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Original 'Idol' runner-up Justin Guarini joining 'Idol Tonight' as co-host

By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 01/24/2007 

First Brian Dunkleman resurfaced.  Now it's Justin Guarini's turn.

The TV Guide Channel has announced that Guarini, the runner-up on the original Summer 2002 American Idol season that Dunkleman co-hosted, will serve as a co-host for the upcoming second season of Idol Tonight, the cable network's live Idol pre-show program.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Guarini will appear on Idol Tonight alongside last season's co-hosts, Kimberly Caldwell, an Idol 2 finalist, and Rosanna Tavarez, one of the winners of the now defunct The WB network's Popstars reality series.  TV Guide Channel president Ryan O'Hara said Guarini has a "great deal of passion" for American Idol as well as "tons of energy," which is why he was tapped for the Idol Tonight co-host role.

"[Idol Tonight has] all the energy and excitement from [American Idol] fans and contestants," O'Hara told The Hollywood Reporter.  "[Idol Tonight] isthe ultimate pregame show" for American Idol," O'Hara added, comparing the program to the pregame programming broadcast before before popular sporting events.

Broadcast live from the CBS Television City studios in Los Angeles, CA where Idol takes place, Idol Tonight includes interviews with "former finalists, industry insiders, fashion stylists and vocal coaches, among others," according to The Hollywood ReporterIdol Tonight's second season will premiere in March after the Fox reality show's sixth season contestant pool is narrowed to twelve finalists.  

Given Idol Tonight's creation was part of last year's negotiations that renewed Idol for at least three more years and O'Hara's frank acknowledgement that the show is one of the TV Guide Channel's "highest rated regular series," its return is no real surprise.

The rights to Idol Tonight were part of a massive new contract announced in November 2005 by CKX, Inc. (the corporate parent of Idol creator Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment), FremantleMedia, SonyBMG and Idol judge Simon Cowell, and called for the companies to produce at least four more American Idol seasons beginning with last year's fifth Idol edition. As part of the deal, 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia also agreed to produce "certain agreed upon shoulder programming" for the TV Guide Channel (in which Fox parent Newscorp is a major stockholder) as well as for Fox's Fox Reality Channel.

For every pregame there is a postgame, and during Idol's fifth season, Fox Reality premiered American Idol Extra, a pre-taped show that revealed "the backstage drama of what really happens on American Idol after the weekly vote-off show on Fox," and also  featured interviews with that week's eliminated contestant.  American Idol Extra is scheduled to return for a second season on Thursday, March 15. 

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