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Escaping Reality with "Reality"

In a normal week, I would probably find myself writing something on the order of thanking America for coming to its senses and finally sending the classy but inert Clyde Drexler packing from Dancing with the Stars. And then I’d tack on some snarky thought about how maybe America could be similarly inspired tonight to send the “utterly horrendous” (Simon’s words) Sanjaya Malakar and his bandanna home from American Idol after Tuesday’s feeble attempt at Bonnie Raitt insouciance.But this is hardly a normal week. Between Monday’s instantly infamous tragedy at Virginia Tech, and the natural disaster of the floods in the Northeast following last weekend’s torrential storm, my TV has been a bearer of bad news for the last couple of terrible days. Reality TV has been thoroughly overshadowed by reality on TV.In times like these, especially as the nation tries to come to grips with the senseless horror of the Virginia Tech shootings, TV serves an essential p... read more

Simon Gets Serious: Sanjaya's Not Funny Anymore

Sanjaya Malakar by Frank Micelotta/Fox

At long last, the gloves are off. A bandanna-clad Sanjaya Malakar's Tuesday-night rendition of Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About" gave his biggest critic lots to talk about. After Randy likened it to bad karaoke and Paula, I dunno, tittered, Simon declared the performance "utterly horrendous" and as awful as anything they'd heard during the audition rounds. At that point, Ryan (of course) stepped in to play peacemaker, but Cowell wouldn't be squelched. Waving off Seacrest, the brassy Brit said to Sanjaya — OK, to America, really — "I know this has been funny for a while, but because of the fact that we're supposed to be finding an American Idol, it was hideous. A ridiculous choice of song."Let's hope America got the message, stopped obliging sites like "FightTheEstablishment.com" and "BeAWackyVoteTamperingRebel.com," and got the job done this time. read more

April 17, 2007: "I Learned the Truth at 17..."

“... that love was meant for beauty queens and high-school girls with clear-skinned smiles....” Who could this be about?Martina McBride, country superstar and mentor to the Idols, showed up. And after she won award after award, year after year, with the same haircut, Martina got a weave for the Idolites. Her advice to the Idols was to “tell the story” of the song — sounds like the same advice Tony gave them, J.Lo gave them; I think even Diana Ross may have said something similar. Only Gwen neglected to share with them that bit of wisdom. So with Martina, her weave and Phil Stacey’s shiny noggin, we began the top-seven countdown.Philly boy, nice save. With the help of Keith Urban’s “Where the Blacktop Ends,” Phil was able to come back from the depths of never-never and skid into middle earth. He actually sung the song from beginning to end. He brought it with the first note, and he took it all the way through to the last note. The song was... read more

Simon Says: Idol Wannabes "Aren't the Best We've Had"

Simon Cowell courtesy Fox

Gee, ya think? But hey, he said it, not me. Surveying the remaining contenders for the winding-down season of American Idol, the man who put the judge in judgmental tells Entertainment Weekly, "We're doing as well as we are doing with not a great cast at the moment, to be honest with you. They're not the best bunch of kids we've ever had." Well, yeah, especially now that my Haley is gone. That said, Simon says the race is "as close as it's been in any season," and culls his fave five down to Blake, Chris R., Jordin, LaKisha and Melinda (ouch, Phil and... what's-his-face). read more

Idol's Haley: Let's Talk Singing, Not Strutting

Haley Scarnato by Frank Micelotta/Fox

The day after exiting American Idol, Haley Scarnato told TVGuide.com that though she shrugged it off on stage, Simon Cowell's quips about her flesh-flashing definitely twigged her. "Yeah, they hurt a little bit," she said, wishing that she had instead received constructive feedback on her pipes versus her pins. "They always say, 'This is a singing competition,' yadda-yadda-yadda, so I'm like, 'OK, this is a singing competition....'" But as all she heard about was her look, "You just brush it off and do the best you can."Later in the press-conference call, Haley rebuffed the notion that she was overtly parlaying her sexuality, saying that with regards to her spirited take on "Turn the Beat Around," "The style of the song was about in-your-face rhythm. It was funky and Latin, with a sexy vibe, and that’s what I was going for. When it's time to sing, it's time to sing. I was enjoying my moment." read more

April 11, 2007: These Legs Were Made for Walkin'

Ryan walked past the Idols and asked the magic question, “Who will be going home tonight?” He gave a very long look to Sanjaya, knowing full well the king of hula was not going anywhere. (I thought the real question was, “How many white strips do those kids put in their mouths each night?” Because the whole lot of them have the whitest teeth I have ever seen.)Next we had the money shots, Eva Longoria and Sharon Osbourne, our resident audience stars of the evening. Ryan introduced the judges, which wasn’t really interesting except that when he introduced Simon, Simon winked at Paula. It was frankly a bit creepy. Let me take a moment here to say, “Poor Randy.” Simon and Paula get all of the attention and Randy just sits there. What exactly is his function? Aside from the various glasses he shows off each night, the vibrant shirts and the “Dawg, you blasted it out da house tonight,” I’m not sure I know what he’s doing there. Well y... read more

Sanjaya's Sis Takes on the Hair, the Heckling and Her Brother's American Idol Fate

Sanjaya and Shyamali Malakar, American Idol

In the very, very, very beginning of this wild season of American Idol, there were two Malakars: Sanjaya, 17, whom we've heard a thing or two about in the preceding months, and Shyamali, 19, who joined her younger brother for the Hollywood leg of the experience, but couldn't crack the top 24 (let alone the top eight). With Sanjaya sequestered as he braved this past week's performance and results shows, TV Guide invited Shyamali to offer insight into her brother's moment under the pop-culture magnifying glass. TV Guide: How has Sanjaya been doing?Shyamali Malakar: I am proud of Sanjaya and how he handles the controversy around [Idol]. He doesn't read the blogs and doesn't watch TV — he's isolated in the environment — so he doesn't have to be as ex read more

April 10, 2007: "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You"

Welcome to the dull week. We knew it had to happen somewhere in 22 weeks. There was nary a performance worth writing home about and the good ones were slim to middling. I don’t know what that means, but I know had I fallen asleep in the beginning of the show, I would not have missed much. Evidently, the entirety of Latin music consists only of Miami Sound Machine, Santana with a little Marc Anthony, (or is it Antony? “Oh, Cleo, drop that asp.”) How about a little Gipsy Kings? Have you ever heard of Ricky Martin? Shakira? When will the producers let us, the public, select the songs for the contestants? How about a week with Rufus Wainwright mentoring and the kids can all sing songs from his Judy Garland concert at Carnegie Hall? Just an idea. It can’t be any worse than some of these current theme weeks. J.Lo recently released her first Spanish-language album, Como Ama Una Mujer. According to Babelfish that means “As It Loves a Woman.” I don’t speak ... read more

April 4, 2007: I Don't Want to Smile

If I wasn't blogging AI for TV Guide, I would stop watching this show right now. Before I even get to a brief blow-by-blow, I have to step out of my usual banter and say something about the state of this competition. I understand "drama" makes for good television. I understand that the producers can’t be happy with everything going along as it should. “Life isn’t fair,” I can hear them shout. But that any lackluster singer can remain safe while perfectly great singers get sent home is just a travesty to the competition and to singing in general. I realize that since pop music often consists of “artists” who have no voice to speak of and are merely offering manipulated tracks under heavy musical artillery (Paris Hilton, Ashlee Simpson, you get the point), it makes complete sense that AI voters are engaged in keeping Sanjaya, Phil and Haley around. Unfortunately, I am really discouraged by the outcome of this week’s show, (though losing AJ, Sabrina a... read more

April 3, 2007: "And Then There Were Nine"

Wow, the good ones get better and the bad ones, well, you get the picture. There were nine contestants going into this week of Idol and as far as I am concerned, there need only be six, possibly five. I will name names at the end. Actually this was a pretty good show. Aside from the aforementioned three or four, the remaining performances were outstanding. I would pay money to see a few of them. Wait, I rescind that. Justin Timberlake (the original one) is performing in L.A. to the tune of $150 a ticket, and that’s before the astronomical fees that that horrific master of tickets adds on to every seat. So by the end of the day, you’d pay over $200 to see JT. I’m not saying he’s not worth it, but I could fly to Hawaii for just a few dollars more, and frankly, Maui sounds blissful by comparison. What I am rambling to say is, if the tickets were a reasonable price, I would go. I would download Melinda, Chris R. and Gina’s performances this week if I could get a... read more

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