While there are plenty of good TV hosts out there, only a limited group makes it seem like it was a genetic inevitability. I think it’s safe to say that list would include both American Idol’s longtime frontman Ryan Seacrest and Double Dare icon Marc Summers, as each has proven to be attention-grabbing in ways both professional and non in a slew of different capacities. So it probably makes some kind of cosmic sense that Summers not only suffered a hectic, cross-country filming schedule well before Seacrest did, but he was also the morning show co-host’s former boss.
For the very first panel for the era-celebrating ‘90s Con 2023 in Hartford, CT, Marc Summers took the stage for a surprise Q&A that delivered as many jolts of nostalgic joy as any ‘80s babies could hope for. Inarguably the greatest Nickelodeon host of all time, Summers landed the Double Dare job in 1986 ahead of its production in Philadelphia, while maintaining his side job as a warm-up comedian for broadcast shows filming in Los Angeles, which required flying back and forth. But it was when he took on hosting duties for the short-lived game show Couch Potatoes in 1989 that his schedule went haywire. Here’s how he explained it:
I was doing warmups on shows; Star Search, Alice, Webster, What's Happening. That's how I was making my living. So when Double Dare happened, I was a true believer that that thing wasn't going to last very long, so I asked people on our magazine if I could keep my warm-up job, go shoot the episodes, and when I came back, would my warm-up job still be there? They said, 'Yes.' Well, I was flying back and forth, and then I got a show called Couch Potatoes that was about TV trivia. So I would do six shows a week; Friday night, I would fly to Los Angeles, get there at midnight. I would do five Couch Potatoes on Saturday, five on Sunday, and take a midnight flight back to Philadelphia. You know, I was young, I could do it back in those days. I couldn't do it now, but I did then.
From his perspective — for instance: as someone guiding children to find flags within fake snot and other goopy substances — I can see why he might not have immediately figured Double Dare would help turn Nickelodeon into a slime-covered Eden for younger audiences throughout the 1990s. Plus, Summers shared that Couch Potatoes was the first TV gig that he didn’t even need to audition for to book it, springing up in part from his Double Dare success, so it was something of a no-brainer to make that call.
But the constant back and forth traveling each weekend took its mental toll, with Marc Summers sharing a specific story where he referenced Couch Potatoes while filming a physical challenge on Double Dare, and then defensively didn’t believe the director who called out the mistake. Only to then have it pointed out to him in the footage. Fatigue is no joke.
Which brings us back to Ryan Seacrest, who announced in February that he’ll be leaving Live with Kelly and Ryan (with discussions reportedly having started last summer. The exit stems somewhat from bouts with exhaustion due to filming both the morning show and multiple nights of American Idol since its revived form debuted on ABC, not to mention having no lack of professional duties elsewhere. When the ‘90s Con panel moderator brought up Seacrest’s name after Marc Summers’ story, the latter shared some kind words for the Kardashians producer while revealing their shared professional past.
I helped start Ryan's career. He worked for me on a show called Ultimate Revenge that we did on Spike, and we've been friends ever since. I've known him since he was 19 years old. He's a good guy. He's finally taking a little rest. He's leaving the talk show, and kinda concentrating on Idol and all the money he's made. [Laughs.]
For those who might not remember, Ultimate Revenge was a 2001 series that, wildly enough, aired on the Spike-predating channel “The New TNN.” The series centered on families and friends pulling elaborate pranks on those they sought vengeance against, with Seacrest hosting it just one year before going on to cement his superstardom as host of American Idol opposite one-and-done co-host Brian Dunkleman.
Not that Ultimate Revenge was Seacrest’s first TV gig, and he was well beyond 19 years old at the time. But one can assume that Summers met him after he’d moved to L.A. from Atlanta in 1993, and then later worked with him, thus sparking their friendship. I'm not sure how much "career start help" credt the Idol stalwart would give, but I'd be interested. Also, how awesome would it be to see them team up again on something one day? Maybe a version of American Idol with obstacle courses? Someone make a note.
Double Dare episodes, both from the classic version and the 2018 reboot, can be streamed in full with a Paramount+ subscription. And be sure to stay tuned for updates for the next chapter of ‘90s Con 2023, which will be held in Florida in September.