"American Idol" meets the Rat Pack


This is a pivotal week for "American Idol" fans. After all:

-- Today is Allison Iraheta's 17th birthday. For those of you waiting patiently, she's now a year from being a consenting adult.

-- Tuesday is "Rat Pack" night, with the remaining contestants singing songs done by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Sammy Davis. They could also do the music of Joey Bishop or Peter Lawford, but I wouldn't advise it.

"Rat Pack" week means Matt Giraud will have an excuse to wear a fedora again. If he makes it to next week, he'll tie two others (Josh Gracin, Lakisha Jones) with the best finish by a Michigan person, fourth overall. It means Iraheta might find a fast-paced Davis song -- sort of like "Candy Man," but better -- to sing. And it means Adam Lambert will ... well, be perfect, as usual.

I like Giraud, but I'm surprise that he's still around, with Lil Rounds (one of my favorites) and Anoop Desai ousted. Here's the story I wrote after phone interviews, the day after their ouster:

Let's not feel too sorry for Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai, as they return home from "American Idol."
She's looking forward to her three kids and more. "My husband bought me a puppy," Rounds said Thursday.
And Desai has basketball memories to savor retroactively. "I'm going to do some celebrating from a couple weeks ago," he said Thursday.
Desai grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he's a grad student at the University of North Carolina. Basketball is his personal passion.
"Anoop can play some ball," another ousted finalist, Michael Sarver, said after playing with him. "He's a very intense basketball player ... When Anoop missed, he did not like it. He would beat himself up until he got it."
He once paced his hotel room for two hours because ESPN blinked out when the North Carolina Tarheels were playing Duke.
Then came the NCAA championship game. Desai was cutting some "Idol" tracks with the other finalists, then rushed to a TV. "Unfortunately, I didn't see the first part, when they really beat them up," he recalled.

That might have distracted him from preparing for his performance the next day, but he said he was confident. "I knew wasn't going home, because the 'Heels had won."
Confidence was hard to find this week, when the field was trimmed from seven to five."I actually started coping with the fact that I might be done," Rounds said.
Others did, too. "It's amazing how many people out of the group were sure they were going home that night," Desai said.
He had been in the bottom often and asked host Ryan Seacrest to break the news to him quickly. "If I had a choice, they would mail me the results," Desai said.
Rounds had faced criticism from the judges, who kept insisting she make a song seem like her own, instead of sounding like the original record.
"I think I did make it my own," she said. "I always stayed true to what the song was, (but) being an R-and-B, soulful singer, I think I made it true to me."
That's the sort of record she'll cut, Rounds said. First, however, she'll return to Memphis, her husband, their three children and that puppy. "I can't wait to be back home and take them to a park."
Then comes the "Idol" tour, followed by the scramble for individual records. Desai said he wants his to be "R-and-B pop."
First, he has that belated celebrating to do, "There is nothing like spring in Chapel Hill," he said.  

At least, Lion fans get some fun


Well, this is kind of good news for Detroit Lion fans: At least, they're the center of attention.

With the No. 1 draft pick, they were the focus of the football world. And after they chose Matthew Stafford, he made the media rounds.

He was even on the David Letterman show tonight, reading the top 10 list -- his thoughts upon being drafted No. 1. Here were a few of my favorite ones:

10. You don't often hear, "Congratulation, you're going to Detroit."

8. If the Lions win one game this year, I'm a hero.

6. Holy crap, I think I just pulled a hamstring.

2. Why does Jessica Simpson keep calling me?

 

Ah yes, we've become silly people


TV's semi-new trend involves reviving old hits. Its newer trend: Reviving old ratings failures.

ABC did that last month with "Cupid." Now NBC tries on June 1, giving a new edition to ABC's old, "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here."

Why try it again? Producers have various explanations, one of which is that we are now more celebrity-oriented.

In short, we've become a sillier nation, forever noticing reality-show stars. The "celebrities" in ABC's 2003 version -- such people as Cris Judd, Bruce Jenner, Tyson Beckford and Maria Conchita Alonso -- barely drew a shrug.

Of the seven people announced by NBC so far, five have been in previous reality shows. The other two are athletes -- Tori Wilson (let's home she really does put a sleeper hold on Janice Dickinson, as promised) and John Salley.

Anyway, here's the story I wrote after Friday's introduction of the contestants -- plus one almost-contestant. Stay tuned: 

 

When NBC's "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here" debuts June 1, it will have the tallest reality-show contestant so far.
It almost had the most controversial, but a judge banned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich from leaving the country. "I'd deluded myself into ... thinking I could be a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt, going down to the jungle," Blagojevich said today.
With that move blocked, only seven of the 10 contestants have been verified for the show, which has people trying to survive in the Costa Rican jungle. Announced today are:
-- John Salley, a 7-footer who is a sports commentator and former pro basketball player.
-- Tori Wilson, a pro wrestler. "I definitely think being an athlete will be an advantage," she said. "And if Janice (Dickinson) gets out of line, I have no doubt I will tackle her and put her in a sleeper hold."
-- Dickinson, a former supermodel who has done several reality shows, including the British version of this show. "I practically won it," she said.
-- Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, the couple from "The Hills" on MTV -- which will air the show after NBC does.
-- Sanjaya Malakar, the former "American Idol" contestant.
-- Stephen Baldwin, the actor who has become a reality and game-show veteran, via "The Mole," "The Apprentice," "Fear Factor," "Hollywood Squares," "Celebrity Blackjack" and "Celebrity Bullriding Challenge."
Many of those had been rumored, along with three others -- Geraldo Rivera, Duane Chapman (of "Dog the Bounty Hunter") and Blagojevich. Producers said the final three contestants will be announced next week.
Blagojevich said he isn't sure if he'll be involved with the show now, other than to help promote it. "At this point, I'm looking for a new line of work." After being arrested on federal corruption charges, he was impeached by the Illinois House and unanimously removed from office by the Illinois State Senate.
Show-business is a possibility, he said. "When I was governor of Illinois, my second-favorite governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now ... he's my first-favorite. I guess this is a reverse form of his career."
The show will air live on Mondays through Thursdays, through June 22, with viewers choosing a "King (or Queen) of the Jungle."
A 2003 version on ABC had less-controversial celebrities, with Cris Judd and Melissa Rivers finishing first and second. It died in the ratings, but producers insist they are now better at this -- through eight editions of the British show -- and Americans are now more interested in celebrities.
Malakar said that interest was obvious the first time he was mobbed by cheerleaders.
Wilson had a similar view: "The moment I realized I had celebrity status was when I walked into the arena and heard 15,000 people shouting my name."

Disco dies; so do Lil and Anoop


All over America tonight, children were looking accusingly at their parents and asking: "You listened to THAT?!? Why?"

The medley on "American Idol" seemed determined to assure that disco, already dead, would stay that way.

I'm not talking about the opening bit, with the seven finalists dancing to Paula Abdul's choreography. That was goofy fun.

Instead, I'm talking about the decision to bring back three old disco-era singers. Two were bad; Harry Casey was much worse. Here was a man known for his group (KC and the Sunshine Band) singing "(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty" in 1976, the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, Bicentennial year when moods were high and standards were low. It appeared that his booty had not been (shake shake shake) shaken or stirred since.

Then came the ouster of Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai. Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) Lil Rounds sang powerfully, as usual. We were soon reminded how much better she sings disco than most disco people did.

2) Lil Rounds finishing seventh? There hasn't been anything that absurd since ... well, since Jennifer Hudson finished seventh. Maybe Lil will get an Oscar too.

3) When Hudson finished seventh, people were stunned. Elton John -- who had been impressed when she sang his "Circle of Life" -- even suggested racism by the voters. And that was a year in which the final five included three blacks and a Polynesian. Tonight, by comparison, Lil and Anoop were swept away. The only person in the final five who is even faintly ethnic is Allison Iraheta -- and she was alongside them in the bottom three.

4) It was fun to see Matt Giraud pull through again, though. I had pegged him as the first one to go tonight (with Lil, unfortunately, second and Anoop scraping through). I'm kind of happy to be wrong; he's a fresh, soulful guy.

5) Anoop had pretty much been in the bottom three every week, except when he sang ballads. His time was coming.

6) Besides, Anoop already got to see North Carolina win the basketball championship, which is his prime obsession. You can't get everything the same year.

7) I can't help liking David Archuleta. He's a good singer, a likable guy and, I'm told, kind of cute. When he sang "Touch My Hand," I'm sure that wasn't everyone's first goal.

8) Cute only gets you to second place, however, as David Archuleta, Justin Guarini and Diana DeGarmo all learned. Someone cute -- Kris Allen or Allison Iraheta -- might make it to second this year.

9) First, of course, is reserved for Adam Lambert. Talent prevails and he has mountains of it.

10) Whatever happened to Diana DeGarmo, anyway? Do you realize she finished five places ahead of Jennifer Hudson? Maybe Lil Rounds shouldn't feel bad at all.

It's Adam and ...


Let's imagine that forces conspired against Adam Lambert. They decided he had to return to his home planet, the one where people can sing like that, people can create like that.

If so, this would be the closest "American Idol" ever. As it is, it's still sort of close: For the first time, I have no idea who will be ousted Wednesday. I also have no idea who will be the runner-up to Adam in the show's finale.

Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) Originality is a good thing. It is NOT, however, the only thing. Every week, Lil Rounds shows that she can sing anything beautifully, in the style of the original performer. It would be better to create her own version, but she's still terrific; the judges should get off their one-note criticism of her.

2) Speaking of creating your own version, here's a hint: It really should be better than the original. I didn't like Kris Allen's version at all. Sure, it's gutsy to give "She Works Hard For the Money" a sort of calypso, Latino feel; still, it just wasn't all that pleasant to hear.

3) The show's best judge is Randy Jackson. Its worst judge is whoever sits next to Randy Jackson. Paula Abdul sat there for years and simply put what he said into different words. Now? Sometimes I don't think Kara DioGuardi even bothers to change the words.

4) Abdul, by comparison, has become pretty good now that she's separated from Jackson. Her comment about "shopping in the women's department" actually made sense. And I enjoyed hearing her tell Anoop Desai that "real men know how to wear pink."

5) Simon Cowell claimed he didn't understand that. But then again, we've just learned that he's not a real man; I don't think he has a clue how to wear pink.

6) The trouble with disco week is basic: This is a singing competition and disco songs -- fun, bouncy, vibrant -- tend to have a limited range. To show off, you have to change the song; those changes can sometimes be iffy.

7) Most people took a few chances with their song, but not too many. They just tried to sing the dickens out of it and remind us that the disco era was -- for reason that are now hard to remember -- fun.

8) OK, it was a bit disconcerting to see babyfaced, 16-year-old Allison Iraheta sing "give me some hot stuff, give me some loving tonight." It's an uncomfortable juxtaposition, sort of like seeing photos of JonBenet Ramsey with all her make-up.

9) Two people will go tonight. My should-go picks are Allen first and Matt Giraud second, with Desai third and Danny Gokey fourth.

10) My will-go predictions? Giraud first, with the second one a toss-up. I'll reluctantly predict Rounds, with Desai third. Next week, we're down to the four-way fight to see who gets to stand next to Lambert when he becomes the new American idol.