Liars, liars, liars


Maybe I should have realized that magazine covers aren't always truthful. In his autobiography, David Brown admitted writing the cover blurbs for Cosmopolitan (which his wife, Helen Gurley Brown, edited) without bothering to read the stories.

Still, I fell for it again. There was TV Guide, with a cover photo of Simon Cowell and the giant yellow headline: "Why I'm Leaving Idol."

That seemed like big news. I set aside all the important things I was doing -- or would have, if I still had important things to do -- and read the article. I soon found Cowell saying that he'll PROBABLY leave when his contract expires after NEXT season ends, in 2010. Those are two big differences.

Once you get past that, there are points in the interview where he is right and where he's wrong. He's:

-- Right about the strong possibility of a finale with Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert.

-- Wrong in picking Gokey as the 55/45 likely winner. Cowell has misunderstood Lambert in the past, dismissing him as "theatrical" and "self-indulgent." In truth, Lambert brings fresh, original interpretations. His "Ring of Fire" was brilliantly linked to the actual lyrics; as always, it was sung superbly.

-- Right in saying Allison Iraheta is limited because she shows no personality behind that blazing talent. In a way, it's the sort of pageant-syndrome that hit Diana DeGarmo. Iraheta has been singing since she was 3; she's had little time to develop her own personality.

-- Wrong in giving Kris Allen the same description. Sure, he's a fairly quiet Southern kid with an attractive wife and a pleasant life. Still, there are hints of extra layers there; don't be surprised if he nudges past Gokey for the runner-up spot.

-- Right in saying Lambert will be a big-seller, Gokey probably won't. Danny Gokey is this year's Taylor Hicks, which is a good thing; Lambert is this year's Daughtry-plus, which is a great thing.

-- Wrong in his friendly criticism of Paula Abdul -- "I don't understand half of what she's talking about." It made perfect sense, for instance, when she discussed Kris Allen's song choice as "shopping in the ladies' department." That's a metaphor or a simile, the things British people are supposed to understand. If I remember my English lit class correctly, they invented them.

-- Right in saying one problem is that Abdul and DioGuardi have been too wordy. They have; Cowell and Randy Jackson have said more in less time.

-- Wrong in giving guarded approval to DioGuardi. In truth, she's been a disappointment, never disagreeing with Jackson and rarely diverting from a limited view of what might work on a pop record. "Idol" deeply needs Jackson and Cowell, with their ability to be direct and (often) correct. That's why I panicked when I saw the yellow letters saying "Why I'm Leaving Idol." Fortunately, it was just yellow journalism.

 

"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.