Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jordin, Blake and Melinda Will Perform Together on July 4th

This year's American Idol Top 3, Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis, and Melinda Doolittle, will reunite to perform a song together on NBC's "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular."The special will air on Wednesday July 4th from 9-10PM. It has not yet been announced what song the trio will perform.

Martina McBride will also perform at the event, which is being hosted by Natalie Morales and Tiki Barber.

Stay tuned for more info.

Person of the Day: Hugh Laurie

As he has done on every episode for the past three seasons, Hugh Laurie managed to reveal even more layers of brilliant, cranky Dr. House on this week's season finale of House. For that, he is the Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

I could have done without the Cuban refugee story, which was a bit unsubtle and over-the-top for my taste, but the rest of the finale, which found House firing Dr. Chase and watching Dr. Cameron and Dr. Foreman walk out the door, was top-notch, due in no small part to some fantastic acting from Hugh Laurie. He was hurt, he was proud, he was stubborn, and he was angry -- often all at once. If this performance doesn't at least earn him an Emmy nomination (if not the award), there is no television justice.

Watching House grapple with how to get Foreman to stay, only to see him realize that the change he has been resisting for years has been holding him back, made for fascinating television. His seemingly impulsive firing of Chase was shocking, as was his decision to let the Cuban man break down and hug him later in the episode. But as unsettling as the cleaning house (no pun intended) was, the episode ended on a hopeful note, with House unpacking the new guitar he had ordered to replace the guitar he had been using for 15 years. The joy and freedom on Laurie's face was palpable...and even somewhat moving.

Who knows what will happen next season, now that House no longer has a team surrounding him, but for three season's worth of complex characterization, Hugh Laurie is today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

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TV Ratings: Dance Strong on May 30

So You Think You Can Dance improved it's ratings as the evening went on, peaking in the 10:30 half-hour with 10.9 million, while new CW drama Hidden Palms got left at the starting gate with fewer than 2 million viewers. Here are the Top 5 shows in last night's Nielsen ratings:

1. CSI: New York, 10.03 million
2. So You Think You Can Dance, 9.21 million
3. Criminal Minds, 8.83 million
4. The Next Best Thing, 7.75 million
5. Most Outrageous Moments, 6.51 million

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SYTYCD -- LA and Chicago Auditions

Is it just me, or are they showing a lot more good dancers this year on So You Think You Can Dance than they show good singers in the initial audition rounds of American Idol? No complaints here -- I'd much rather get a glimpse of the dancers we will be falling in love with over the next few months than I would see a bunch of people humiliate themselves. I'm just sayin'.

Which is not to say I didn't chuckle at Colin Wheeler as he claimed he is still in communication with the late, great Anna Nicole Smith, even if he was most likely full of crap. He was convincing enough to bring a smile to my face!

But the evening was really about the talent, so out of respect to that, here are some dancers I think we'll be seeing much more of in the coming weeks:

-Lauren Gotlieb, who had assisted choreographer Tyce on last year's show, and apparently has given some lessons to Tobey Maguire. More interesting than her dancing (which was very good) was the revelation that Tobey loves SYTYCD. I knew Spidey and I had something more in common than just our shared ability to scale buildings.

-Jessi Peralta, who whipped out the baby oil for her routine. Baby oil always equals Vegas. Smart girl.

-Chuy Solorio, who got cut in Vegas last year. His dancing looked awesome to me, sort of in the vein of Season 1 winner Nick and Season 2 runner-up Travis, and anything that even remotely evokes either one of those boys is fine by me. He even had a compelling backstory about his wine making ambitions and his father's lack of support. Expect to see this kid around for awhile.

-Hok is back! With a work permit and all! Could this kid be any more charming? And that accent certainly doesn't hurt. It seems a little bit unfair that he is so well-known coming in to the competition, but his moves are so spectacular and original I really hope he makes it to the Top 20.

-Lacey Schwimmer, last year's champion Benji's younger sister. Having the returning champ be your partner -- talk about unfair! There was about, oh, 0% chance this girl wasn't going to make it to Vegas. While she has clearly got some dancin' skills, and she holds two national dancing titles ("one more than her brother"), she didn't blow me away like I hoped she would. Maybe it was the fact that she was being upstaged by Benji, or that she seemed a little too confident that she would make it through, but I just didn't fall head over heels. I have no doubt, however, we'll be seeing quite a bit more of her.

-Phillip Chbeeb, who did some of the most amazing pop-and-locking I (or Shane Sparks) has ever seen. Shane even had a tear in his eye! Who knows if this kid can do anything else besides wiggle his body around like that, but who cares? That was amazing!

-Janet Bombard, who has a prosthetic arm! I literally had no idea that was the case until Nigel brought it up, so I had to rewind and watch the performance again to see if it was glaringly obvious and I had just missed it. Nope, barely noticed it the second time around. I don't know if this girl will be able to hold up with all the partnering these kids have to do, but I am very impressed with what I've seen so far.

There were also a few dancers who I had mixed feelings about, but the judges seemed to enjoy:

-Oliva Usey, who signed up to audition because her mother had found a lump in her breast. I don't mean to be insensitive, but her mother was going in for her biopsy on the day of the audition, she wasn't exactly knocking on death's door quite yet. Now, for all I know, she could have received a scary diagnosis, and that would be terrible, but the whole thing smelled like a bit of a ploy to gain some sympathy. Hopefully Olivia's mother is fine, the biopsy came back clean, and I am right to think she was trying to manipulate the viewers. Either way, I thought Olivia was a fine dancer, but she was no Melody or Heidi or Donyelle. I'm just saying.

-Dia and Kurt, ballroom dancers who were winking and hiccuping all over the floor. I though they were a little much, and I wasn't really feeling these two, although I did feel for Kurt as the judges blatantly laughed in his face for a solid 90 seconds over his hiccuping. What, are the judges five years old? (It was kinda funny though, I gotta admit.)

-Brianne Healey, the young blonde who had "grown up" while dancing on a cruise ship. I bet she grew up! She was pretty, and a solid dancer, but, again, the level of talent on this show has been so high in the past, I'm not sure Brianne has what it takes to really make a dent in the competition. We'll see.

-Yesenia Gomez, who Shane Sparks called his "girl." I thought she was a solid dancer, but it pissed me off that Nigel called her "an inspiration," when he had earlier chastised the audience for patronizingly clapping for the overweight EJ as he pranced around the stage. It's okay for Nigel to be patronizing, but not for anyone else? Who is Yesenia an inspiration to, after all? Chubby girls, I would imagine Nigel was suggesting, but the truth is last season's full-figured Donyelle is much more of an inspiration to dancers who are not stick-thin than Yesenia is or will be. Sometime I hate Nigel.

I'm not even gonna talk about Gold Mask guy. Just not gonna do it.

So there it is, several very promising prospects, and, as always, a few duds. Next stop A-T-L!

Click here to read more on So You Think You Can Dance

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kelly vs. Clive: The Battle Continues; Clips of Kelly's New Songs Now Available



What did we do before the internet? Did we actually have to wait until a CD was released in a store to get a sense of what it was going to sound like?

Thankfully these days we have things like AOL Music, which is providing a sneak peek at a few songs from Kelly Clarkson's new album, "My December," which will be released June 26.

The songs previewed on the site are "Sober" (which has a haunting refrain and some unbelievable singing from Ms. C), "Can I Have a Kiss" (which has a playful, almost Sheryl Crow-esque sound), and "Maybe," a scorcher which Kelly sang on her last tour.

While each snippet is only about 1 minute in length, all three songs, to my ear, sound fantastic, and I can't wait for the album to come out. Can. Not. Wait.

I want this album to do incredibly well, not only because I love Kelly Clarkson (and I do love me some Kelly Clarkson), but because, due to the Kelly vs. Clive Davis debacle, it will also represent a victory of artistry over commerce. Clive has allegedly been against this album since Kelly turned it in to the record company in January, mostly because she wrote all of the songs herself and chose not to work with the producers who crafted some of her previous hits. First there were rumors that Clive talked sh*t about Kelly during a promotional presentation, then there was the threat that the CD might not be released, and then, of course, the final straw was his speech at the American Idol finale, where he plugged new singles by Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee, commended Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood for their huge record sales, and then seemed to take a swipe at Kelly by only mentioning her in terms of the songwriters who penned "Since U Been Gone." How about those 15 million albums Kelly sold, Clive? You didn't think those might be worthy of mention?

Thankfully, there does seem to be a bit of a Clive backlash brewing, with various artists expressing their support for Kelly, and articles popping up on various websites, including TMZ, taking Clive to task. New York Post's Page Six had a headline today that read "Note to music industry legend Clive Davis: Stop trashing Kelly Clarkson - you are making yourself look bad."

Gotta love it!

You can listen to the clips from Kelly's new album here.

Click to read more News on Former American Idol Contestants

David Hyde Pierce Comes Out of the Closet



Following in the footsteps of Neil Patrick Harris, TR Knight, and Lance Bass, Frasier star David Hyde Pierce (who is currently appearing on Broadway in Curtains) has come out of the closet.

While Pierce did not make a formal announcement about his sexuality, the following paragraph was included in a recent AP story that appeared on CNN.com, amongst other places:

"He worked at Playwrights Horizons, the Public Theater, Shakespeare in the Park and a lot of regional theaters such as the Guthrie in Minneapolis, Chicago's Goodman and Long Wharf in New Haven, Conn. Pierce got to Los Angeles in the early 1990s when his partner, actor-writer-producer Brian Hargrove, wanted to write for television."

Good for David! So who's next?

Person of the Day: Dominic Monaghan

So, I finally got around to watching the finale of Lost this past weekend, and I was blown away. The quality of the show had definitely picked up in the back half of the season, and I had heard rumblings that the season finale was a real game-changer, but I wasn't prepared to be as moved, shocked, or invested as I was in the finale. The twists and turns of the episode kept me on the edge of my seat (It's Walt! Jack kissed Juliet, and then told Kate he loved her! Kate is in Jack's flashback! It's not a flashback, it's a flash-forward!), and the performances were universally excellent (Matthew Fox was particularly impressive in the "flash-forward" scenes), but much of the reason I was so affected by the finale was because of today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day -- Dominic Monaghan.

When Lost began three seasons ago, Dominic was just "that guy from Lord of the Rings," but the impression he made as Charlie, the drug-addicted rock star who had just one hit under his belt (I found myself humming "You are Everybody" all weekend long), was so indelible and immediate that any thoughts of Dom's former life as a hobbit was instantly forgotten. He was funny, charming, a bit of a mess, self-doubting, in-over-his-head and completely and totally lovable. Watching him work through his addiction with the help of Terry O'Quinn's John Locke was great television, and seeing him fall in love with Emilie de Ravin's Claire and her son Aaron warmed the heart.

Based on articles I have read since the finale, it seems the decision to kill of Charlie was made as a story decision, and as such, it was probably a good one. Watching Monaghan deal with Desmond's visions that Charlie's death was inevitable was fascinating, and seeing the process of acceptance of his fate was incredibly moving. Charlie was the beautifully reluctant hero -- he didn't want to leave his life, but he knew what he had to do, and he did it. The look on his face in the final moments as water filled the hatch, and Charlie discovered that there was literally no time left, that his death was happening now, was some of the most gripping stuff on any television show this season.

So, for everything he brought to Lost, and the ways in which he was able to leave his hobbit past behind and create yet another totally memorable character, I salute Dominic Monaghan, today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

Read more Idol Thoughts People of the Day

TV Ratings: House Rules, On the Lot Continues To Decline

On the first American Idol-less Tuesday night since January, Fox was still able to claim the top spot, despite the fact that On the Lot roped in only 4 million viewers. The season finale of House was easily the most watched show of the night, capturing nearly 13 million more viewers than it's lead-in. Wow.

Here are the Top 5 rated shows for the evening:

1. House, 16.86 million
2. Boston Legal, 9.84 million
3. NCIS, 9.81 million
4. Law and Order: SVU, 8.42 million
5. The Unit, 6.19 million

Read more Television News/Commentary

*All numbers are from Marc Berman at Mediaweek

Daughtry and Underwood Get Boosts From Idol Appearances

Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood both got a boost from appearing on the two-part finale of American Idol, resulting in both artists finishing in this week's Top 10 on the albums chart.

Daughtry, who performed "Home" at the end of Tuesday's performance show, got a 53% sales bump to finish at #6 with more than 76K albums sold. Underwood, who performed "I'll Stand By You" and was featured in the Beatles medley on Wednesday's show, rose 15% to more than 52K albums sold, good enough for the #8 spot.

Elliott Yamin, meanwhile, continues his chart comeback, moving about 18K albums for the #31 position. His single "Wait for You" has just entered the Top 20 on the pop chart. Go Elliott!

Maroon 5, who performed on the Top 3 Results show, debuted their new album this week at #1 with 427K albums sold. The rest of the Top 5 includes last week's #1 Linkin Park, as well as new albums from Ozzy Osbourne, Young Jeezy Presents U.S.D.A, and The Used.

Click here for more News on Former American Idol Contestants

*Sales numbers are from Hits Daily Double

Tony Award Predictions Pt 1: Design Awards

For theater fans and those that work in the industry, the Tony Awards are the culimination of the entire season's worth of fun, excitement, and yes, sometimes disappointment. Since the awards are just about 10 days away (they will be broadcast live on June 10th, from 8-11PM on CBS), I thought I would add my $.02 as to who will take home the big prizes.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have seen about 90% of the shows that opened on Broadway this season (among the shows I missed: Translations, 110 in the Shade, Pirate Queen, Inherit the Wind, and Heartbreak House).

First up, the design awards (acting, directing, and the big prizes will follow in the next several days).

Best Scenic Design of a Play
The Coast of Utopia
Journey's End
Coram Boy
Radio Golf

Should Win: The Coast of Utopia -- The barricade? The ice skating? The Vivian Beaumont stage has never looked better.
Will Win: The Coast of Utopia
Possible Spoiler: Coram Boy

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Mary Poppins
High Fidelity
Spring Awakening
Grey Gardens

Should Win: Mary Poppins -- Some of the most high-tech stagecraft ever seen on the Broadway stage (the moving house is breathtaking)
Will Win: Mary Poppins
Possible Spoiler: Spring Awakening

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Coram Boy
Journey's End
Inherit the Wind
The Coast of Utopia

Should Win: The Coast of Utopia -- whether it's a dream sequence, a revolutionary struggle, or a simple domestic scene, the lighting design was always incredibly evocative
Will Win: The Coast of Utopia
Possible Spoiler: Journey's End

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Spring Awakening
110 in the Shade
Mary Poppins
Grey Gardens

Should Win: Spring Awakening -- some of the most inventive lighting on Broadway (those hanging flashlights? Genius.)
Will Win: Spring Awakening
Possible Spoiler: Mary Poppins

Best Costume Design of a Play
Coram Boy
Heartbreak House
Inherit the Wind
The Coast of Utopia

Should Win: The Coast of Utopia -- Decades worth of Russian period garb? Tailor-made for a Tony Award.
Will Win: The Coast of Utopia
Possible Spoiler: Heartbreak House

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Legally Blonde
Mary Poppins
Spring Awakening
Grey Gardens

Should Win: Grey Gardens -- in the most open of all of the design categories, I would give the award to Grey for making the costumes a part of the show
Will Win: Spring Awakening -- if a Spring sweep is in the works, you can expect this award to be along for the ride
Possible Spoiler: Mary Poppins -- the most "period" and flashy of all the nominees

Next up...the acting awards!

Click here for more Theater News/Commentary

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fantasia Will Perform on the Tony Awards



I haven't seen a press release or an article about this yet, but as I was reading USA Today during my lunch, I noticed an ad for the Tony Awards (honoring the best of Broadway) that included the line "Fantasia will perform a song from The Color Purple."

This is particularly interesting since there has been a little bit of a brouhaha about which shows will get to perform on this year's awards. Generally, only the nominees for Best Musical (Spring Awakening, Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins and Curtains) and the nominees for Best Musical Revival (110 in the Shade, A Chorus Line, Company, The Apple Tree) get to perform, but there has been a push to include Legally Blonde and Love/Musik on the ceremony as well. Since The Color Purple opened last year and is therefore not eligible for any of this year's awards, by including Fantasia in the proceedings the producers of the ceremony must hope television ratings will improve. And, let's be honest, when sales for The Color Purple shoot up after
'Tasia's performance, I'm sure Oprah and the other producers won't mind being used one bit!

So, I guess Fantasia is performing on the Tony Awards! The ceremony will be broadcast on CBS from 8-11PM on Sunday June 10.

Click to read more News on Former American Idol Contestants
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TV Ratings: On the Lot Plummets on May 28

On the Lot is hemmorhaging viewers, slipping to fewer than 3 million viewers last night. New reality show The Ex-Wives Club premiered to just 5.3 million. Embarrassing for both!

Here are the Top 5 rated shows for the evening:

1. Two and a Half Men, 10.66 million
2. CSI: Miami, 9.39 million
3. King of Queens, 8.75 million
4. Miss Universe Pageant, 7.14 million
5. Wife Swap, 6.25 million

*All numbers are courtesy of Marc Berman at Mediaweek

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A Note From Britney



Britney Spears posted the following letter on her official website...thoughts? (Here's one to start us off...it looks like she figured out how to use spell-check!)

Dear Fans,
I just wanted to reach out to all of you and explain some of the things that I have been faced with recently.

It's so funny how many stories are put out there about people. It's like we all want our side of the story out there as well, but at the end of the day only a few people care to hear what is really going on since the bad is always so much more interesting than the truth. I don't know why, but this is so weird to me. I used to be angry at the tabloids for printing horrible things about me, but now I try to just be numb to what I see. I saw Tyra Banks once get really upset and cry on her show because they made her look fat. We all want a certain image of ourselves out there, and at some point we all do really care what other people think or we wouldn't be here.

Recently, I was sent to a very humbling place called rehab. I truly hit rock bottom. Till this day I don't think that it was alcohol or depression. I was like a bad kid running around with ADD. I had a manager from a long time ago come in and try to direct me and my life after I got my divorce. I was so overwhelmed I think that I was in a little shock too. I didn't know who to go to. I realized how much energy and love I had put into my past relationship when it was gone because I genuinely did not know what to do with myself, and it made me so sad. I confess, I was so lost.

This letter is to not place blame on anyone, although I do see the world with a completely different set of eyes now. Being in that vulnerable state and taken to dinners and parties with friends and finding out later you paid for everything was a huge learning lesson for me. I think the whole problem was letting too many people into my life. You never know another persons intentions or what another person wants. I feel I was too open and looking for answers when I had it all to begin with. I have had to cut so many people out of my life. It is so sad, because if anyone is a family person...it is me. When I was little I remember every night watching movies with my family and feeling so at peace. Dancing and singing all the time just like a little girl should. Now recently I find with my children that I want them to have that feeling all of the time. I am having to face a lot of things right now since I have children of my own. A lot of insecurities from when I was little are coming up again. It is like we are never good enough.

I know everyone thinks that I am playing the victim, but I am not and I hate what is going on right now so much. Maybe this is the reason for this letter...to maybe allow people to look at me differently. It is like when you are a real woman and say what you feel and how you think things are supposed to be, that people just say you are a "bitch."

I feel like some of the people in my life made more of some issues than was necessary. I also feel like they knew I was beginning to use my brain for a change and cut some ties, so they wanted to be in more control of my life than me. I think it is actually normal for a young girl to go out after a huge divorce. I think it was a bigger issue because I had not gone out in such a long time. I am 25 and I do still have a lot to learn, and I am going to make mistakes everyday, and I am sure every mistake I make will probably be on CNN or Good Morning America. I am only human people and I love you for still loving me.

I am sitting here at home and it is 6:25 and both of my sons are asleep. I am truly blessed to have them in my life. Everyday is so surreal. Life in general is so surreal and crazy.

I just hope this letter made some of you think a little bit more of me and where I am coming from. I just want the same things in life that you want...and that is to be happy. It is just so weird because everyone has their own perception of me and how they think I really am. It is so weird how stories are told. There is your side, my side, and the truth. Somebody has to figure it out. I guess we will never really understand or figure out life completely. That's God's job. I can't wait to meet him...or her.

Love, Britney

Quote of the month...
It is ok to disagree with people regarding certain issues. You're not being true to yourself if you succumb to others opinions because you feel guilty.

So You Think You Can Dance - New York Auditions



So You Think You Can Dance is back! Cat Deeley! Mary Murphy (eeeeeeeeeeee!) Nigel Lythgoe! Dan Karaty! Oh, it's gonna be a fun summer.

Having said that, I must admit I feel pretty much the same way about the initial auditions on So You Think You Can Dance as I do about the initial auditions on American Idol -- argh!!

Don't get me wrong, the "bad auditioners" can be ridiculously entertaining (yes, I laughed -- hard -- at the return of "Sex" and his misguided mother, although I wish Nigel had a bit more of a sense of humor about the whole thing), but I watch these shows for the talent, not for the humiliation factor, so these initial auditions are really just a diversion until we get into the real nitty gritty of the competition. Why don't I just give up on the audition episodes completely? Because sometimes you spot a gem that makes watching hours of delusional "artists" embarrass themselves worth it. I mean, heck, I can remember Jordin Sparks' first Idol audition vividly, and look what happened to her.

Thus, I watch these episodes in the hopes of getting a glimpse of some of the dancers I will be obsessing over for the next few months. And, indeed, there were a few stand-outs from the New York auditions:

-Stanislav's sister Faina -- much sexier than her brother. Much. I wonder if Stanislav was a little embarrassed after having been the first one cut last year.

-Ballroom dancers Pasha and Anya -- shoo-ins for the Top 20, especially her. Hot.

-Hip-hopper Jamal, who showed off his swing steps to the doubtful judges -- no doubt charismatic, but can he really pull off the choreography this show demands? And how come his swing dancing partner got cut? That don't seem right!

-Dance teacher and student Katie and Ashley (why do so many dancers have names like Katie and Ashley, I wonder?) -- these girls were both really good, even if they were, as my friend Krank likes to say, dressed a little on the slutty side (They are dancers, I tried to explain -- they need to let their bodies breathe!)

And while I was not blown away by the dancing of Hanna from Israel, that video footage of the collapsing dance floor was absolutely horrendous. Wow, first episode of the year and they are already bringing out the disaster footage? Intense.

Can't wait for this week, with more auditions in LA and Chicago!

Read more So You Think You Can Dance News/Commentary

Person of the Day: Christina Aguilera

This was not a good weekend for young starlets. Lindsay Lohan was arrested on a DUI and found with cocaine in her car, and then passed out at a club less than 48 hours later. Mischa Barton was rushed to the hospital after mixing prescription medication with alcohol (or illegal mushrooms, depending on who you believe). The latest photos of Nicole Ritchie show that she is back to wasting away. And, lest we forget, Paris Hilton is heading to jail and Britney Spears has popped out two children in the last couple of years and still manages to find time to do non-stop club hopping, even after a stint in rehab.

Which brings me to today's Person of the Day -- Christina Aguilera. For awhile there it seemed like Xtina was the problem child, what with songs like "Dirrrty" and her penchant for wearing chaps and other revealing clothing. But whaddaya know? Ms. A is riding high, while her contemporaries are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

While her most recent album "Back to Basics" has not been the bona fide success her earlier "Stripped" was, Christina has still had several hit singles ("Ain't No Other Man," "Hurt," and "Candyman") and found time to set off on a very successful national tour. I saw the lady perform at Madison Square Garden in NYC a couple of months ago, and she puts as much energy into her live performance as Lindsay and Mischa do while getting their drink-on on a Saturday (or, let's face it, Monday) night. This is the second time I have seen Christina in concert, and I must say she puts on one of the best shows of anyone I've seen.

Christina seems to have found true happiness in her life, courtesy of husband Jordan Bratman, and that support seems to have provided her with a grounding force that these other girls are apparently lacking. I'm not just talking about her more ladylike apparel -- I loved Christina when she was dirrrrrty, and I love her now that she is cleeeeeean. She just seems relaxed and happy with who she is, and that is a pleasure to see.

Who would have thought Christina would end up being the good role model?

Congrats, Christina, on being today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

Read more People of the Day

Ranking the American Idol Runners-Up


Now that we have gotten to the American Idol runners-up, these rankings become much more subjective -- all of these contestants were fantastic, so ranking them is, above all, a matter of personal taste. Remember, these rankings are determined on American Idol performances only, not on what the contestants have accomplished since their time on the show.

1. Clay Aiken (Season 2)
Best Known For: The dork who transformed into a singing superstar
Best Performance: "Solitaire," "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Worst Performance: "Vincent"
Post-AI: Debut CD sold amost 3 million albums; follow-up CD of primarily covers has been somewhat of a disappointment; several national tours; working with Unicef; recently made a trip to Afghanistan



2. Katharine McPhee (Season 5)
Best Known For:
Best Performance: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"
Worst Performance: "All in Love is Fair"
Post AI: Released debut CD earlier this year; first single "Over It" was a Top 30 pop hit; second single "Love Story" released this month



3. Blake Lewis (Season 6)
Best Known For: Beatboxing wonder
Best Performance: "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Time of the Season"
Worst Performance: "Keep on Dancin'"
Post AI: Who knows??



4. Diana Degarmo (Season 3)
Best Known For: Jordin's predecessor as an endlessly cheery teenager
Best Performance: "Don't Cry Out Loud," "No More Tears"
Worst Performance: "My Heart Will Go On"
Post AI: Debut CD didn't make much of a ripple; has started to make a name for herself in the theater world, appearing on Broadway in "Hairspray" and in the national tour of "Brooklyn"



5. Bo Bice (Season 4)
Best Known For: One of Season 4's "rockers"; distinctive way of holding the microphone stand; paved the way for Chris Daughtry to achieve real rock 'n roll success on the show
Best Performance: "In a Dream"
Worst Performance: "Corner of the Sky"
Post AI: Debut CD had middling success; has had several health problems; recorded the title song for the film Blades of Glory



6. Justin Guarini (Season 1)
Best Known For: Being the first-ever American Idol hearthrob; Sideshow Bob-esque curly hair
Best Performance: "Get Here"
Worst Performance: "PYT"
Post AI: Debut CD barely sold; film From Justin to Kelly was a flop; released independent CD; co-hosts "Idol Talk" on TV Guide Channel

Read more American Idol News/Recaps/Commentary
Read more American Idol Best-Of Lists

Friday, May 25, 2007

TV Ratings: Dance Off To A Solid Start on Thursday May 24

The premiere of So You Think You Can Dance got off to a solid start last night, and was the second most watched program of the evening, while the second episode of On The Lot was watched but just higher than 5 million viewers. Below are the top 5 rated shows for Thursday May 24:

1. CSI, 13.77 million
2. Shark, 11.1 million
3. So You Think You Can Dance, 9.21 million
4. King of Queens, 6.27 million
5. Ugly Betty, 5.44 million
My Name is Earl, 5.44 million

Read more Television News/Commentary

Person of the Day: Ryan Seacrest



Sure, he has the ability to be the most annoying man on the planet, but he's also better at what he does than nearly anyone else in the business, and for that reason American Idol host Ryan Seacrest is today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

It is easy to take Ryan's skills for granted -- after all, what does he really do besides make unfunny jokes to and about Simon and introduce the contestants? It is how easy he makes it look, though, that testifies the strongest to Ryan's abilities.

Ryan is responsible for hosting a live show, which means he has to juggle performances, judges' comments, clip packages, musical guests, and much more. He does so without breaking a sweat -- in fact, he makes it look easy. He keeps the show moving at a brisk clip, he rarely stumbles over his words, and he always appears relaxed and as though he is having fun. Sure, sometimes he is like that annoying brother you want to punch in the face, but be honest -- can you imagine American Idol without him?

All of these things that he does may not seem that special -- unless you've watched one of the 15 other reality television shows on the air. No one can do what Ryan does with such ease. Not Tom Bergeron or especially Samantha Harris (hate her!) on Dancing with the Stars or Cat Deeley on So You Think You Can Dance or Brooke Burke on Rock Star; in fact, only Jeff Probst on Survivor, which is not live, comes even close to rivaling him when it comes to hosting skills.

And consider what Ryan's day is like -- he hosts a radio show in the morning and America's Top 40 on the weekends; he works for and hosts E! News, and then, for 5 months of the year, he records voice-overs, interviews people on the street, and hosts the show. And lest we forget he's Larry King's sub on CNN and is Dick Clark's replacement on the New Year's show. He is, literally, the busiest man in show business.

So, while Jordin basks in being the new American Idol, and Simon gets the spotlight for his always incisive commentary, today I salute Ryan Seacrest, a very worthy Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sibling Love on So You Think You Can Dance

For those of you (like me!) looking forward to the start of So You Think You Can Dance, here's a little tidbit (courtesy of an article in today's USA Today) to get you even more excited...

For those of you concerned that there won't be contestants as talented and entertaining as last year's winner and runner-up Benji and Travis, take note...both have a sibling who tried out for the show this year! Executive producer (and judge) Nigel Lythgoe says that they are both excellent dancers, so perhaps we could have a repeat of the Schwimmer vs. Wall finale after all!

Click here for more So You Think You Can Dance news

The Ten Best (And Five Worst) Moments from the American Idol Finale

You can read my recap of the American Idol finale here, but here are my Ten Best and Five Worst moments from last night's show.

Best Moments
1. Blake Lewis jamming with Doug E. Fresh
This was like nothing that has ever been seen on the American Idol stage. Blake finally got to really show off his skills, and the excitement on his face was adorable. Definitely the highlight of the show.

2. Jordin being named the winner and singing "This is My Now"
Sure, there wasn't much suspense, and I didn't cry like I did when Kelly and Fantasia were named winners, but it was moving, nonetheless, to see Jordin's beaming face and the familiar confetti burst at the key change. Another Idol has been crowned.

3. Kelly Clarkson singing "Never Again"
Proving once and for all who the real American Idol is, Kelly growled her way through her fantastic new single. She sounded amazing! And to all those who claimed she was "fat" after "Idol Give Back" -- how 'bout that outfit? Smokin'!

4. Melinda Doolittle singing with Bebe and Cece Wynans
You gotta love Melinda, and you gotta love seeing her jam with the pair who she used to sing back-up for. This girl's gonna do big things.

5. Beatles medley
It was a little drawn out, and neither Taylor or Carrie got the chance to really shine, but Kelly's "Sgt. Pepper" rock-out with Joe Perry was fierce. It would have been cool to see some of the former Idol winners sing together, but this was a nice reminder of the kind of talent the show has produced.

6. Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis dueting on "I Saw Her Standing There"
Totally playful and charming -- you gotta love these kids.

7. Jordin Sparks and Ruben Studdard dueting on "You're All I Need"
Yes, I wish Jordin had gotten the opportunity to sing with a bigger or more exciting star (Jennifer Hudson was in the audience -- she couldn't be convinced to join in on the festivities?), but they sounded absolutely fantastic together on this song.

8. Green Day singing the John Lennon song
I love Green Day. No more need be said.

9. Top 6 boys singing with Smokey Robinson/Top 6 girls singing with Gladys Knight
I could do without seeing Smokey and Gladys on the Idol stage again, but it was great to see Stephanie, Chris Sligh, and Gina Glocksen, all voted out before they should have been. On the other hand, it was not so great to see Haley or Sanjaya, who stuck around much longer than they should have. It was especially cool to see Gladys Knight flanked by Melinda on one side and LaKisha on the other -- I wish they had gotten the opportunity to do some even more wailing with Gladys.

10. Carrie Underwood singing "I'll Stand By You" -- Not the most exciting performance Carrie has ever given, but very solid, nonetheless. And 6 million albums sold? Wow.

Worst Moments

1. Golden Idol awards -- I hated every single second of these, and they didn't even result in a trainwreck-esque so-horrible-it's-amazing moment like last year's Michael Sandecki/Clay Aiken debacle. Painful.

2. Bette Midler -- Oh Bette, what happened? I've seen the Divine Ms. M in concert, and she is amazing, but this performance sounded terrible and was even more awkwardly interpreted. Bette, Bette, Bette.

3. 10 minute over-run
Luckily I was watching the show live, but if I had Tivo'ed it and discovered I had missed out on the announcement of the winner I would have been pissed. I mean, people spent four months of their time investing in the show and then missed out on the chance to see it all come to a close --not a very respectful way to treat the show's loyal viewers.

4. Sanjaya and Joe Perry -- I never need to see Sanjaya perform again, and I certainly never need to hear him sing "You Really Got Me." I was embarrassed to be watching it, and even more embarrassed for Joe Perry. Luckily he got play for a real musician (Kelly Clarkson) later on in the show.

5. Gwen Stefani -- Totally pointless, and totally uninspired. And not even live? Gimme a break!

Click here for more American Idol News/Commentary

TV Ratings: Idol Finale Blows Away the Competition

The American Idol finale blew away the competition last night in the Nielsen ratings, averaging just under 30 million viewers for the 2-hour broadcast -- double it's nearest competitor, Lost. The show peaked with nearly 35 million viewers in it's final half hour.

Here are the Top 5 shows for the last night of the regular television season:

1. American Idol, 29. 47 million
2. Lost, 13.655 million
3. CSI: New York, 10.2 million
4. Criminal Minds, 9.6 million
5. NCIS, 8.23 million

Person of the Day: Jordin Sparks



Yes, the announcement of her win may have felt a little anticlimactic, but that doesn't do anything to take away from the significance of her win -- Jordin Sparks is the new American Idol, and she's also the Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

From the moment I saw Jordin's initial audition in front of Simon, Randy, and Paula, I knew she was going to go far in this competition, although, truth be told, I'm not sure I could have guessed that she would take the crown. I kind of worried that she might go the way of Lisa Tucker -- strong start, clearly lots of talent, but simply too young to be able to handle the demands of the competition. Boy was I wrong! Not only did she not peter out -- she got better and better as the competition went on!

Her semifinal peformances were strong ("Gimme One Reason," "Reflection," "Heartbreaker"), but she was very much in the shadows of Melinda and LaKisha throughout the first few weeks of the competition. In fact she stayed there until her remarkable Top 11 performance of "I Who Have Nothing." Fiercely dramatic and incredibly well sung, that performance launched her to the front of the pack, where she stayed for the rest of the competition. Week after week her triumphs were plentiful ("On a Clear Day," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Broken Wing," "To Love Somebody," "This is My Now") and even her setbacks, which were minimal, were not trainwrecks, but rather interesting risks gone slightly awry ("Hey Baby," "Livin' on a Prayer"). Melinda and LaKisha may have been the soul of this competition, and Blake and Chris brought the cute hipness, but Jordin's youthful enthusiasm and transcendent voice make her a very worthy victor.

Like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood before her, Jordin's appeal is broad enough that she should find tons of success. It is easy to see her scoring hits on pop, Adult Contemporary, or country radio, and I have no doubt that she will sell millions and millions of albums.

Congratulations Jordin on being this year's American Idol -- and today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jordin Sparks is the New American Idol

Like KellyClarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Hicks before her, Jordin Sparks has won American Idol.

Jordin is very deserving of the title, and will no doubt go on to join Kelly, Carrie and the others in selling millions of records. Blake, too, will likely have a very nice career, and he was humble and gracious in defeat.

I was happy for Jordin as Seacrest announced her name at 10:05PM (those who Tivo'ed the show were probably pissed), but I couldn't help feeling the coronation felt a little anticlimactic. If there was any doubt that Jordin was going to win this competition after Melinda was eliminated, it was removed entirely once Blake opened his mouth to sing "This is My Now" on last night's show. There was practically no suspense and no build up to the announcement, which took a bit of fun out of the proceedings.

And that was the other problem -- last year's festivities were so fun, in a circus freakshow kind of way (remember the Clay Aiken lookalike? I mean, that is genius television), and the talent level was so high (Mary J. Blige singing with Elliott? Prince?), that this year's finale was bound to suffer by comparison.

I did love that almost all of the former winners were back (Fantasia couldn't get out of The Color Purple), and they were all in fine form. I was especially pleased to see my girl Kelly Clarkson rocking out and doing her thing -- she sounded amazing on "Never Again" and was definitely the highlight of the Beatles medley. It was also nice to see some of the Top 12 again -- I realized I had almost forgotten about Brandon and Stephanie, and I also realized I wish I could forget about Sanjaya (poor Joe Perry must have wondered what he got himself into when Sanjaya started to sing).

I didn't love, however, the random performances from Tony Bennett and Gwen Stefani. This is a night about Idol, and the two of them just felt boring and out of place (even Dancing with the Stars was able to resist the temptation of having out-of-place musical guests). I'm also sick of Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight -- does Idol have them on retainer? They seem to show up at almost every Idol event.

Green Day I didn't mind, because I love Green Day, and the African Boys Choir were just as adorable as they were on "Idol Gives Back," but Bette Midler -- oy! I was prepared to be psyched for The Divine Ms. M, but she really disappointed me. She sounded awful, and seriously, Bette, enough with miming the wings. That performance was kind of a disaster.

Melinda Doolittle fared much better singing with Bebe and Cece Wynans, and, although Jordin and Ruben gelled really nicely on "You're All I Need to Get By," I can't help but think she got cheated out of singing with a bigger star, or someone cooler. I mean, Blake got jam with Doug E. Fresh (which was fierce), they couldn't find someone else to sing with Jordin? And how come Sanjaya got to sing but LaKisha didn't? These are questions I will probably never get the answers to.

All in all, it wasn't a painful evening (unless you count the horrible Golden Idol awards, which I am choosing not to think about), but it wasn't quite the electricity-filled night last year's finale turned out to be.

Having said that, we've got a great, deserving winner, and a great, deserving runner-up -- in a season of crazy ups and downs, that's all we can really ask for.

Congratulations Jordin, and thanks to the whole crew for one helluva season.

Even though Idol is over, there will still be news on former contestants (including this year's group), sales and radio information, best-of lists, and recaps of summer shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Big Brother. Bookmark Idol Thoughts now!

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Live Blogging of the American Idol Pre-Show

Ok, I just discovered the TV Guide Channel pre-show/red carpet special for American Idol. There are Idols everywhere -- it's like Idol-world heaven.

I'm late to the game, but here we go...

7:02PM It's totally Justin Guarini interviewing Phil Stacey, in full-out navy uniform. This is intense!

7:03PM Chris Richardson, Haley Scarnato, and Gina Glocksen being interviewed by Kimberly Caldwell and Rosanna Tavarez. I'm obsessed. Gina's got a bit of an attitude, but Haley and Chris both look great. Oh my god, it's Jordin! She seems pretty not-nervous. Give her two hours...she'll get there.

7:05PM Time for the Velvet Teddybear himself, Ruben Studdard. He's looking pretty slim and sharp. Supposedly he's "on the road promoting his new album." Good to know he's workin'. (Ok, he's not Kelly or Carrie, but he has two songs on the Urban AC chart right now, so give the man his due.)

7:07PM Yes, it's time for the man of the hour, Blake Lewis. He's talking about vintage clothes. Was that tuxedo shirt vintage Blake? Was it? As I'm watching him I can't help but wonder if he knows that he was today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day. I'm guessing not.

7:12PM Simon and Randy are up. These guys are pretty funny together, actually. Oh look, it's Taylor Hicks, and Kimberly is asking Simon an awkward question about what it is like to see someone you said wouldn't be successful become successful. That would be funny with Carrie Underwood, who is actually successful. But with Taylor -- not so funny.

7:14PM Taylor's actually lookin' pretty good -- he's definitely lost weight. It seems all the Idols -- Carrie, Ruben, Taylor -- have lost weight -- except Kelly. God love her and her badunkadunk.

7:15PM So far they've panned to Mandisa, Paris, and Zac Efron. Star-studded!

7:16PM It's Paula and Sanjaya. Paula is dangerously approaching Anna Nicole Smith territory. She is a total mess.

7:17PM George Huff! Scott Savol! Anwar Robinson!

7:21PM It's the Hoff, in the flesh. Wow, Idol really is the place to go to redeem your image (yes, I watched the drunken hamburger video). Poor guy, he's had to answer for that single tear when Taylor Hicks won all year long.

7:23PM Justin Guarini is interviewing Melinda Doolittle and Brandon Rogers. It so could have been Melinda waiting for results tonight. What is wrong with you America?

7:28PM Carrie Underwood is a huge star. (Just thought I'd be redundant for a moment). She just said that this year's Idol look at her like "wow." Well, I mean, I guess it's probably true. I can't wait to see what Carrie performs tonight.

7:30PM Oy, more Paula, this time being interviewed by Justin Guarini. Let this woman lie down, people. She's putting together coherent sentences, she's just slurring her words. Oh -- she just said it wasn't fair for Justin to have to sing "A Moment Like This." Drama!

7:31PM Brad Garrett. Enough with Brad Garrett -- he stormed the stage on that one results show. Two strikes and your out, buddy.

7:35PM Smokey Robinson. I think all he does these days is show up at random episodes of American Idol. Get a job, Smokey.

7:36PM LaKisha looks fierce. It's good to see her.

7:37PM Ooh, there's Jennifer Hudson, looking like the Oscar winning superstar that she is.

7:41PM I'm over Ace. He's greasy. And annoying.

7:42PM Oh god, from greasy to greasier -- Constantine. I feel dirty just looking at him. Yuck.

Ok, that looks to be the end of the star sightings. 15 minutes until showtime -- can't wait!

American Idol Producer Says The Big Singer Triumphs in the End

In an interview today with TV Week, American Idol executive producer Ken Warwick may have tipped us off to who will be victorious tonight, saying "the big singer always triumphs in the end." Based on his other comments on last night's performances, he could only be referring to Jordin Sparks.

While he had high praise for Blake's performance of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name," he said that he wishes Blake had chosen a different second song instead of "She Will Be Loved," which he thought was too safe a choice.

He also acknowledged that the song that emerged as the winner of the songwriting competition was "much better suited for Jordin." Um, yeah...duh.

Click here to read more American Idol News/Commentary

The Ten Best Dancing with the Stars Teams of All Time



Another season of Dancing with the Stars has come to an end, which means it's time for...a best-of list!

Below is my list of the Ten Best Dancing with the Stars Pairs throughout the four seasons of the show. Of course, like any best-of list, this is subjective, and there is plenty of room for disagreement. For example, I've got last year's runner-up Mario Lopez finishing higher than last year's winner Emmitt Smith -- that's my opinion, and I'm stickin' to it!

Who do you think is the best pair of all time? Did I leave your favorite off the list? Leave a comment and let me know!

1. Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke
2. Mario Lopez and Karinna Smirnoff
3. Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough
4. Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson
5. Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke
6. Stacey Kiebler and Tony Dobolani
7. Laila Ali and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
8. John O'Hurley and Charlotte Jorgensen
9. Kelly Monaco and Alec Mapa
10. Monique Coleman and Louis van Amstel

Honorable Mentions:
Jerry Rice and Anna Trebunskaya
Joey McIntyre and Ashley Delgrosso
Lisa Rinna and Louis van Amstel

Click here for more Dancing with the Stars

Movie Versions of Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls in the Works?

We may have lost some of TV's finest leading ladies in the last week or so, but it's possible we haven't seen the last of Veronica Mars and Rory and Lorelai Gilmore.

According to Michael Ausiello over at TV Guide, Rob Thomas, the creator and executive producer, says that he is considering working on a feature film based on Veronica Mars. In addition, Amy Sherman-Palladino, who left Gilmore Girls at the end of last season, says that she is considering creating a 2-hour TV movie that would wrap up the series in a more conclusive way than last week's finale did. According to Ausiello, Scott Patterson (Luke), Alexis Bledel (Rory), and Lauren Graham (Lorelai) all expressed surprise that Palladino would consider such a move.

How's that for news?

Plans for both shows could, of course, could fall through very easily, but it would be hella exciting to see these dynamic women in different formats, wouldn't it? Stay tuned for more news...

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Person of the Day: Blake Lewis



Idol Thoughts Person of the Day is a new daily feature that identifies one person I am currently diggin'. This could be anyone -- it could be a singer, actor, politician or none of the above, but it will be someone who has done something noteworthy, someone I have fond memories of, or simply someone that I like and want to write about.

Tomorrow's person of the day is going to be the next American Idol, so I thought it would be nice to honor the gentleman who will likely finish this season as the runner-up -- Mr. Blake Lewis.

Blake has managed to do something that very few contestants over the years have been able to do -- infuse some genuine excitement and originality into the competition. Soul singers and girls who can belt high have been plentiful on the show, and while I (and the audience) loves the kind of magic a wailin' girl like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, or Jordin Sparks can provide, the breath of fresh air that Blake has brought to the competition will not soon be forgotten. There has never been a contestant quite like him.

There's been lots of talk about how Blake's voice "isn't good," which simply isn't true. As his performances of "Somewhere Only We Know," "I Need to Know," and "She Will Be Loved" have proven, the boy can sing, and he can probably sing better than 90% of the male artists currently played on the radio. No, he doesn't have the dynamically thrilling voice of Jordin, but he is a solid singer, nonetheless, and when put next to current hitmakers like Adam Levine (from Maroon 5) or Robin Thicke, he can certainly hold his own.

And it's not just the beatboxing that makes Blake unique -- to call him a one-trick pony is to diminish what he really brings to his performances. It is, rather, the way he attacks a song from a musically adventurous perspective, using beatboxing, his voice, and his slick little dance moves to fully perform a song. He has taken more risks than any contestant who has ever appeared on the show. And, despite the fact that he was clearly vocally outclassed when he got to the Top 4 by LaKisha, Melinda, and Jordin, he never gave up, finding new and interesting (if not always entirely successful) ways to show who he is as an artist.

American Idol is a pretty conservative show -- most of the songs the contestants sing were written, in fact, decades before most of these kids were born. The fact that Blake was able to take songs like "Keep Me Hangin' On," "Time of the Season," and "You Give Love a Bad Name" and make them feel current and relevant in today's market is astounding, and, if not worthy of the American Idol title, definitely worthy of kudos.

And certainly worthy of being today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

Read more Idol Thoughts People of the Day

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Lots More Buzz on Tonight's Finale Extravaganza - Spoilers!

Lots of information is trickling in about tonight's American Idol finale extravaganza.

DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED

While there had been rumors circulating that Britney Spears might be showing up at the Kodak Theater tonight, Star magazine is reporting that Green Day will be the surprise guest at tonight's festivities, closing the show a la Prince last year.

Other celebrity performers expected include Tony Bennett, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight (who will likely perform with the Top 6 girls), and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry (who will perform with the Top 6 boys). Former Idols Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Hicks will also be on hand to perform.

Rumors continue to circulate that Jordin will perform with the Dreamgirls, and Jennifer Hudson's appearance in the audience last night did little to dispel that gossip. Blake will supposedly perform with Doug E. Fresh.

Oh yeah, and Peter Noone from Herman & The Hermits will be there. I mean, really, enough with the freakin' Hermits already.

Keep checking Idol Thoughts for more updates.

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TV Ratings: Dancing Nearly Tops Idol on Tuesday May 22

In what was nearly a huge upset, the finale of Dancing with the Stars almost pulled in higher ratings that the final performance show of American Idol last night. The premiere of On the Lot, meanwhile, disappointed with less than 9 million viewers.

Here are the top 5 programs for last night:

1. American Idol, 24.95 million
2. Dancing with the Stars, 22.7 million
3. NCIS, 13.88 million
4. Sea Change, 12.98 million
5. Law and Order: SVU, 10.21 million

*Numbers courtesy of Marc Berman at Mediaweek
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And The Winner of American Idol Will Be...

Jordin!

No need for Green, Yellow and Red Zones this week -- Jordin Sparks will be the winner of American Idol Season 6.

Jordin had an edge over Blake Lewis coming into last night's show, and by the end of the night she had the title all sewn up.

It wasn't without a battle from Blake, though -- his "You Give Love a Bad Name" was totally electric, and his "She Will Be Loved" was sweet and well-sung.

However, it all comes down to the final song, "This is My Now." While Kelly & Justin, Fantasia & Diana, and Carrie & Bo all had to perform the same song, last night's show was the first time the contestants have had to sing the same song back-to-back. And by having the performances immediately follow each other it became abundantly clear whose rendition was better -- far, far better, in fact. As Jordin wailed the high notes, singing about leaving behind her "yesterdays," it was practically a coronation right there on the spot.

I'm sure the young girls voted their fingers off last night for Blake, but it simply won't be enough. Not only has Jordin amassed her own large fanbase over the course of the season, she likely picked up most of the votes that had been going to Melinda, along with the votes of casual viewers who wait to be blown away to pick up the phone. Jordin blew them away last night -- and she will be rewarded with a victory.

Yes, Jordin Sparks will be named the American Idol.

Gulp.

Read more American Idol News/Recaps

Remember, even after American Idol comes to an end for the season, there will continue to be updates on former Idol contestants (including this year's crew), along with recaps and commentary on summer shows "So You Think You Can Dance," "On the Lot," "Top Chef," "Big Brother," "Pirate Master" and more. So bookmark Idol Thoughts now!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Apolo Anton Ohno Skates to Victory on Dancing with the Stars



Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

There is nothing more satisfying than investing 13 weeks or so in a reality show and then seeing your favorite take home the prize.

Such was the joy I felt when it was announced that Apolo Anton Ohno was this year's champion of Dancing with the Stars. He won me over with his determination, his sharp, energetic dancing, his amazing chemistry with his partner Julianne -- and, oh yeah, he's kinda cute. My crush started small, back in week one, but became a full-fledged obsession by fairly early in the competition, and hasn't subsided since. Can someone tell me when the speed skating season starts? Is there such a thing?

As for the #2 finisher, Joey Fatone put up quite a fight. In fact, right after the announcement of the winner, I felt actually pangs of sadness for Joey, who so clearly wanted to win this thing. Like Mario Lopez before him, Joey will have to be content with the fact that he put his heart and soul into the competition, and gave thrilling, entertaining performances week after week. And like I've been saying all along, it's only a matter of time before he is back on Broadway -- mark my words.

I also felt a bit of sadness saying goodbye to Laila in third place, as she really has brought a sophistication and elegance to the competition, along with an element of surprise. I mean, who knew this boxer could be so sexy or so graceful? She, Joey, and Apolo are definitely the strongest Top 3 this show has ever had.

As for the rest of the show, I must give the producers some credit for actually putting together a very entertaining finale. I was worried -- more than one results show this season has been a painful, bloated affair. Tonight's show, however, was very self contained, with no random musical guests -- just a celebration of the history and this current season of Dancing with the Stars. All three of the final pairs brought their A-games to their reprised routines (Apolo's was far and away the most exciting), it was nice to see all three former winners return to the ballroom, and it was fun to relive, via clip packages, the journeys of Laila, Joey, and Apolo, as well as Heather, Ian, Billy Ray and the rest of the gang.

So, congratulations Apolo, you deserve it. And nice work to everyone else involved with Dancing with the Stars...it's been fun.

If you like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol, you'll love So You Think You Can Dance, which premieres this Thursday at 8PM. Click here to read Looking Forward to So You Think You Can Dance.

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American Idol Finale Performances: Round 3

So, the way I see it, Blake grabbed the first round and Jordin took the second, meaning it's all going to come down to the finale performance -- the new song.

Does anyone else, by the way, find it ironic that they held a nationwide competition and people voted, and we still got a song with an uber-cheesy title like "This is My Now"? Just saying.

Here we go...

Blake Lewis - "This is My Now"
Ooh. Ouch. That was kind of a hot mess...only not so hot. First off, this was not a good song for Blake -- this kind of song was designed for a singer like Jordin, who lives in the land of high belting. He had no opportunity to infuse his Blake-ness into the song, and for his last performance of the competition, that's a real shame.
He just doesn't have the vocal chops to pull this off -- and based on his body language, he knew it. He started strong, then was flat, then sharp, then had a couple of moments of sweetness, then back to flat again.

That's a bummer.

Jordin Sparks - "This is My Now"
Oh, so that is what the song was supposed to sound like? Makes much more sense now. Sweet mother, that girl can sing. And I'd be lying if I said a tear didn't come to my eye by the end of the song.

Yes, my friends, this is likely the song we will hear on Thursday morning on the radio, as your DJ announces "new music by your new American Idol, Jordin Sparks."

Jordin must have been so psyched when she found out what the winning song would be. It would give her the chance to be dramatic. maybe shed a tear or two at the end, and hit crazy sustained high notes? Score!

Sure, the lower notes were a little wonky, but who the hell cares -- that is an American Idol-worthy voice, through and through. Simply superb.

Nice to see Chris Daughtry, by the way.

Round 3..and the title of American Idol... Goes To...
When Justin Guarini sang "A Moment Like This," it was eh. When Kelly Clarkson sang "A Moment Like This," it was genius.

Same thing happened when Diana Degarmo attempted "I Believe" -- it was actually pretty good. But then Fantasia came out, and made it seem as though the song was written expressly for her.

And Carrie Underwood's version of "Inside Your Heaven" blows Bo Bice's out of the water.

That's the difference between an American Idol winner and an American Idol runner-up. And it may just end up being the difference between Jordin and Blake.

Yes, Jordin owned that song...it wasn't even a competition. And if, as I suspect, the final song was going to sway it one way or the other in the minds of undecided voters , then Jordin easily captured it.

Check back at around noon tomorrow for my final prediction, but right now it's looking like a Jordin victory through and through.

Click here to read American Idol Finale Performances: Round 1
Click here to read American Idol Finale Performances: Round 2

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American Idol Finale Performances: Round 2

Ok, so Blake grabbed Round 1, but just by a hair. On to Round 2...

Blake Lewis - "She Will Be Loved"
When I first heard that Blake had chosen this song, I rolled my eyes. "Another Maroon 5 song?" I asked myself.

Well, consider my eyes un-rolled. I now think this was the ideal song for Blake to have chosen. Perfectly evoking his very first semifinal performance, where he also rocked a cute sweater and purely sang Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know," he reminded the part of the viewing public that finds beatboxing as pleasant as nails on chalkboard that he can really sing. Sure, he can't hit dazzling high notes like Jordin can, but his tone is sweet and his interpretive skills are impressive. And he looks natural and credible.

I disagree with Simon -- it's made an impact on me. Very nice, Blake, very nice, indeed.

Jordin Sparks - "Broken Wing"
Is Jordin's favorite song of the season really "Broken Wing," or did she sing her favorite song last week? Just wondering.

Frankly, it doesn't much matter, because this performance was amazing! I mean, Jordin's higher register is just thrilling -- those high notes are so crystal clear they send a shiver up my spine. She has a tendency to get a little dramatic, but with vocals that spectacular, I'm more than willing to look past it. Brilliant.

Round 2 Goes To...
Both contestants were in fine form in this round, but since it was a round purely about singing, the clear edge goes to Jordin.

Click to read American Idol Finale Performances: Round 3

Click to read American Idol Finale Performances: Round 1

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American Idol Finale Performances: Round 1

I always forget how big the Kodak Theater is until they do that dramatic pan-out to the audience. It is an appropriately huge setting for a huge event. Yes, this is huge, people...the American Idol finale.

I'm into it. I'm done griping about Sanjaya and Melinda's horribly early ouster -- I am embracing tonight's festivities. Go Jordin! Go Blake! May the best man or woman win.

It's good to see the judges in their Finale Finest. Despite the "break," Paula's nose looks the same to me, but she does seem like she might be taking some pain meds for the "accident." Good for Paula -- she finally has a valid reason to be on meds in front of 30 million people.

Ok, deep breaths, here we go with the performances...

Blake Lewis - "You Give Love a Bad Name"
This was clearly the performance Blake was going to choose to reprise, and with good reason -- it was easily one of the two most buzzed about performances of the season (the other being LaKisha's "And I Am Telling You"). And, truth be told, I think it seemed just as fresh and original this time as it did the first go 'round. In fact, if I could forget that I was listening to an old 80's tune, I could picture Blake giving this kind of a performance on something like MTV's Video Music Awards.

Maybe I'm crazy and I've just fallen under his spell, but I thought this was one hell of a performance. An excellent start to the evening.

Jordin Sparks - "Fighter"
Wow, these kids really are bringing their A-games tonight. The best contestants ever on American Idol (Kelly Clarkson, Tamyra Gray, Clay Aiken, the list goes on) continued to challenge themselves week in and week out, to the point where they were choosing more and more difficult songs and one-upping themselves every week. Jordin, too, has that quality -- I mean, "Fighter," by Christina Aguilera, is a hard song to sing, and picking it for her finale performance was a risky move.

But boy did she nail it! My goodness, she sang the hell out of that song, hitting some crazy high notes there at the end. Sure, she didn't move an inch (you should see Xtina perform this in concert!), but with vocals like that, why should she?

Round 1 Goes To...
As Randy said, this really is the battle of the entertainer vs. the singer. Both were at the top of their games in their respective comfort zones, but I'm gonna have to agree with Simon that Round 1 goes to Blake.

Click to read American Idol Finale Performances: Round 2

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Daughtry and Carrie Underwood Slip; Elliott Makes Huge Sales Jump

Daughtry and Carrie Underwood both slipped this week on the album sales chart, but Elliott Yamin made a huge sales jump thanks to his appearance on last week's American Idol.

Despite falling almost 30%, Daughtry stays inside the Top 10 at #9, with sales of almost 50K. Underwood, meanwhile, finishes just outside the Top 10 at #11, with about 45K albums sold.

Elliott had his best sales week since his album debuted in March, moving about 26K albums, good enough for the #18 spot on the chart. His single "Wait For You" is flying up the pop chart, where it currently sits in the Top 30.

Linkin Park, Tank, Wilco, and Gretchen Wilson all debuted in the Top 5. Linkin Park was especially impressive, selling more than 625K albums.

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Fantasia Wins Theatre World Award for Best Broadway Debut

Fantasia certainly is taking Broadway by storm!

Last week, the reviews for her Broadway debut in the musical "The Color Purple" were ecstatic -- Charles Isherwood of the New York Times said she was ideal for the part of Celie, and notoriously prickly New York Post critic Clive Barnes even wrote that her performance brought tears to his eyes.

Now, she has won one of the biggest theater awards -- the Theatre World Award, given for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway debut. She is one of only 12 recipients of this prestigious prize this year, and is the first Idol alumni to take home a theater award.

Congrats also go to Jonathan Groff, who is sensational in Spring Awakening.

The other winners of the 2007 Theatre World Award are:

Eve Best, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Mary Birdsong, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me
Erin Davie, Grey Gardens
Xanthe Elbrick, Coram Boy
Johnny Galecki, The Little Dog Laughed
Jonathan Groff, Spring Awakening
Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
Bill Nighy, The Vertical Hour
Stark Sands, Journey's End
Nilaja Sun, No Child…

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Idol Thoughts on 24's Season Finale

It was an appropriate end for a bummer of a season -- a bummer of an ending.

Practically start to finish this season of 24 has been a disappointment -- weak or annoying new characters, annoying changes to characters we've come to love, repeating plot points from previous seasons, and the list goes on.

Sure, the finale had it's moments -- I enjoyed seeing Bill Buchanan getting some field action and get to play the part of the hero; it was nice to see Tom Lennix become a redeemable character; and the action sequence with the helicopter and the oil station where the Chinese and Jack's father were holding Jack's nephew was very well executed.

But there was so much to hate! Let's start with Chloe, who, appropriately for how her season has gone, spent most of the episode lying in a hospital bed. What happened to the fiesty Chloe that we've fallen in love with over the past few years? Is this lame Morris/Chloe/pregnancy story really the best the writers could have come up with?

And why blind poor Mike Doyle? They never figured out how to use Ricky Schroeder on the show, and the "fake contraption blows up in his face" device was just lame, no two ways about it.

Then there is the miraculous redemption of the Vice President. In the course of half-a-day, he went from being an evil schemer (I'm still not convinced that he wasn't behind the attack on President Palmer), to an even more-evil schemer (trying to oust the President once he had "recovered" from his attack), to being a dupe (with the wool pulled over his eyes by blonde baddie Lisa Miller), to an actual good guy (choosing to release Karen Hayes). That's quite a journey in just 12 hours or so! His redemption was so complete, in fact, that Tom Lennix thought it appropriate to return the incriminating tape? If Richard Nixon was alive I bet he would have wished he was a character on 24, so he too could be so quickly and easily forgiven for his actions.

The most egregious part of the episode for me, however, was the final 15 minutes. As Jack dramatically waves good bye to Bill and heads off in pursuit of Audrey, I had hopes that something really dramatic would happen, setting up this "reboot" next season that the producers keep talking about. Instead, we found ourselves on the set of "One Life to Live," with Jack tearily realizing that he is not able to provide for Audrey in the way that he wants to, and that she is actually better off without him. Blah blah blah. The writing was so heavy-handed that even Kiefer Sutherland, who I generally love, couldn't make it work. The entire sequence screamed "emmy bait!" so loudly that I was almost offended. And are we supposed to believe that Jack, as he stares down into the water at the end of the episode, is contemplating suicide? Jack, who survived years of Chinese torture, is now considering ending his own life? I don't buy it.

I love 24, I do, and I really hope that the writers find a way of breathing some new life into the series next year. But for now, I'm not sorry to see Jack walk off into the sunset...or dive of a cliff, as the case may be.

Click here for more Television News/Commentary, including thoughts on the season finales of Grey's Anatomy and Brothers & Sisters

Person of the Day: Melinda Doolittle



Idol Thoughts Person
of the Day is a new daily feature that identifies one person I am currently diggin'. This could be anyone -- it could be a singer, actor, politician or none of the above, but it will be someone who has done something noteworthy, someone I have fond memories of, or simply someone that I like and want to write about.

When I see the promos for tonight's finale of American Idol something seems a little bit off. Watching images of Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis flash across the screen, it seems like the kids have been left alone at home, and I'm left with the question -- where's mama?

Of course by "mama" I mean Melinda Doolittle, whose absence will be deeply felt this evening, and for that reason she is today's Idol Thoughts Person of the Day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about the Jordin/Blake sing-out this evening, but it just won't seem like the finale without Melinda there. From the moment she stepped foot in her first audition it seemed like a given that Melinda would be a finalist -- in fact, until she was eliminated last week, I never really conceptualized a finale without her in it. She was the class and the substance of this competition, giving it some heft when it seemed like Sanjaya's hair or Haley's legs would force it to lose credibility for good.

I'm not sure if a Jordin/Melinda finale would be any more competitive or entertaining than a Jordin/Blake finale, but I would be lying if I said it didn't feel a little empty without Ms. Mindy Doo there.

So, in honor of "Since You Been Gone," "My Funny Valentine," "I'm a Woman," "Home," "As Long As He Needs Me," "I've Got Rhythym," "Have a Nice Day," "Nutbush City Limits" and more, Melinda Doolittle is the Idol Thoughts Person of the Day. I'll miss you tonight, Melinda, but I look forward to seeing you on tomorrow's show, and for years and years to come.

Click here for more Idol Thoughts People of the Day

TV Ratings Report for Monday May 22

The final Dancing with the Stars performance show blew away the rest of the competition in last night's ratings, while Heroes outperformed 24 in a battle of the season finales.

Here are the Top 5 ratings performers for Monday May 22:

1. Dancing with the Stars, 19.75 million
2. Heroes, 13.21 million
3. The Bachelor, 12.85 million
4. CSI: Miami, 11.48 million
5. 24, 10.19 million

Read more Television News/Commentary, including thoughts on the season finales of 24, Grey's Anatomy, and Brothers & Sisters

What to Expect From Tuesday's Show: Poential Song Choices Revealed

After auditioning in various cities around the country, making it through Hollywood week, three weeks of semifinal auditions, and ten weeks of the Top 12, Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks have made it to the Top 2. So what is in store for them on Tuesday's show?

Details are being leaked as to what the format will be -- one song that they have sung previously in the competition, one new cover song, and then they will each sing the winning song from the songwriting contest.

SPOILER

Rumor has it that Blake will (not surprisingly) reprise "You Give Love a Bad Name," his showstopper from Bon Jovi week, while Jordin will bring back "Broken Wing," which she originally sang during country week.

Blake's new song is apparently Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved' (making it three Maroon 5 songs in two weeks on the show) and Jordin will attempt Christina Aguilera's "Figher" (good luck on that one!) If they turn out to be true they are interesting choices indeed.

As for the new single, American Idol music director Michael Orland calls it "very pretty" and says that "Jordin loves it" in an interview with ew.com. He said he has yet to speak to Blake about it, but that it is "positive and uplifting."

Stay tuned for more details on the finale, and click to read more American Idol News/Recaps

Dancing with the Stars Finale: Round 2

So, the first round was a tie. Now it's time for the eagerly awaited free-style round...

Laila and Max
When I think of the freestyle round on Dancing with the Stars, I think of the excitement over Kelly Monaco's final dance in Season 1 or Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke's tour de force in Season 2. While it was clear Laila was having a good time, and she does have some good "fly girl" moves, this dance just didn't blow me away. In fact, I prefer Laila doing straight-up ballroom, if you can believe it. I'm a little disappointed.

Not disappointed in Max's physique, though, I must say.

My Grade: 9

Apolo and Julianne
Now that is the kind of excitement that I am talking about! Fun, exuberant, humorous, playful -- this was the most joyful dance of the season, hands down. Sure, Apolo won't be grabbin' a spot on Justin Timberlake's tour anytime soon (it's funny how the celebrities are sharper doing the ballroom and Latin dances than they are during freestyle), but he was having such an infectiously good time it was impossible not to smile while watching it. And some of those lifts and tricks were pretty darn good!

My Grade: 10

Joey and Kym
Wow. Joey has had years of experience performing in front of screaming audiences, and he put all that experience to use tonight, performing an energetic, entertaining dance that showed, as Carrie Ann said, everything that Joey has learned throughout the course of the competition. And those lifts! Easily the most techinically difficult of all three dances.

My Grade: 10

I'd have to call Round 2 a tie between Apolo and Joey, with a bit of an edge to Apolo for sheer originality.

Overall
Well, in my post yesterday Who Should Win Dancing with the Stars? Who Will Win? I said that my vote would go to Apolo but I thought Laila would pull out a victory.

I take it back.

Not the part about Apolo -- he still has my vote, because, all else being equal (and I really do find he and Joey to be equally entertaining) I find it more impressive that Apolo, who is an athlete, can do what he can do, as compared to Joey, who spent years traveling the world performing live. Maybe it is an unfair bias against Joey (although one of those times he performed live was for me -- yes, I was at an 'nysnc concert), but there it is. Plus, I want Apolo to be my boyfriend. Sue me.

No, the part I take back is Laila winning this thing. She had a real shot, but I think she dropped the ball tonight. I now think it will be a battle between the two boys for the trophy, and Apolo will end up taking it home.

There it is -- my fearless prediction -- Apolo will win Dancing with the Stars. Feel free to heckle me if am wrong.

Click here to read Dancing with the Stars Finale: Round 1

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Dancing with the Stars Finale: Round 1

Dancing with the Stars finale! Woo hoo!

Ok, before we get to the performances, I have to say that I think it's a little lame that past "celebrities" from the show (I'm talking about you Rinna, Hamlin and Springer) come to the show each week seeking some tv face-time, and other "celebrities" (I love ya, but I'm talking about you Lance Bass) think appearing in the audience each week is just as good career-wise as, oh I don't know, actually doing something. Get a job people!

Ok, on to the performances...

Laila and Max - Judge's Choice (Paso Doble)
Laila is definitely in it to win it this week, and her paso doble is fiery and very well-executed. I felt flames -- but I think I was hoping for a forest fire. It had aggression, but I can't say it was an aggression I found particularly sexy. Still, a solid start to the show.

My Grade: 9

Apolo and Julianne - Judge's Choice (Rumba)
"They made love on the dance floor. They could have conceived a baby."
Bruno Tanioli, May 21 2007

That, my friends, might be the quote of the season. And, for all of it's hyperbolic glory, it is actually sort of accurate. Apolo and Julianne are dynamite together-- their chemistry is palpable, and Julianne's choreography is dramatic and fabulous. I can't say I totally disagree with Carrie Ann -- something about it did feel a bit rushed and even, dare I say, sloppy. But still, they are so cute, the two of them, I can hardly stand it.

My Grade: 9

Joey and Kym - Judge's Choice (Cha Cha)
Wow, the judges are really a buzzkill tonight. That was such fun to watch -- clever, funky, and sharp. Ok, maybe it wasn't cha-cha enough (whatever the heck that means), and for all of the cheekiness it actually felt a little stiff to me at parts, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the judges made it to be.

My Grade: 9

Looks like I'm calling the first round a tie.

Click here for Dancing with the Stars Finale: Round 2

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