Brian Dunkleman Admits Leaving ‘Idol’ Was A Bad Move; San Francisco Contestant Stefano Moves Judges

Former “American Idol” co-host Brian Dunkleman has admitted it was a mistake to leave the FOX ratings juggernaut after the first season.

“I have what many people refer to as ‘poor judgment,’” he joked when Joy Behar asked him why he stepped off the “Idol” train during Wednesday’s “The Joy Behar Show” on HLN.

Dunkleman, who since leaving “Idol” has had small guest roles in “Ghost Whisperer,” and “Las Vegas,” and a season as himself in VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club,” said departing “Idol” in its infancy was not his smartest move, but he really wanted to be an actor.

“Listen, I’d like to say I was just young and stupid, but the truth is, I really wasn’t that young,” he said. “I mean listen, I was a comedian and an actor… What I wanted to do with my life is be an actor and that’s going great (gives a thumbs up).”

The comedian added, however, that part of the reason he left the show, wasn’t just his career, but that he found it hard to watch the contestants get criticized, which coincidentally, is the same reason Ellen DeGeneres left the program after one season.

“The other thing was, I didn’t like watching those kids being brought to tears like that. I didn’t understand why they had to do it, I didn’t get it,” he said.

This year though, with the addition of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez to the judging panel, and the departure of Simon Cowell, “Idol” has been noticeably cuddlier, including on Wednesday’s episode, which featured one very moving contestant.

Stefano Langone, 21, who auditioned in San Francisco, Calif., revealed he was in some type of accident on May 28, 2009, a tragic event that left him nearly dead.

“I was in accident that changed my life, unfortunately for the worst,” the contender said on Wednesdays’ show. “I woke up to a fire fighter and I’ll never forget, he looked down at me and he screamed to the EMTs, ‘He’s alive! He’s alive.’”

While he was spared from death, Stefano said he was given grim news at the hospital.

“They told me that I wouldn’t either walk the same, be able to walk, write, or be the same and I got on my feet in less than four months,” the young man said. “Living through that and being in a wheelchair and not being able to play my piano, that just makes you so much hungrier, and that flame in you says, I want this. It burns everything.”

In his audition – to the Marvin Gaye classic, “Heard It Through The Grapevine” — Stefano showed his hunger, with a voice that impressed the panel.

”[You’re] definitely here for a reason,” Jennifer said. “I think you have real star quality. You have movie star good looks…. You’re a big S-T-A-R all over.”

“And you survived that accident for a reason, and I’m about to tell you why, you’re going to Hollywood,” Steven added.

“American Idol” returns to FOX on Thursday night at 8 PM EST with the first night of Hollywood Week.

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