5.5 Live Hours With Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest: Jenny McCarthy on Her 'Rockin' Eve' Return

Jenny McCarthy NYE ABC - H 2011

Jenny McCarthy NYE ABC - H 2011

When the ball drops in New York's Times Square on Saturday night, Jenny McCarthy will ring in the new year with her second appearance co-hosting ABC's 40-year-old New Year's Rockin' Eve.

McCarthy kicks off the super-sized broadcast -- 5.5 hours this year -- with a retrospective of host and producer Dick Clark's four-decade tenure on the holiday flagship. And though a 2004 stroke has prompted Clark to spend less time on air, McCarthy tells The Hollywood Reporter that the 82-year-old remains integral to the broadcast. He just has a better seat now.

"I will absolutely have a back and forth with Dick," McCarthy tells THR. "He's just in the studio because he's smart and earned his way."

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New Year's Eve isn't actually the first collaboration between McCarthy and Clark. She co-hosted the Clark-produced American Music Awards in 2002.

"I've done AMAs with him before, and he is a machine," says McCarthy. "He's just such a pro. He knows what he's doing. And there can't be a better next person in the batter's cage than Ryan."

She speaks of Clark's equally famous co-host, Ryan Seacrest. And despite the American Idol host and producer's relative ubiquity in entertainment, last year's Rockin' Eve was her first time working with him. And she was a little nervous.

"Working with him last year, I went into thinking, I hope this guy isn't cocky," McCarthy recalls, laughing. "I am not kidding when I say he was of the nicest, most professional guys I've worked with -- and I say that after 17 years in this business. No ego, wonderful, giving, helpful... he was awesome. That's another reason why I'm back."

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As THR recently reported, Seacrest took meetings with NBC to discuss the possibility of him replacing Matt Lauer as host of morning staple Today. McCarthy doesn't know if it's going to happen, but she gives it a wholehearted endorsement.

"I think that would be awesome if that's real," she tells THR. "I don't think there's a better person, except we'd lose him in LA, which I'd be very sad about. I think it's a brilliant move. It's kind of like how brilliant Howard Stern going to America's Got Talent. It's a smart move on everyone's part if it really did happen."

McCarthy's own career as a permanent host was recently shelved with the end of her production deal with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios, but she alluded to plans for 2012. And in the meantime, she says she's just excited to spend an entire night on live television.

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"It's way more exciting than live-to-tape," McCarthy says. "I thought I was going to have to be really prepared because it's live for so long, and, really, what it came down to was to let go of that. The whole idea is to have a great time and bring what we're experiencing to everyone on their couch. The more fun I'm having, the more fun the people experience. That's where I put away my index cards, if you will, and just have a good time."