Category Archives: American Idol

Network Upfronts Extravaganza – ‘FOX’ Preview

It’s going to end up as the #1 network this season due to the American Idol juggernaut. And yet, can we really say that FOX has had a successful year? It’s to the point now where we really can’t even include Idol in the show’s ratings in order to get a decent view into its true success. The reality is that FOX had a rough development season, failing to put together a single new show that was buzzworthy except for the one they gave a shot after American Idol in the second half of the season…and a game show. The network looks to diversify that success yet again this season, and they’ve got a few options on the table which could get them there…and some which are just plain awful.

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Filed under 'Til Death, 24, American Idol, Bones, Drive, FOX, House, Prison Break, Ratings, Reality TV, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Television, The O.C., Upfronts

Cultural News Bytes: Law & Order to TNT, ‘Idol’ Blake’s Obscure Bee Gees selection

Cable Bound: Law & Order moving to TNT?

This is the word according to Entertainment Weekly, via some published reports. Considering that TNT is currently simulcasting the hell out of Law & Order, being the home of original episodes wouldn’t exactly be outside of its comfort zone. I’m kind of proud of my 3,000 Word Epic on Law & Order’s fall from grace, and it’s interesting to see this saga continue. This is the 2nd show that NBC is faced with the question of renewal with where another network/cable station is waiting in the wings: the same situation goes for Scrubs, which ABC is interested in. Personally, I think that Law & Order has enough of a fanbase on TNT to make one final season worthwhile, and it would be interesting to see whether they might consider extending the franchise with small-scale original episodes after that point. With a much smaller budget, I think a weekly new episode featuring just some of the cast would be an interesting experiment for the cable network. This is also good new for Criminal Intent, which could get a pickup should the mothership find itself another home. I doubt that NBC is willing to give up to CSI: that easily, no?

Blake Picks A Modern Bee Gees song; Psychiatrist Called In

Let’s face it, even Barry Gibb was surprised by Blake Lewis‘ choice to perform “This is Where I Came In,” the title track from the Bee Gees’ album of the same name, on tonight’s episode of American Idol. It went nowhere as a single (Although I in all my youth actually remember it quite well), but apparently Blake saw an opportunity to turn it into a Ska beatboxing hit. I personally felt that all of Blake’s beatboxing felt tacked on tonight, but the fact remains that it’s at least original compared to LaKisha’s shouting.
But, for all of you who haven’t heard this Bee Gees song, here’s the video via YouTube (Which came in handy tonight, let me tell you).

However, before I go, one more video. Before Melinda’s show opening performance of Love You Inside Out, Barry Gibb said it was a challenge to take a song written for a group and turn it into a solo song. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is aware of the lovely Leslie Feist’s amazing rendition of the song (Retitled ‘Inside & Out’). She turned it into a hit, Juno-nominated single in Canada, and I think that her version is everything Melinda’s wasn’t: unique, interesting and nuanced. So, to end things, here’s Feist kicking Melinda’s ass.

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Filed under American Idol, FOX, Law & Order, NBC, Reality TV, Television

Tuesday Night TV Society – May 1st (Gilmores, Idol, Veronica)

Gilmore Girls

David S. Rosenthal is doing his darndest to salvage what was left behind by Amy Sherman-Palladino in the span of, oh, three episodes. He’s used every trick in the book: giant hay mazes, car shopping, wardrobe changes, and even karaoke of all things. And, do you know what? It’s heavy-handed, cliched, and yet in the end…it kind of works. This being said, I worry somewhat about where things are headed. With Lorelai and Luke heading towards some sort of resolution, Rory and Logan apparently heading to the altar, Zach heading out on tour with VapoRub…everything seems very, oh, I don’t know, final. It’s like they’re handicapping the possibility of a series finale hanging in the balance, and yet they don’t seem like they’re ready for it. I just want to avoid a 7th Heaven-like scenario where things clearly came to a resolution and then “Surprise!” we need to fill another 13-22 episodes.

With 13 episodes looking more and more likely, I at least hope that the show leaves us hanging and with some sort of future for these characters that can fill that period of time. I also hope, perhaps against all odds, that Amy returns to write/direct the eventual finale. I’m sure her new pilot will fail anyways, it’s on FOX.

American Idol

Note to American Idol Producers: there are a lot of terms synonymous with rock out there, and sadly Jon Bon Jovi is not one of them. I thought this was “Rock” night, not the catalogue of the enjoyable in their own special way Bon Jovi. It basically placed the contestants into a situation where no real individuality was easily shown (I’ll get to Blake in a second) and any originality that came out wasn’t a true extension of their own tastes. If it’s going to be a single artist week, they need to have a diverse catalogue: sappy ballads and raucous “I’m awesome, now I’m going to sing about it” is not diversity, as much as there’s some quality tripe in there.

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The Cultural Learnings Magic 8-Ball: Idol’s “Most Shocking Elimination” Prediction

I’ve shaken my magic 8-Ball with the following prediction:

Will American Idol’s most shocking elimination ever in fact be a complete lack of an elimination in a moment of spiritual togetherness and happiness?

“Count on it.”

It is now 8:51 EST. We’ll see if the 8-Ball is correct in believing that no one will be eliminated on tonight’s episode of American Idol.

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Cultural Catchup: April 25th

Wow, so much is going on right now…

Idol Gives Back, McNutts provide Commentary

So, tonight was the first part of the rather epic Idol Gives Back event on American Idol, and the singing was just…ok. I thought Jordin was pitchy in the beginning, contrary to the judges, but really there wasn’t much to really say about the performances. There is a lot to say, however, on the subject of the cultural ramifications of Idol Gives Back. The elder McNutt has taken an interest in it, and I’ve assisted in analyzing and considering the issue over at McNutt Against the Music. I implore all of you to go over and check it out, it’s quite interesting (I even bring up Baudrillard!).

…in which McNutt and McNutt discuss “Idol Gives Back” – McNutt Against the Music

What’s up with the Boys of Entourage?

Joe asks, and Joe receives; I have, indeed, not talked about Entourage since its recent Season 3.5 premiere. My thoughts? First episode back was good, the second was dull and annoying, while the third got things back on track thanks to some classic Ari and the absolutely stunning Carla Gugino. Ari/Lloyd have been a powerful force thus far, and I think it’s making me more and more frustrated with Vince and Eric. While the latter two are all caught up in the drama of it all, unable to escape their juvenile ways, Ari and Lloyd have this great rapport that just kills me. They’re currently saving Entourage, and I think that they’re perhaps my favourite duo on TV right now.

The Post-Elimination Speech Revenge: Dancing with the Stars and Reality Legitimacy

So, I haven’t been paying too much attention to Dancing with the Stars, but I’ve seen enough to know that the show is suffering the same fate as The Apprentice: its contestants are losing respect for the program. It’s one thing for viewership to fail, but the past two weeks has seen Clyde Drexler and Heather Mills give absolutely biting exit speeches that attack parts of the show’s structure.

Drexler ended last week attacking the judges for expecting non-dancers to be so good. Reasonable? Absolutely not. But it’s still tough to hear for producers. And this week, Heather Mills prepared an entire speech in which she voiced her views on animal rights (unsurprising, but it really pissed off Tom Bergeron who told her to “save her speech for another venue”) and pointed out that she feels bad since her partner (Johnathan) would not be unemployed thanks to her exit. I seriously doubt the show wanted us to think about unemployment when watching ABC’s reality television programming.

The Apprentice had a similar problem, in that after a specific board room the team just laughed as they left, failing to take Trump seriously in the least. Is reality TV becoming so transparent that contestants are no longer willing to isolate themselves? If this is the case, what does this mean for future shows? Is reality TV finally becoming less desirable, less idealistic? I guess that’s a question to ponder.

Today is a pretty crazy day for me, as I’m packing up and heading home. I should be back home in time for some Idol Gives Back and Lost blogging, however, which could mean a long night in front of the HDTV. Mmmm. High-Definition.

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Obituary: Sanjaya Malakar (2007-2007)

It is with a sad heart that I announce that Sanjaya Malakar as been eliminated from American Idol this evening, April 18th, at 9:57 EST. Sanjaya is survived by six other superior contenders for the title, who will remember him fondly, and millions of viewers who will not.

The girls cried for him. The celebrity judges loved him. Simon hated him. It was a love/hate relationship from the very beginning, and he will always be remembered as perhaps the most polarizing contestant of all time. His presence simultaneously delegitimatized the show as a singing competition and provided it with some of its most substantial press in recent years. It was a double-edged sword, and tonight Sanjaya’s metaphorical head got caught between the sword and the chopping block.

A Memorial Service is likely to be held on every morning talk show, every internet site, and on a wide majority of future Idol broadcasts. They’ll remember his tenacity, his spunk, and ignore his terrible singing.

So long, Sanjaya. See you at the Finale.

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Cultural Feedback: The Politics of Sympathy on American Idol

In the wake of Monday’s shootings at Virginia Tech (Which I’m not trying to exploit here, in talking about them twice, but I really want to focus on this conundrum), American Idol felt that there should be an address of sympathy to the victims and their families. At the opening of the show, Ryan Seacrest forewent the usual bombast and drama for a subtle, well-stated message of sympathy in the wake of yesterday’s events.

However, after his performance, Idol contender Chris Richardson made special mention of the tragedy, and provided his own personal condolences. Judge Simon Cowell was very clearly upset at this, turning his head away from Richardson and seeming genuinely angry. In fact, as this picture shows, Simon was most certainly rolling his eyes.

After Chris’ comment, Seacrest noted that “All of us feel for everybody affected by that,” seemingly trying to depersonalize the statement. Later in the broadcast, after Blake Lewis had performed his song, Simon tagged on a message of sympathy from the judges specifically which had no relation to Blake’s comments.

This raises a lot of questions. While I think everyone would believe that a response from a show like American Idol is a classy move, was Richardson stepping out of his bounds in an attempt to rise above the competition? Was he just trying to gain attention, and did that attempt make the other contenders seem less sympathetic? Was Simon’s response petty, feeling that he was not personally connected to one of the apologies, or rather out of concern for the other competitors?

On a personal level, I think that the one show-wide message of sympathy is the better tactic, and that intended or not Richardson should have left it at that. I admire Simon’s effort, but he came across as really angry, which was also inappropriate considering the situation. And yet, I think that this raises a really interesting issue (Especially considering my previous post on the relationship between the recent tragedy and television), and I was wondering if anyone else had an opinion on the subject. Did Chris or Simon go too far, or is too much sympathy never a problem?

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Liveblogging American Idol’s Top 8

9:00pm: We’re down to the final eight competitors now, and Seacrest was two words for us as one of the Monkeys (Dolenz, I think) is shown: Jennifer Lopez. He calls her silver screen work prolific. Really? Prolific?9:02pm: Lopez is here to pimp her album as she coaches the top Ocho. If my Spanish was better, I’d try to interject it into this portion of the liveblog, but alas. Lopez is talking about people feeling good, and she watches it at home. She even has her favourites, but isn’t telling. I bet she likes…other peoples.

9:03pm: Melinda is performing ‘Sway’, and this is a bit of a departure for Melinda. Lopez wants her to be sexy and sultry, and Melinda’s not having it.

9:04pm: The crowd opens the performance by cheering her choice of attire, and she opens singing this entirely like you would expect Melinda to sing a song like this. She is certainly not Latin in her inflections or anything, but her voice is already so rich with sound that it really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. She isn’t getting a real power moment in the song, but she’s continuing to stand out against the rather aggressive band and backup singers…and ends on the power note.

9:07pm: Randy believes it is another solid performance, not quite her best, and there was some…Salea Cruz? Okay. Paula calls it subtle and sexy. Simon Cowell? He didn’t like it. He just found that the song was all about personality, and she appeared far too old considering her age. He throws around lazy, wooden and lacking in the ‘Wow’ factor.

9:08pm: Melinda’s glad that Simon has finally been able to say something bad about her, which actually sounds more condescending than I would have thought.

9:12pm: Oooh, we’re opening with Melinda AND LaKisha? This is rather dangerous for likely both of these individuals, in terms of perhaps finding themselves in the Bottom 3 for the first time. LaKisha is here to make a better life for her and her daughter…I can’t argue with this. Continue reading

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Cultural Catchup: April 2nd-9th

Okay, so there’s isn’t a whole lot I didn’t get a chance to comment on, but I figure I’ll fill in some gaps here.

24

Ahead of tonight’s episode, I am perhaps the least interested in the season thus far. To be honest, there just isn’t anything really interesting happening at this particular point. Sure, Fahed has been captured and Gredenko is off bleeding into the pacific, and President Palmer has launched a nuclear missile, but I just don’t care at this point. When 24’s president launches a nuclear bomb, I should at least care; in this case, I thought it was ridiculous but didn’t overly care about its intended target (Especially when, although it’s for good reason, it’s known as ‘Fahed’s country in the Middle East’). At this point, something needs to happen which totally changes the way we look at the series, or at least provides an interesting construct. Jack going from torture session to torture session is not, in my view, interesting television, no matter how hard Kiefer Sutherland tries. They need to get back on their feet, ASAP on this one…we’ll see how they manage this evening.

Lost

This week’s episode of Lost, “Left Behind,” was unfortunately recapless here at Cultural Learnings due to the two 3500 word papers due on Thursday. However, I did get a chance to watch the episode live, and I must say it was quite enjoyable. We didn’t get any major revelations (Although the Smoke Monster flashes now), but we did get a great setup for future episodes. Juliet being integrated into the castaways is a fantastic way to move forward, as it makes a romantic square out of Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Juliet that I think works well. Plus, by uniting some characters together for the first time I think there’s a chance for some new dynamics, and some interesting changes heading into the final portion of the show’s season. It’s picking up a whole ton of momentum at this stage, and I’m guessing it will do quite well with it. This week’s episode promises to bring Jack back to the beach for the first time all season, and I’m sure we’ll see some spark fly between he and Sawyer.

American Idol

Gina Glocksen going home was annoying, but none too surprising. The real question right now is whether or not we’re heading for our 2nd all-female final between Lakisha and Melinda. I think that Jordin is the most likely to get Tamyra’d or Hudson’d in this scenario, perhaps exiting before Blake, but those two seem relatively unstoppable. Only time will tell what happens to Sanjaya, but in all honesty I couldn’t really be bothered.

Survivor

While I’m certainly still watching, I’m not too perplexed with this season of Survivor at this stage. I think that the merge upcoming this week will shake things up fairly well, but there’s just nothing to really shock me in the meantime. That said, this past week’s episode featured the awesome archery/spear powers of Yao Man, who basically destroyed everyone else with his unorthodox style. It’s nice to see someone like him sticking around, and perhaps even moving into a position to get into the final four. However, I have to think that the old guy who everyone likes is going to be pretty well doomed in a final three situation. No one will take him into it, and he’s far too weak to last in an endurance challenge of strength. Still, if the challenge is suited to him, he could well end up the Survivor champion. That would be a breath of fresh air, in my book.

Entourage

The episode last night was fantastic, and I am officially already annoyed that I have to wait an entire week after watching the rest back-to-back-to-back-to…you get the idea. The breakup between Ari and Vince being handled like an actual breakup was absolutely fantastic, with Lloyd and Drama on either side to help establish the scenario in their respectively awesome ways. It’s so funny that Vince is finally at the centre of the show’s drama; so often Eric gets placed as the real centre of things, but in this episode he was the money and the occasional mouthpiece. Vince is really running the show right now, and as the end of the episode shows this was a rather terrible idea. One person who certainly thinks so is new agent Amanda, who is played by the ridiculously stunning Carla Gugino. Pitting Ari against a power-female isn’t anything new (They do it with Mrs. Ari all the time), but it works extremely well here, and I think the episode bodes well for the rest of the season.

The Amazing Race

It’s really too bad that last night’s episode was quite so anti-climactic, because it contained some potentially exciting elements. Just one flight can kill a team, and it doesn’t make for great television. It does, however, make picking a winner incredibly hard.However, I’m nonetheless officially going to put on my “Prediction” hat and perhaps jinx a few racers in the process. As a result, here is my predicted finish order for The Amazing Race: All Stars.

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Filed under 24, American Idol, Entourage, Lost, Reality TV, Survivor, Television, The Amazing Race

7 Minutes of War: Idol vs. Dancing Showdown

PopWatch called it “the most important seven minutes in history,” somewhat tongue-in-cheek, at the end of last week. FOX announced that it would be airing American Idol for an extra seven minutes, from 8:00pm to 9:07pm, in order to find time for all ten performers. Of course, in this age of accountable media, they were all too quick to point out its real purpose: putting a dent into the first results show of Dancing with the Stars. FOX is promising that House will air in its entirety (With very few commercial breaks, clearly) in the following 53 minutes, and things have been abuzz since that point.

UPDATE: Well, the end of Idol was uneventful, and the beginning of Dancing with the Stars was even more boring than you could imagine. Still, in the end, who got eliminated from Dancing with the stars? Why, it was Paulina and Max who were sent home on Dancing with the Stars, but only after an hour of sheer boredom.

To be honest with you, I think we need to step back and look past the symbolic ramifications of this scheduling. Because, really, that’s all there is. While FOX is clearly posturing for media attention, let’s remember that, uh, nothing happens in the first seven minutes of a results show. For people interested in tuning in to see who gets eliminated on Dancing with the Stars, that first seven minutes will likely contain little but a recap, maybe an opening group number, perhaps some bad jokes from Tom Bergeron…nothing to really be too worried about. The conflict between these two shows will have little impact on viewing habits. I would wager that anyone who would have changed the channel at 9pm will likely do the same at 9:07 after watching Idol.

And yet, it is quite the gesture; while ABC has long frustrated TiVo users with its wonky :01 scheduling in an attempt to keep people around, nobody has gone so far as to play with a figure as large as 7 minutes while remaining below thirty outside of the wonky scheduling of Supersized comedies over at NBC. If they had really wanted to stretch out the episode, they could have pushed it to 90 minutes and bumped House back a week; this move was clearly calculated purely to get in the way of ABC’s reality success. While networks are always at odds with scheduling, and are always looking for a way to undercut the competition, this kind of takes things to a new level.

While NBC’s Supersized comedy tradition never turned into a trend for other networks, I think that this is certainly a precedent-setting move. Other networks, especially those with reality shows, will be quite interested to see the results on Wednesday morning when the ratings come in. This experiment could give further prudence to the laziness of TV viewers, unwilling to change the channel after the start of an hour, or perhaps prove further the level of apathy towards the drawn out nature of results shows. Whatever the result, one can only hope that the earth does not explode during this seven minutes; while it may not be the most important such minutes in history, it’s certainly making a usually slow March period quite interesting in the world of television.

After the jump, for those interested, is the rumoured songlist for tonight’s episode of American Idol. Want to know who’s performing what songs on ‘Songs that Inspired Gwen Stefani’ Night? Continue reading

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