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IDLE IDOL WATCHING, THE WEDNESDAY REVIEW: CBS may have had the official March Madness, and NBC may have let Donald Trump be Trump once more, but the nation's musical majority tuned in to Fox last night to see how American Idol would recover from its latest snafu.
Nielsen counted 27.5 million Idol watchers for Tuesday's botched contest, while 20.6 million sat through Wednesday's glorified encore.
Last night, the top-rated show didn't provide us with any special upsets. Mikalah Gordon barely survived last week's vote, so her exit last night didn't shock anyone.
But first, we endured a look back at the show we all saw twice already, plus a group performance of "He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)'' (coming to a tour stop near you this summer, whether we want it or not), and a Ford truck ad that wisely featured the contestants instead of alleged hit-and-run driver/judge Paula Abdul.
Host Ryan Seacrest claimed Wednesday night's revote garnered an incredible 31 million votes, besting last week's vote total of about 30 million (no problems specific to Ohio or Florida reported, as far as we know).
Seacrest called this "one of the craziest weeks in Idol history."
After the breaks and the melodramatic dramatic pauses, it all came down to Nadia Turner and Mikalah. Anthony Federov only lasted a minute in the bottom three before returning to safety among the top 10 finalists.
Turner lost votes by ditching her Justin Guarini hairstyle for a mad Mohawk and 1980s garb to warble through Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time.''
But it was 17-year-old Mikalah, the youngest Idol finalist, who heard that her "journey ended here'' last night from a sympathetic Seacrest.

(popular thinking notes: Has sympathetic Seacrest permanently replaced snarky Seacrest? You remember, the host with the most snark from the first semifinals episodes who'd spring surprises on the singers with a sudden spin move and the barking of "you're out!" Talk about your backpedaling.)

Mikalah treated us to one last speech showcasing her Babs-meets-Fran-Drescher
impersonation before closing out the show with yet another attempt at Taylor
Dayne's "Love Will Lead You Back.''

At least The OC seemed to be back in stride, after a half-season lost in the wilderness of whacked out plot twists...also, NBC's version of The Office, not half as cruddy as imagined.

Related: Every revote counts on ‘Idol’ (Boston Herald)

WORSHIPING FALSE IDOLS, AGAIN? American Idol executive producer Ken Warwick blames "human error'' for the latest snafu to hit the nation's most-watched TV show.
Idol scheduled an unprecedented revote and rebroadcast last night after an "outside contractor'' botched Tuesday night's graphics, giving viewers the wrong phone numbers for three of the 11 finalists. A new half-hour results show airs tonight at 9 on Fox (WFXT-25). "After four years of everything being perfect,'' Warwick explained to reporters in a conference call yesterday, "you just take your eye off the ball for a second.''
Perfection, we guess, is relative. Consider Idol's track record.
Potential Idol Mario Vasquez already left the show and may have signed a deal with Sean "Puffy Puff Daddy P. Diddy'' Combs. Warwick said he'd heard that rumor but couldn't confirm it.

Last year:
  • A power outage in contestant Jennifer Hudson's hometown of Chicago may have cost her last year's Idol. No revote occurred.
  • Elton John accused Idol's voting methods of being racist.
  • Fox confirmed it had a policy to combat so-called power-dialers from stuffing the ballot box.
    In season two:
  • Questions persist about whether Ruben Studdard really won Idol's final vote against Clay Aiken.
  • Finalist Corey Clark got himself disqualified because he faced assault charges. Idol did throw out that week's votes and gave everyone else a free pass, including . . .
  • Finalist Trenyce, who had previously been convicted for theft, despite telling Idol's Web site that she couldn't think of a most embarrassing moment.
  • Two other semifinalists that year got the boot. Frenchie Davis could have won if not for topless photos she posed for years beforehand, while semifinalist Jaered Andrews was knocked out for his involvement in a fatal fight.
    And then there was the original American Idol, which culminated in the less-than-perfect movie, From Justin to Kelly.

  • Continue reading: ‘Idol’ thought: Give out the right number (Boston Herald)
    Related: Official home of American Idol.

    ASSESSING THE SONY PSP: A generation ago, Sony introduced the Walkman and revolutionized portable entertainment.
    Tomorrow it launches the PlayStation Portable, described by one company executive as "the first entertainment Swiss Army Knife.'' Will lightning strike Sony twice? Or will the PSP join the ranks of the Betamax, the minidisc and DIVX in the woulda, coulda, shoulda dustbin of history?
    The avalanche of buzz about the PSP guarantees at least short-term success.
    "I think that the hype that is created around it is a huge factor,'' said Tony Fair, director of strategic solutions for Boston-based Alloy Media and Marketing. "The past weekend, I went into an electronics store in my neighborhood. I heard the guy tell kids you have to reserve one now.''
    In fact, many retailers, including the CambridgeSide Galleria's Electronics Boutique, already have cleared their PSP inventories through preorders. Big chains such as Best Buy and Circuit City only promise limited supplies of 15 or 20 per store, which should sell out in minutes tomorrow morning.
    Sony expects to ship its initial order of 1 million units in a week, and has postponed a European launch to meet the demand here.
    What's the big deal?
    The PSP arrives with the potential to combine the features of its competitors - Nintendo's Game Boy, portable movie players and Apple's iPod - all in one gadget. It plays video games, movies, music files and displays digital photos, using a Sony proprietary device called the Universal Media Disc and memory sticks.
    "With PSP, we're aiming to create a new market for entertainment,'' spokesman Patrick Seybold said yesterday.
    Seybold sees the PSP as another step in the process of "mainstreaming gaming'' and opening up new opportunities for hand-held entertainment.

    Continue reading: Sony takes aim at new market with launch of PlayStation Portable (Boston Herald)

    ROCK N ROLL DATING: When I think of meeting a potentially significant other at a rock show, a couple of memories come to mind. The movie Singles, which so accurately pegged (and melded) both the early 90s dating scene and the early 90s Seattle music scene. My futile attempts to share my love for Matthew Sweet with my ex. So when I found out that someone in Boston had decided to rock out the speed dating concept, I had to investigate.

    As its title suggests, Rock 'N' Roll Speed Dating takes the popular meet-and-greet services and throws in two twists: You're set up with people who share your musical interests, and you get to enjoy live music.

    Continue reading my explanation: Dating service helps rock 'n' roll fans band together (Boston Herald)

    Learn more for yourself: Rock 'N' Roll Speed Dating (rnrdating.com)

    DOING BATTLES WITH THE BANDS: You might think of a battle of the bands as an expression of teen angst or a glorified open mike.
    But some competitions offer real rewards for Boston musicians with global ambitions.
    "How much can you expect from a battle of the bands?'' asked Dan 'Chill Breeze' Martinez, lead guitarist for local up-and-comers The Murder Elite.
    In his case, perhaps an all-expenses-paid trip to Germany, courtesy of the international Emergenza festival, which holds its final preliminary battles this weekend at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge. The decidedly local and more selective WBCN Rock 'N' Roll Rumble, starts next month at the Middle East.

    Continue reading my story: For those about to rock... (Boston Herald)
    Related: Emergenza, WBCN, The Middle East restaurant and nightclub

    LAMPOON FOR SALE? Well, sort of. Sorry for the delay in posting the link to my story, which appeared much earlier today. But these things happen. Anyhow. I got a call this afternoon from the National Lampoon returning my inquiry into the company's planned stock sale. Not much to add to my story in the Herald, although I did learn that a) I still got my street cred since the Lampoon guys thought I did a fair job o' reporting, and b) I have even more cred for calling out the Harvard Lampoon prez, who somehow thought the news story was a prank. Or was he pranking me? Methinks not.

    YOU NEED TO BE WATCHING THE STARLET: And not just because I know Lauren, one of the leading ladies for the WB prize. OK, maybe that's a good enough reason. But the show is a hoot, anyhow. Really. Change the channel to the WB because it's on right now (9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, 8 p.m. Central/Mountain) and Lauren is attending the Ocean's 12 premiere and talking to Extra because she won this week's "diva" challenge. By the way, did I mention I know Lauren (and her hotty hot sister, too, who has plenty of her own time in front of thousands of people on a regular basis)? And the casting director judge, who was equally ruthless when casting the fated failure from the last Project Greenlight, reminds me that I need to check in tonight with the new horrific version of Project Greenlight. But not until I've seen the rest of this week's Starlet.

    Watch The Starlet. Meet Lauren.

    MARIO'S AMERICAN IDOL RUMOR: Perhaps you've heard some of the rumors surrounding Mario's sudden withdrawal from Idol over the weekend. I'm willing to buy into the fact that something's rotten because of the way the show and Fox have failed to be forward about the whole thing. Then again, perhaps everyone is getting so sick of Idol (despite still watching it religiously) that the network figured playing coy would draw even more viewers. Who knows? Now I have another reason to stay up for Letterman tonight, since Mario will deliver tonight's Top 10 list about why he quit. In the meantime, the AP summarizes the prevailing theories on Mario's departure.

    24's MUSLIM SUPERHERO: Really, that's the only place for the finale of my favorite Fox thriller to go -- wouldn't you agree? If you haven't been following 24, here is your recap of this season's day-in-the-life of troubled counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer. First, we find out that Arab Muslims have infiltrated the U.S. years ago to create sleeper cells looking to kill the Defense Secretary and melt down our nuclear reactors. Second, the Arab and Muslim communities complain that Fox is insensitive by portraying their group as terrorists in hiding. Third, Fox trots out Kiefer Sutherland during later episodes for an in-show PSA saying, hey, not ALL Arab Muslims are baddy bads. Then last night's hour finds two nameless brothers holed up in the gun shop they inherited from their father, only to have Jack and Co. rumble through their doors. Turns out -- quelle surprise! -- that the brothers are good ol' Muslim boys not meaning no harm and in fact, as they tell Jack, they're "much angrier about these terrorists" than anyone. Alrighty then. So really, the 24 writers have nothing left to prove in their backpedaling except to write in an Arab American Muslim hero who rides in to save the day from Jack and the USA. Wouldn't you agree? I still love 24. Yes, I do.

    ON RUSSELL CROWE AND AL-QAEDA: Four years ago, we couldn't figure out why anyone would want to kidnap Aussie actor Russell Crowe.
    We learned last week that the FBI briefly believed that al-Qaeda terrorists had targeted the Gladiator star as part of a plot to disrupt American culture, or something to that effect. That's why Crowe had all of those bodyguards protecting him on the red carpet.
    Really? That's the story we're supposed to believe?
    Actually, it may be true that time not only heals all wounds, but also solves mysterious conduct by celebrities.

    Cases in point: Ashlee Simpson on SNL, Britney Spears getting unmarried in Vegas, Anne Heche's breakdown following her breakup with Ellen, and Eddie Murphy's ride with a tranny prostitute.

    Read my astute analysis here: With celebs, facts can be stranger than fiction (Boston Herald)

    REVERSE PRODUCT PLACEMENT: With an all-star cast of voices, the new animated movie Robots would seem to promote itself.
    By including a cameo voiceover role for NBC weatherman Al Roker, the film earned a bonus bounty of free press from the Peacock network.
    Mel Brooks talked 'bots with Today on Thursday, co-star Greg Kinnear appeared earlier in the week, and seemingly every other morning featured a segment hyping Roker's side gig.
    It's reverse product placement.
    Putting a TV news person into your movie or TV show guarantees extra minutes of pre-premiere airtime devoted to how great/exciting/rewarding it was to be a part of the action.

    Continue reading my story: Free plugs for `Robots' movie? It's news to network celebs (Boston Herald)

    Kindergarten Cop (1990) Posted by Hello

    The Pacifier (2005) Posted by Hello

    Anatomy of a Murder (1959) Posted by Hello

    Clockers (1995) Posted by Hello

    MOVIE POSTER COPYCATS: If you think you've seen Vin Diesel's new movie, The Pacifier, somewhere before, that's because you probably have.
    It was called Kindergarten Cop, with a splash of Mr. Nanny. The former was a hit for Arnold Schwarzenegger; the latter, not so great for one Hulk Hogan.
    But Diesel's movie does more than simply swipe the plots from those flicks - even The Pacifier poster is a copycat.
    In the poster for Kindergarten Cop, kids tug at Arnold as he gamely plays the proverbial undercover fish out of water. In the Pacifier poster, kids dangle from Diesel as he gamely plays the, yes, proverbial undercover fish out of water.
    This seems like a blatant example, though it's not the only one.
    Disney's The Ice Princess, starring Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and premiering March 18, borrows slightly from the not-so-family-friendly 1984 film Angel - each poster sports the lead actress in back-to-back poses showing her before and after character transformation.
    At online forum icollectmovieposters.com, one chat participant noted that many contemporary films have used the same two- or three-panel horizontal strip design, with each strip showing one of the stars and/or a background scene, all above the main title. Among them: Gattaca, Head in the Clouds, The Hot Spot, Ladder 49 and A League of Their Own.
    Hollywood observers note that the same movie studios that churn out similar plots also resort to the same types of ads and promotions over and over again.
    "There's not much originality in movie posters,'' said Rudy Franchi of The Nostalgia Factory.
    His Charlestown-based company is a well-known hub for movie memorabilia and the official supplier of movie poster images to the Internet Movie Database.

    Continue reading my story, from Tuesday's Boston Herald: New films filch ideas for posters, ads and plotlines

    BACK IN BEANTOWN, THE BIG MOVE (PART 3 OF 4): Sorry for being literally out of the loop for a few days, but that can happen when you have to pack up all of your belongings and entrust someone else to drive them across the country to your new digs. That's where we're at. But having survived an unscheduled overnight layover in Baltimore's lovely (read: lonely) international airport terminal while waiting for Logan to reopen, and having reported back to work, might as wells get back to the blog. So let's get to it. It sure beats waiting for the rest of my stuff to catch up with me in Boston next week...but if you're in the market for a two-bedroom condo in Paradise Valley, Ariz., you can contact my agents.

    MEET THE SUCKQUELS: Memo to John Travolta's agent...do not, under any circumstances, allow Mr. Dance Fever to sign another contract that obligates him to make a sequel. It's poison - poison! poison! never trust a big butt and a smile - for the Saturday Night Scientologist. Or do you not remember the classics Staying Alive, Look Who's Talking Too, Look Who's Talking Now and now, Be Cool. As much as we might want to forget these flicks, we cannot. We must not. Which brings us to today's dispatch of mine from the Boston Herald...

    The actors in Be Cool seem as if they had a lot of fun making the movie sequel to Get Shorty.
    But their enjoyment - though it shows onscreen - doesn't always translate to our enjoyment.
    You can get big laughs from big stars, but you typically need such things as, oh, a screenplay, plot and character development. Not that Hollywood cares for such things. Be Cool could be part of a disturbing new trend evidenced by such recent sequels as Ocean's 12, Meet the Fockers and The Whole Ten Yards, except for the more disturbing fact that the silly, sucky sequel - let's call it the suckquel - has been around for more than a few reels.
    You don't have to trace it back to the Rat Pack, although its members did contribute to Cannonball Run II.
    Full-fledged suckquels have four main components: 1) An all-star cast, 2) joined together for the sole purpose of squeezing as much profit as the movie studio thinks it can make off the original hit concept, 3) so the budget pays for the stars and not the screenplay, 4) which leads to lots of goofing around, insider jokes and pop culture references.
    That's not a movie. That's a blooper reel.
    In the end, these suckquels succeed at the box office (because we line up like P.T. Barnum's suckers) but fail to reproduce the spark that made us love the original movies.
    Before you can say Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, let's review Hollywood's biggest suckquels of the past 25 years.

    Smokey and the Bandit 2 (1980): Two words - Terry Bradshaw. Need more? The premise has the Bandit transporting a pregnant elephant.
    Cannonball Run II (1984): So many stars mocking their previous roles that nothing makes sense to anyone except Shirley MacLaine, who knows a little something about reliving the past.
    Caddyshack II (1988): Like watching the replacement NFL. Jackie Mason is no Rodney Dangerfield, and the rest of the subs aren't better.
    Look Who's Talking Too (1990): The baby-talking gimmick from the original becomes thebasis for this suckquel, adding the voices of Mel Brooks, Damon Wayans and Roseanne.
    Blues Brothers 2000 (1998): Can't even get the year right. John Goodman is no John Belushi. Buy the soundtrack, forget the movie. Then again, you might provoke another attempt at a concert tour. Scratch that.
    The Whole Ten Yards (2004): Three and out is more like it.
    Ocean's 12 (2004): Don't hate them because they're beautiful. OK, hate them for it.
    Meet the Fockers (2004): All the effort put into the punny title left little in the tank for a meaningful script. But don't you just laugh saying focker over and over?

    Related story: Stars can't make unfunny sequels `Cool' (Boston Herald)

    A FEMALE PRESIDENT? You can find women leaders in Ireland and the Phillipines, but stateside, nocando. Not yet. Some might say that's because pop culture doesn't even give us any possibilities to consider. Well, that's slowly a-changing, too.

    On NBC's The West Wing, Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda dominate the race for the fictional White House while Mel Harris is teased as a possible female addition to the campaign.
    ABC, meanwhile, has tapped Geena Davis to star as the first female president in a new drama, Commander in Chief. If the show makes the fall schedule, Davis would join Mary McDonnell, who already leads the U.S. (and all humankind) on SciFi's revamped Battlestar Galactica.
    "I think it's great,'' said Marie C. Wilson, president of the nonprofit White House Project, which aims to have a woman lead the real West Wing. "If you can see it on television, it makes an enormous difference,'' Wilson said yesterday.

    Continue reading my story: President Geena? ABC hails the idea (Boston Herald)

    WHY I WORK WHERE I DO: If you already know me, then you can see why I'd be tremendously thrilled to be in Boston. But if you don't know me and you're curious to see how I fit into the fabric of the new and improved Boston Herald, read this story from the latest issue of Boston magazine and you'll see why Ken Chandler and I might be on the same page after all.

    DUKES OF HAZZARD AS DREAM JOB? Hundreds of thousands of Internet pages are devoted to The Dukes of Hazzard.
    Soon, one die-hard Dukes devotee - perhaps even you - could earn $100,000 as the first-ever vice president of the Country Music Television Dukes of Hazzard Institute.
    That's a lot of moonshine.
    Wait. There's a Dukes of Hazzard Institute? Is it similar to the prestigious Beverly Hillbilly Center for Advanced Studies or Green Acres Academy? Who is the institute president?
    "We see the show as being the president,'' said James Hitchcock, VP of marketing for CMT.
    Continue reading my story...

    Related: Few Hazzards to `Dukes' job (Boston Herald)
    Official site: CMT Dukes Institute job search

    SLY VS. SLY: Rocky Balboa started out as the ultimate underdog.
    But the man who made a box-office champ out of "Rocky'' has slyly delivered a first-round KO to an upstart magazine that shares the same name as Sylvester Stallone's new mag.
    It's Sly vs. Sly.
    Only this fight might be waged in the courtroom, not the ring.
    The debut issue of Stallone's Sly magazine, conceived as a fitness and lifestyle guide for men who "believe that life begins at 40,'' rolled out last week with an initial nationwide circulation of 125,000. Stallone is backed by American Media Inc., the conglomerate that publishes National Enquirer, Star, Weekly World News and Mira! as well as titles under the Weider Publications brands, which include Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness and Shape.
    And the other Sly magazine? Not so big.
    Sly Magazine LLC is an independent publisher that planned to unveil its first issue later this year. But this Sly, which targets female readers and lovers of shoes, handbags and other accessories, has held the online address of slymagazine.com since November, when it held a launch party in New York.

    Continue reading my story here: Title bout pits Sylvester Stallone against other mag (Boston Herald)

    UPDATE: The story that appears online (at least early this morning) didn't include the quotes from Slymagazine.com's lawyer, John Bostany. I'll post those soon.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Here is the section from New York attorney John Bostany, who told me Monday that he wanted to clarify the earlier statement from his clients at the smaller slymagazine.com...

    John Bostany said he has informed American Media multiple times in the past year about the trademark infringement.
    "We've sent them a formal cease-and-desist letter," Bostany said Monday.
    His clients (slymagazine.com) have been "trying to give (American Media) every opportunity" to settle their differences, but they likely will have to sue instead.
    "It will wind up with them paying a lot in damages," Bostany told me.

    REENACTING THE MICHAEL JACKSON TRIAL: When the Michael Jackson child molestation trial opened yesterday in California, no courtroom cameras could document the drama. Enter E! Entertainment Television, which built an elaborate duplicate courtroom, hired a well-known Jacko impersonator and a group of actors to stage verbatim, daily re-enactments of the court proceedings.

    Continue reading my story here: `Scary' actor stars in re-enactment `thriller' (Boston Herald)

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