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“American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest could be in line to join NBC’s “Today.”

Calm amid storm sets apart Seacrest

– Ryan Seacrest can’t act, sing or dance. What he can do is keep his composure when Sacha Baron Cohen approaches him on Oscar’s red carpet and dumps ashes all over his tuxedo.

That may sound like a trivial talent, but it’s so valuable that if Matt Lauer decides not to renew his contract, NBC might pay Seacrest millions to co-host “Today.” It’s also a big – and underappreciated – reason why “American Idol” continues to be a success.

“It’s because of him that the show runs as seamlessly and perfectly as it does,” “Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez said. “We all follow him. He’s amazing at what he does and he doesn’t get enough credit for it.”

It’s easy to hate on Seacrest: those pretty-boy good looks, that glib demeanor, the fact that his production company churns out those Kardashian reality shows.

But when “Idol” goes live, as it did this month, Seacrest becomes the “circus master,” as judge Randy Jackson describes it.

Next time you’re tempted to use him as a punch line, imagine having to comfort shaking contestants, rein in Steven Tyler, cut to commercials and watch the clock, all while some producer is yapping into your earpiece.

Seacrest, who still hosts a morning radio show, said the trick is not getting overwhelmed by all the moving parts.

“I think the one thing I try to do is pay attention to everything that’s happening on stage and really listening to what everyone is saying,” he said.

Many question the idea of giving “Today” to someone whose background in news is updating E! viewers on Lindsay Lohan’s latest antics. But being able to do live television is essential when steering a morning show. Even the late-night talk shows are taped hours before airing, giving producers a chance to fix boo-boos.

Seacrest, who has a deal with NBC Universal, wouldn’t say what he might end up doing for the network, but he stressed that he’s in no hurry to say goodbye to the Fox show that put him on the map.

“I love this television show,” he said. “I can’t imagine life without ‘American Idol.’ ”