Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wrapping up the 2009-2010 season

American Idol

Did the best singer win? No. But, Lee probably "needed" the win and the Idol/19 machine push more than Crystal. Crystal is a "true" artist, but her style of music isn't always the most commercial. I can see her still performing in 20 years, while I can't quite say the same for Lee. I think Lee is clearly the least talented singer to have ever won, and he's in the same genre as David Cook, Daughtry, and even Kris Allen to an extent, but isn't anywhere nearly as talented or inspiring as any of them...and Kris for all his talents didn't really inspire a lot of fans either.

I liked Siobhan and Casey and I can see Casey having some sort of a career as he's good looking, a pretty darn good guitarist, and is a decent singer. Siobhan is perhaps the best pure singer from this season, but can she have a sustained career? She's a quirky personality and somehow should find a way to combine those 2 things into something successful.

As for the judges, Simon had clearly checked out of this season and just didn't care. Ellen was HORRIBLE, as I predicted. Randy is useless. Kara turned in the best judging performance all season. Who knew?

Going forward, Idol should fire everyone but Kara. Give Ryan's job to Ellen. Hire 2 new judges (so ONLY 3 total) and consider the following for those final 2 positions, Shania Twain, Neil Patrick Harris, Ken "Babyface" Edmonds, superproducer Steve Lillywhite, P Diddy, Ben Folds, Piers Morgan, Natalie Maines, Don Was, and someone heretofore unknown (as Simon was originally.) I would prefer that one be a singer/performer and one a producer/talent scout.

They also should incorporate the judges in the process in terms of who goes like they do on DWTS and X Factor. That gets rid of the "judges save," and instead allows the judges to pick kbetween the Bottom 2 or 3.

Get rid of the theme nights that focus on one artist, and don't go further back for a "decade" theme than the 80s. Country night, R&B night, Rock & Roll night ALL make more sense than Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis, Sinatra, Shania Twain, etc...

AI also needs to give the contestants more choices to sing, and not allow a song from earlier in the season (or the prior season) to be sung. They also should ban any song performed more than 3 times, and certain songs should be banned that are associated with a "moment" from a former Idol (like Summertime, Stuff Like That There, Hallelujah, Mad World, etc...)

AI had a VERY comprehensive poll on their website asking all sorts of questions about what works and what doesn't, and I HOPE that they got good replies and they take it to heart.


FINALLY a season ending that rocked! It's about time after the last couple that sucked. All in all, it was a pretty good season, but honestly, I wish "Checkmate" had been the "big bad" and not the stoopid Kandorians.


Russell SHOULD have won Samoa, and as much as it pains me to admit, Parvati SHOULD have won Heroes vs Villains. I STILL think that in order to win Survivor you really should have won at least 1 Individual Immunity. I understand "puppet masters" and "social players," but Sandra was neither. Sandra won because she wasn't Russell and by proxy Parvati. Sandra did NOTHING to win. She had no alliance. She had no puppets doing her bidding. She had no strategy other than "boot Russell." The ONLY move she made was getting Russell to evict Coach, and by finding the last HII she kept anyone else from getting it. Whoopee doo.

Amazing Race

This last one was MUCH better than the prior one which had some of the LAMEST challenges ever (like go to the top of this building, run onto the roof, and find your clue...seriously?) That said, the Cowboys SHOULD have won, but they goofed at the end. I still don't like how they bunched the final 3 together onto the same plane back to the US. The brothers were waaaay behind and shouldn't have been brought to parity. Ah well. At least the unlikable lesbian couple didn't win.


WOW! This was a very "slow burn" series. It started with a spark, well a bang anyway, and then slowly burned until the explosive finale. It was one of the best season finales of ANY show this year, and probably one of the best finales ever.


This show finally hit its stride the last few weeks. I see this on a short leash next season. This show has many problems, the kid who plays Tyler, the Vs calling themselves Vs, and the way people are able to do things that they shouldn't (like move about unnoticed on a high tech spaceship.) Let's hope that they get off to a fast start next season.


This series also was quite uneven, but I like it on the whole. Good performances, and good ideas. I like that unlike Star Trek:Voyager, there isn't a "reset button" at the end of each episode. Shit happens and mostly the results stick. This has a LOT of potential, and I hope that they're able to get some traction next season.


This series should be REQUIRED VIEWING for people writing series that have a "serial" format. This shows how characters can evolve naturally and even find love without losing chemistry or jumping the shark. This past season saw the addition of several new characters, and ALL of them worked. Scott Bakula as Chuck's Dad was genius, and Brandon Routh was actually quite good as the largely unlikable character Shaw. Mu-ha-ha indeed. Next season will have Chuck's Mom. I vote for her to be played by Sarah Connor (either Linda Hamilton or Lena Headey...hmm, they both have LH as initials...oddly interesting.)

Top Chef Masters

Ok, I now am CONVINCED that this series is FIXED. Last season, I predicted that Rick Bayless would win before the season started as he is revered as some sort of Messiah in the food world, and surprise surprise, he won. This season, I again predicted that Marcus Samuelsson would win before the start of the season as he too is highly praised whenever I see him mentioned on something and he also seems to be a "favs" of the "foodies." At the end of the day Susur Lee seemed to do the best overall (heck he got 19 and 19.5 out of 20!) but Marcus got the win in the end. I may have to give up on this show. The new Top Chef is about to start and it features a pretty well regarded local chef from Farmington Hills, so I hope he's a good dude and I can cheer him on.


While there are about a hundred unanswered questions http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1936291 the ending was amazing and Vincent laying down next to Jack as Jack died was so moving. This series had FAR more hits than misses, and although LOTS of things were unanswered, the characters got their stories resolved (for the most part.) Kudos for an interesting series and well made finale.

New or Returning Shows I Am or Will Be Watching:

Burn Notice, Eureka, My Life on the D List, The Gates, Worst Case Scenario, Mythbusters, Next Food Network Star, and for the first time America's Got Talent. I think that the choir comprised of former homeless vets will win AGT, and they were introduced in the first episode. They're good, and have an amazing and inspiring story. I also like Michael Grimm and he has a good look, voice, and story, and could have won any other year. The 18 year old who looks like James Blunt is decent, but Grimm is better, and the choir's story trumps them all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Howard Stern & American Idol

Lately, there has been a LOT of chatter about AI possibly considering Howard Stern to replace Simon. Some say that he's the perfect choice, others say if they bring him on they'll stop watching (of course, most of those people said they'd stop if David Cook won over Archie, or after Paula left, or when Simon said he was leaving, so take most of that with a HUGE grain of salt,) and even Ellen said that if he joins she'll leave (she's on a 4 year contract, so good luck with that.)

Let's take a look at this from different angles.

First, some have said that Howard couldn't replace Simon as Simon is known for grooming talent and Howard is not. Some also say that he couldn't replace Simon as he doesn't have any musical background. Well, what musical background does Ellen have? Besides, a lack of a musical background just isn't true. Besides being in the radio business for over 30 years, Howard himself does have some musical background and a knack for spotting talent. When Howard was a teen, he was in a band. Mark McGrath's band Sugar Ray actually covered one of Howard's songs called "Psychedelic Bee." Most people think of Howard as a Shock Jock, but when he started, there was no such thing. He was a DJ playing music like everyone else. He eventually became a Program Director at some of the stations that he worked at. The Program Director is responsible for creating the playlist of music that is played each day on their station. They may leave open slots for "DJ's Choice" or "Requests," but by and large, they decide what gets played. As a PD, Howard met with many bands, introduced bands at concerts, and listened to demos and new singles and albums to decide what got on the air.

3 artists that Howard championed before ANYONE else include Billy Squier, Bon Jovi, and Sugar Ray. In fact, while a DJ in Detroit, he heard Billy Squier's first album "Tale of the Tape" and invited Billy to come to Detroit and perform on the air. Billy was dead broke at the time, and Howard let him stay at the studio and sleep on the floor because he couldn't afford a hotel room. Billy's song "The Big Beat" from that album, while not a hit, has been sampled by a dozen or so rap artists for it's heavy drum and bass beat lines. Billy's next album "Don't Say No" was an ENORMOUS hit, and is still one of my Top 10 (maybe Top 5) albums of all time.

Bon Jovi was "discovered" by musician Aldo Nova who had a hit song called "Fantasy." Aldo had Bon Jovi cut a demo called "Runaway." Howard picked it up at the radio station he was at the time (I think in Washington DC) and played the HECK out of it. In fact, Howard sent it to people who he was still friendly with in the business or at his former stations, to see what they thought. If you saw the movie "Private Parts" there is a famous sequence where the radio station Howard worked at in Detroit called W4 became a country station called WWWW. One DJ went from calling himself the "Doc of Rock" to the "Country Doctor." In real life, the "Doc of Rock" moved to another rock station and became their Program Director. He later started a music video show that aired locally late nights on PBS. Well, the "Doc of Rock" is one of the people who Howard sent the demo to. We here in Detroit got to hear "Runaway" by Bon Jovi at least a good 8 or 9 months before it was released nationwide. When it was finally released as a single nationwide, with the video, it had already come and gone as a hit here in Detroit, but became a hit all over again.

By the time Sugar Ray got started, Howard had long since stopped being a DJ and became a Shock Jock. Regardless, he would still play music between commercials occasionally, and have bands come in and play. For whatever reason, he took a shining to Sugar Ray and Mark McGrath claims that they wouldn't have become successful and he wouldn't have gone on to co-host Extra for several years if not for Howard. Howard also has took a liking to the bands Staind and Train and they have become the de facto "house bands" for Howard's show.

Howard is well known for promoting bands, musicians, and even the soundtrack to his movie Private Parts contained bands and songs all hand picked by Howard. He even was supposed to have an unreleased song by the band Tool who did an amazing 11-12 minute cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter," but at the last minute, the band decided they didn't want it released (the band later included it on a home DVD.) So Howard had to fill that time with 2 more songs, again picked by him. That soundtrack was #1 the week it was released and sold millions of copies. Howard himself is featured in 2 songs, 1 by Rob Zombie that continues to be played on rock stations all over the country.

The biggest issue is that Howard might be too snarky for AI. He is a huuuuge fan of AI, and talks about the contestants and if they're decent he'll give them some props. If they suck, he'll blast them. He also tends to be like Simon was during AI's early years, where he can't separate the singer from their look. He's one of those people who believe a pop star, tv star, or movie star should look a certain way. In other words, be attractive and thin. So, someone like Adele could try out for AI and Howard would probably vote no just because she's fat. Heck, if Kelly Clarkson were to audition now, he'd prrobably say "too fat," and he really liked her. Perhaps the producers (and his wife) could convince him to focus on the singing, not the look, but heck, even Kara spends half the time talking about a "packaged artist" and that includes already having the "right look."

Other problems are how Howard has talked about the judges. Howard had the judges on his show before. One time, he brought in the guy who wrote and co-sang the song "Hero" from the first Spiderman movie. The judges said he didn't have what it took to be a singer. The single for "Hero" sold like 10 million copies. He has ripped on Randy for not having anything worthwhile to say (which is true,) and for eating through his gastric bypass. He bagged on Paula for being ditzy or on drugs or meds. He's had Ryan on the show too, but has ripped on him constantly as being vanilla, watered-down, and getting by on pandering to the audience rather than having any real talent to excel on his own. Kara said that to replace Simon, they need someone with his type of history and Howard doesn't have that. As I just pointed out above, he has more credentials than Ellen. Howard (along with ew.com) thinks Kara has not made for a very good judge. But, his comments on Ellen have been the worst.

Howard's wife is a big animal rights supporter, and is the spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League. Howard also has long been a champion of gay rights. Howard's favorite cousin is gay and he talks about how his cousin was openly gay in school back in the 60s. Howard hired Star Trek's George Takei to be his announcer, and George appears for a week every 3-4 months. Howard gave Ellen congrats on trying to help dogs, but slammed her on her habit of adopting dogs, and then giving them back or giving them away. He also gave her kudos for marrying Portia DiRossi when it was legal in California. However, he also has slammed her for dressing like a slob, trying to look as manly as possible, not being funny, and having a terrible talk show that has less viewers than he has listeners and people have to pay to hear him. Some who don't listen to Howard have said that he's anti gay and anti-women. He was married to the same woman for over 25 years, dated his current wife for 7 years before getting married, has 3 children who are all young women now, his favorite 2 people in the world are his sister and his mother, and his co-host of over 25 years is a black woman named Robin Quivers. I don't think he's anti-women, and he's actually been lauded by many gay rights groups, so I don't think he's anti-gay. He's just anti-Ellen. So, of course when asked about Howard possibly joining, Ellen said that if he did she would quit.

The most interesting thing about all of this is that Howard invented American Idol back in the early 80s while a DJ here in Detroit. People say that Howard claims to have invented everything, but much of what he says has a point.

He used to do a bit where they asked homeless people, strippers and porn stars standard "common knowledge" questions, which Jay Leno ripped off as "Jay Walking." It also was ripped off by the game show "Street Smarts" where contestants actually bet on if the person would know the answer or not, which is what Howard and his crew also would do from time to time. In 2002, Howard had a football pick contest amongst his staff, some fans, and a chicken where the chicken would "pick" the winner of games. Jay Leno ripped off the chicken football picking bit at least once during his run on the 10pm Jay Leno Show. Howard also had a version of his "Street Smarts/Jay Walking" type game that he called, "Are They Smarter Than a 5th Grader." Yes, you read that correctly. Back in the 90s, he would have a staff member ask 5th graders the same "common knowledge" questions, and then would ask random people on the streets (not just homeless people, but people walking by on their way to work.) If the person got it right, they'd win a prize, like a $500 gift certificate to a high end jeweler.

But, back in the 80s when Howard was at W-4 in Detroit, he would bring in local singers and bands and have them perform in front of 3 judges who were in the music industry. Gee, does THAT sound familiar? I have no idea how Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell and Nigel Lythgoe could have heard it somehow or found out about it, or it was just coincidental, but Howard's Detroit Talent Search bit was an awful lot like AI. Of course, Howard would be the Ryan Seacrest of the bit, and not an actual judge, although he usually offered his opinion. The judges were usually 1 record exec, 1 talent scout (yes, they actually used to have those,) and 1 established act (one time I recall it being Mitch Ryder.) So not only does Howard have musical credentials, he actually has a history with having created essentially the same concept 20 years earlier.

While I think that Howard is qualified for the job, and certainly much more qualified that Ellen, and although Howard may have 15-20 million fans, most of his fans do not watch AI, and most who watch AI are not his fans. So, bottom line, he would not be a good fit. I would like to see him as a guest judge though.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

8 minute video worth watching

I had this sent to me in an email, so I'm cutting and pasting it here.
Take 8 mins to watch this amazing video.
I'd seen something similar (lighted art with sand) about 5-6 years ago or so, but it was more about the drawing and random images as opposed to telling a story.

> Read the text below before watching the video to understand the context.
> This video shows the winner of "Ukraine’s Got Talent", Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. Her talent, which admittedly is a strange one, is mesmeric to watch.
> The images, projected onto a large screen, moved many in the audience to tears and she won the top prize of 1 Million Dollars, which is about $125,000 in US money.
> She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear and the happy scene is obliterated.
> It is replaced by a woman’s face crying, but then a baby arrives and the woman smiles again. Once again war returns and Miss Simonova throws the sand into chaos from which a young woman’s face appears.
> She quickly becomes an old widow, her face wrinkled and sad, before the image turns into a monument to an Unknown Soldier.
> This outdoor scene becomes framed by a window as if the viewer is looking out on the monument from within a house.
> In the final scene, a mother and child appear inside and a man (ghost?) standing outside, with his hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.
> The Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Ukraine, resulted in one in four of the population being killed with eight to 11 million deaths out of a population of 42
> Kseniya Simonova says:
> "I find it difficult enough to create art using paper and pencils or paintbrushes, but using sand and fingers is beyond me. The art, especially when the war is used as the subject matter, even brings some audience members to tears. And there’s surely no bigger compliment."
> click on the link below -
> http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=vOhf3OvRXKg