Johnny Harrington's been called "The Central Time Zone's Ryan Seacrest" because, like the "American Idol" host, he has perfected the exact amount of time needed to hold an audience in suspense before revealing a show's winner.
Harrington, 43, is host of "Bring It!," the Friday night reality TV show on Lifetime that features Jackson, Miss., dance coach Dianna Williams and her troupe, the Dancing Dolls. The Dolls are considered the South's top hip-hop majorettes, and each week rivals try to knock them out of that top spot.
The show consistently wins Friday night ratings among cable shows and is currently taping its third season, which will begin airing in January.
Harrington, whose stage name is Jay Fever, is a Tyner High School alum who lives in Chattanooga and works for Cigna Medical. He travels with the Dancing Dolls to every competition they host, whether in Jackson or across the South, and has twice been invited by Williams to host her personal show, "Buck or Die."
Harrington got the TV gig after "Bring It!" producer Derek Wan heard him announcing for Chattanooga-based majorettes Ladies of Excellence. Wan asked Harrington to host the Grand Finale of Season 1 of "Bring It!", which evolved into a recurring role.
"The host is the go-to person for the competing teams," says Harrington. "They come to the host with any questions, challenges to the rules, musical selection or to communicate with judges."
Trying to juggle "Bring It!" with his full-time job, the dad of four was allowed to bring on an additional host for the coming season of the reality show.
"Hosting this show has been such a blessing to me, I just wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to give someone else from my hometown this chance," says Harrington. So he recommended his longtime friend, Antwon McClain.
McClain is a Brainerd High School alumnus who works with Hamilton County Schools as a permanent substitute teacher at Washington Alternative School. He also moonlights as a stand-up comedian. He and wife, Tonica, have two children.
"I got my training working with Johnny hosting parties," McClain credits. "Through hosting together, I always know what he's going to say and he knows what I will say."
McClain says he had worked security with another Chattanooga majorette group, Royal Envy, and was "their No. 1 hype man" — "I scream 'Royal,' they say 'Envy'" — so he knew what to expect at majorette battles.
With Harrington's recommendation, "Bring It!" producers called McClain and asked for performance footage. They liked what they saw and offered him the co-host position. He will step in when Harrington is away.
What the viewer doesn't see on "Bring It!" is that it's up to the show host to keep the audience's enthusiasm up during lulls in episode tapings, to keep the crowd involved and, conversely, handle any disputes when the crowd gets a little too involved.
Harrington says if the level of enthusiasm seems to be dropping, the host might ask all the young children out on the dance floor for a dance-off. Or he might call one of the senior citizens out of the audience to show the young ones a Cupid Shuffle.
"I had no idea this would take off like it did," says Harrington. "Hosting is not something I brag about. But I think Chattanooga can be proud to have two guys on the No. 1 show."
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.