming its host.
In fact, ABC will make the whole evening very much a tribute to Clark on Monday, Dec. 31. The night will begin with “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Celebrates Dick Clark,” a two-hour special in which hosts Fergie and Jenny McCarthy introduce clips from past years’ festivities, with remembrances of Clark from many of the talents who performed on those shows.
Then, “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” will start with a prime-time hour, then return to head toward midnight during an additional 2 1/2 hours after late local news. Seacrest and McCarthy will be stationed in New York’s Times Square for the world-famous ball drop, joined by Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Neon Trees and PSY.
On the West Coast, Fergie will continue hosting duties. Justin Bieber, Flo Rida, Pitbull, Jason Aldean, Karmin and OneRepublic are among the headliners slated for those segments, and reports on New Year’s revelry around the globe also will factor in.
For all of the others who are involved, Seacrest is the person whose name is the one other than Clark’s on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” And as the 2013 occasion draws ever nearer, he admits he’s feeling the related responsibility mightily.
“You know,” Seacrest tells Zap2it, “there’s the history I have had as a fan of that show and of watching Dick. Then there’s the amazing fortune I had to be his partner and learn from him — on-the-job training, if you will — which is something I never could have imagined. I think that this year will be a tough one, but we’re going to celebrate his legacy and carry on the show in a way I know he would want us to.”
While he intends to handle the program with the same professionalism he applies to his numerous other activities, from “American Idol” and his syndicated radio show to his producing (“Keeping Up With the Kardashians”) and red-carpet hosting for E! Entertainment Television, Seacrest allows that there’s a very strong personal bent for him this time.
“I’ve never hosted that show without him,” he reflects of Clark. “No one else [on it] has ever counted down the last 15 or 20 seconds to midnight except for him, so it’ll be a different show from that perspective. We haven’t worked out exactly how we’re going to do it, but this certainly will pay the utmost respect to what he created and the legacy he left.”
Seacrest also honored Clark at last month’s American Music Awards, an event produced by the company named for the “American Bandstand” hosting legend. “I got an email from Kari Clark (Dick’s widow) recently, saying, ‘Thank you for being there and for saying the things you said.’ And my response was, ‘It’s an honor to be asked to do it. That is how I always have felt, and do feel, about him.’
“He blazed a trail for a lot of artists, for different ethnicities to come together and perform, and certainly for broadcasters. And definitely for me. When I was standing on that stage and saying those words, those are the moments that I forget I’m on television. I’m talking genuinely about a guy who meant so much to me.”
When Seacrest — who launches Season 12 of “American Idol” Jan. 16 on FOX — initially was hired for “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” after Clark suffered a stroke shortly before the 2005 edition, “heir apparent” was a phrase widely applied. Now that he actually is the heir, Seacrest says he finds the situation “surreal.” However, he adds that the Clark tribute special makes him feel more comfortable about being the main frontman for that night overall.
“I think it’ll be nice,” he says. “It’ll be reflective, and then it will become more celebratory as the night goes on. Taylor Swift is going to come out and perform just before midnight. She’s got the biggest album in the world right now (“Red”), and I remember that a few months back, we called and asked her to do it. And she jumped right on it, so we’ll all be out there celebrating together.”