“American Idol” surprised fans during its series finale on Thursday night with the return of Brian Dunkleman.
Dunkleman cohosted the Fox singing competition with Ryan Seacrest during its first season in 2002. The former host joined Seacrest on the stage at the top of the show and started with a jab.
“Well, well, well, Seacrest, looks like after tonight you’ll be out of a job,” Dunkleman joked. “Trust me, no one knows the pain of a life without ‘Idol’ more than me. Don’t worry, buddy, being unemployed, it’s not that bad.”
Seacrest, of course, tried to argue that he had some jobs to fall back on. Over the years, he used his “Idol” success to bring more attention to his long-running radio show, score more gigs like “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve,” and branch out into producing shows including E!’s Kardashians franchise and NBC’s drama “Shades of Blue.”
After congratulating the show for “struggling along for another 14 seasons” without him, Dunkleman announced that he had something to say to his former cohost. “Uh oh,” Seacrest reacted.
“You’ve done an amazing job hosting this show all these years,” Dunkleman followed up. “I congratulate you for all your success.”
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After the show, Dunkleman felt at peace with his return.
“I’m very glad that they asked. It’s been a very, very cathartic evening for me,” he told People.
Dunkleman said he chose to leave the show, but also heard that producers hadn’t planned on asking him back for season two.
“I think I beat them to the punch and I didn’t know,” he said.
And as for his relationship with Seacrest all those years back, Dunkleman admits that they didn’t get along and that they hadn’t spoken since that first season. But he was able to make amends before the finale.
“I wanted to see him before rehearsal in his dressing room,” Dunkleman said of Seacrest. “I walked in and he said hello and we shook hands. I said, ‘I have to get this out: I want to apologize to you for all the times we didn’t get along back then.’ I told him that I wished I could go back and change that, but I can’t. I wished him only the best for him and his family. It was a really great moment and he was so gracious.”
Watch “Idol’s” original hosts reunite below: