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Burning Question: Can Ryan Seacrest Recover From His First High-Profile Flop?

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Ryan Seacrest on the set of "The Million Second Quiz" (AP Photo/NBC, Rodolfo Martinez)

Q: What happened to "The Million Second Quiz"? Is this Ryan Seacrest's first big mistake?

A: NBC’s "Million Second Quiz" was, by all accounts, a big gamble of a show with an even bigger prize — $2.6 million. But despite an additional million pounds of pre-premiere hype supplied by NBC, the show was not seen as a success by the time it wrapped last week.

After getting off to a promising start with 6.5 million viewers and 1 million downloads of its accompanying smartphone app, "MSQ" dipped to half those numbers as its 10-day tryout limped along. By the finale, it was up slightly to 5.1 million viewers, but the damage was done.

Critics complained about the show’s byzantine rules (double-double back, anyone?) clunky gimmicks (*cough*moneychair*cough*), buggy app, and bland pacing. Even the new hourglass-shaped structure built to house the show couldn't stanch the bleeding, and TV analysts are not hoping for a second go-around. (A request for comment from NBC wasn’t immediately returned.)

Watch Ryan Seacrest explain how "The Million Second Quiz" works:
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"MSQ" probably wasn't the first failure that Seacrest has had. "There are probably other projects that haven’t worked out for him, but we just haven’t heard of them," Melissa Grego, editor-in-chief at the trade magazine Broadcasting & Cable, tells me.

But it also doesn't really matter. Experts say that very little, even "MSQ's" disappointing performance, threatens to tarnish the dazzling whitebread beacon of success that is Ryan Seacrest.

Unlike "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," "Shahs of Sunset" or "Married to Jonas," all of which were spearheaded by Seacrest's production company (and which can be counted as successes, either mild or mega), "MSQ" wasn't really Seacrest’s baby, and people in power know it.

"He signed on fairly late in the development process as host and executive producer," Grego notes. "It was a concept that required a lot of new technology, lots of stuff that was new and unproven. Maybe if he had gotten in earlier, he could have contributed with his producing prowess. We can never know."

[Related: Ryan Seacrest's 'Million Second Quiz,' By the Numbers]

The fact that Seacrest is the face of "American Idol" — the show that made Fox the No. 1 network among younger viewers — hasn't been forgotten, either. In fact, if anything suffers as a result of "MSQ's" disappointing performance, it'll likely be the game-show genre, not Seacrest.

"From our perspective, this was not necessarily a misstep on Seacrest's part,” says Tina Rolon, broadcast director at the advertising agency McGarrah Jessee. "It had more to do with the game show genre and how it's not particularly hot right now. There are so many reality competition shows filling up people's DVRs right now, and in comparison, game shows just don’t seem compelling."

Seacrest, however, is still plenty compelling. Trust me.

"His personal brand is really strong," Rolon says. "When it comes to popular celebrities being in bad TV shows or flop movies, people tend to have short attention spans. It'll probably only take about a million seconds for Seacrest's fans to forget the show even aired."

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