Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Idol

You can't stop her. You can only hope to contain her. The starship Jordin is about to launch. Or, as the horribly crafted audience sign said, "Jordan = *star symbol*".

I should probably address the "audience signs" as they have seriously annoyed me for all 6 seasons. Do people really make these signs, or do the show's producers make these signs and hand them out? My gut tells me its the producers. I've attended many sign-worthy-events in my lifetime - concerts, sporting events, commencements, and protests - and have never seen such poorly crafted, non-creative signs. The handwriting all seems eerily similar or feature glued-on letters and patches of foil. Either the signs are pre-made or they have a sign-making-station in the lobby of the theater with a few markers, some letter stencils, and foil. I hate that foil.

I'm sorry folks. I have to take a quick minute here. I'm having difficulty dealing with the end of this season's shows. By this time next week, there'll be no more Idol, no LOST or Heroes, and I think tonight is the last episode of Jericho (they're cancelling that show). I just received word that The Apprentice also won't be returning and, try as I might, I cannot get into Dancing with the Stars. I have the same feeling I got when I graduated high school and college. That sense of loss and nervousness about an uncertain future. To make matters worse, I've seen the articles on the Fall's shows, and nothing excites me. I don't wanna see Pirate Survivor or Kids-Build-a-Sim-City (not actual show names ...but these ARE shows coming this summer and fall). And if I don't convince myself that my weekly Idol recaps are of vital importance, I'll have no excuse to keep me from some of my other commitments - my book, my family, my job, etc.

I keep humming Boyz II Men's "So Hard to Say Goodby (to Yesterday)" in my head. So, forgive me. And I appreciate your sympathy.

There's alot I want to cover ...Paula's nose and Swiss-cheese excuse of tripping over her dog, Randy's-Jackson-Five-Victory-Tour jacket, the song-writing competition and the winning entry, and the performances, or course.

Even to the casual observer there's very little drama or question about tonight's result. It will be Jordin. Jordin the Jentle Jiant (which would make a great album title).

JORDIN: Despite my wife's insistence to the contrary, I cannot understand who puts her in maternity shirts for all her performances. She will win because of her ability to sing the cheeziest-cheezeball song written for the winner. She'll win because she had 3 B+ performances to Blake's 1 A+ performance and 2 C- performances. And, mostly she'll win because of the tear-on-the-cheek-cracking-voice-Bill-Clinton-overcome-by-the-moment stunt she pulled at the end of "Today is My Now." I don't care that she'll win, but it would have been nice to see a level playing field.

THE SONG: We should all just accept that the single released at the end of the season is going to be some cheezy, inspirational, overdramatic ball of cheeze. That this song will sound like something off The Best of Richard Marx is not a shocker. Not at all. But if you have a contest, I expect better cheeze, dammit. First, the song-writers looked to be about my age (34), right in the heart of Gen X. They hail from Seattle. My only guess is that right about 1991 when rock music changed forever, they simply couldn't grasp the grunge sound or attitude and, instead, were hell bent on writing the next "Love of a Lifetime" (Firehouse) or "Best of Times" (Styx). "This is My Now" was that song. "A rock ballad for the ages," they thought. "This song," they told fans in their monthly newsletter, "will define the 90s like Crue's 'Home Sweet Home' or Bon Jovi's 'I'll B There 4 U" defined the 80s." Trouble is, it didn't. Instead, that angry, disinterested, no-talent burn-out wrote some song called "Teen Spirit" and our songwriters were left in the dust. Lucky for Jordin, they never threw away the song sheet and ...well they are.

Mark my words, I'm going to find someone who can write music and I'm writing the next Idol finale song. Something about wings, soaring, believing, love, puppies, cotton candy, dreaming, and Coca-Cola. I'll be a shoe-in.

BLAKE: Poor, poor Blake. If I thought he cared, I'd be a little more sad. I'm guessing he's mostly concerned about this summer Idol's Live tour and how many 18-year-old girls he's gonna ...get to "sign his yearbook" ...if you know what I mean. Chris Sligh, Chris Richardson, and Phil Stacey looked like his frat brothers cheering him on at Greek Week's Battle of the Bands. They can't wait to start livin' like rock stars, even if they only are pseudo-pop-stars. His summer to-do list includes (a) date a Hollywood star, (b) drink alot, (c) party alot, and (d) have many romances (sorry, my parents read this ...I think). Blake has an outside shot of winning because of the voter-demographic-gender-age breakout, but very slim.

PAULA'S NOSE: Paula broke her nose "tripping over her dog." Damn! Where was that excuse when I was in college? You know who else tripped over his dog and sustained an injury? Brian Greise (NFL QB). Do you know who else? NO ONE!!!! Greise is a well-known drunk, and Paula is either a drunk or a pill-popper, we all know it, we've seen it, and you expect us to buy that she tripped over her dog? I'm going to start using "I tripped over my dog" more often.

RANDY'S JACKET: What a joke. Damn! I thought there was more to say.

Tonight will be the last show of the season. Jordin the Jentle Jiant will probably win. We'll get this year's David-Hasselhoff-Crying moment - you know its coming - we'll get quick shots of all the former Idols and cast-offs, and we'll enjoy a 2-hour freak show that is American Idol.


BOOTED: Blake.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hero Come Lately

"I am not a hero, I am a mere defender of the office. Do you know who's a real hero? Hiro. From Heroes. That's a hero. Also
...Bono." -Dwight Shrute, The Office

Talk about missing the boat on a great show. Go ahead. Assemble a group of people and talk about it.

While I wait, I just wanted to take a moment to declare Heroes a GREAT show! I was told back in September that this show was worth adding to my TV viewing routine already jam packed routine. In fact, very reputable TV-viewing sloths (aka couch potatoes) like myself recommended it. Its not like they were recommending Grey's Anatomy or the latest CSI retread. My friends were recommending quality TV.

Thankfully this weekend the SciFi channel showed all 22 episodes for the uber fans to watch again in anticipation of tonight's finale. I watched 14 of the 22 in 3 days. Thank The Maker for Tivo!!! I expected something like Deep Space Nine or Generations - which are far too geeky for my tastes - but instead I was treated to a show on par with LOST or, dare I say, Quantom Leap. I guess you could say that I like science-fiction that deals with the past or present ...and not some made-up future. Hence I like Star Wars ("long ago"), Quantom Leap, and now Heroes ..and I don't like anything related to Star Trek and Isaac Asimov books. Tough call on the original Terminator ...I *LOVE* that movie. I hated every sequel.

I really don't mean for this blog to be so hyper-focused on TV. It was meant to be about all things in my life that don't make the family's blog. Sadly, it is turning out that my life, outside of the wife and kids, is mostly about TV. Thank goodness for an online journal to document that.

Anyway, I just wanted the record to show that Heroes, although a blatent rip-off of X-Men, has merit. And I usually think its a cop-out for shows to be able to invent another character with another super power in order to advance the plots, but I'm gonna give this one a free pass. I almost get the feeling they thought most of the scenarios through to their completion before they kicked off the series - see the string-timeline model from episode 19ish called "Five Years from Now."

Watch it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

American Idol

Look at them all. Happy. Optimistic. Each hopefully thinking he or she is the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Each knowing that, hey, even if I don't win, I could still be the next Clay Aikin or Daughtry. Niether one even thinking that, instead, we might all be looking at the next Ruben Studdard or Taylor Hicks - two that seem unable to attract a loyal following, sell CDs, and launch into superstardom.

Last night was the ever popular "Judge's Choice" night, or "Randy's Opportunity to Remind Us of the Mega Famous Artists He's Worked With Night." I have to laugh every time he says something like, "I worked on this song with so-and-so and thought it would be a good challenge for you..." blah, blah, blah. Randy did not disappoint.

Let's get to the singers.

JORDIN SPARKS (AKA LINEBACKER, AKA THE-NEXT-BEYONCE): If she wins, she'll sell albums. Probably 10s of thousands. But I have a question for American Idol producers, for Simon, or for anyone who'll have a hand in putting together her first CD: Are you going to try and make her old through music? My next question ...are Idol contestants not allowed to pick a Beyonce or Aquilara jam? Jordin is 17. Young, vibrant, and not bad looking. Yet each week we're treated to her renditions of 20, 30, and 60 year old songs. Sure, "She Works Hard of the Money" was a triumphant single for Donna Summers in the mid 80s, but that was already late in her career and not even one of her best songs.

Then we get her rendition of Tom Jones' "I Who Have Nothing." Don't try and tell me anyone else sang it, because Tom Jones did ...period. And we all know, once Tom Jones sings a song it becomes his own. Why won't these judges say that. They always make a big show to point out when someone tries (and usually butchers) a Mariah, Whitney, or Celine selection. Always using the one-name. So why doesn't a song by Tom get that same respect?

I thought Jordin was good, but not great. Mostly due to song choice. I preferred her choice - the Tom song - best, it was a good final performance for her, and her likability might keep her around for one more week.

BLAKE - A stellar night. Three catchy tunes (which would sound like something he might record for an album ...not like those Jordin song choices) with limited vocal challenges. The 3 single best ingredients needed to move him on for one more week (and possibly win the whole thing). Idol producers and would-be record producers should be campaigning like the Presidential candidates for this guy.

I call it the "David Cassidy Challenge." Blake is a little old, actually, but he's their best shot. The "David Cassidy Challenge" is what I see as Idol's quest to find a teen-Idol with that golden-smile that will capture the hearts of every 9-16 year old girl. A guy who's picture will be hung in lockers and taped sloppily onto Trapper Keeper covers. They were oh-so-close with Justin Guarini, but he just didn't have the staying power. Clay Aikin didn't quite cut it. Daughtry is nice, but he is married with a kid and, well ...teenie-boppers don't really dig that.

Blake, however, is just what the pop-gods ordered. Kinda cute, he could be taught to dance in front of back-up dancers, he could easily wind-up dating a tier 2 Hollywood starlet (maybe someone from Gilmore Girls or a reality show pseudo-star), and he even has the potential to write a song that could be used at high school dances and/or on next year's American Idol Results shows that plays during the send-off videos.

He was great.

MELINDA - If there's anyone with the potential to be forgotten, it is Melinda. She can sing, no doubt about it, but can she sell albums?

Let me put it this way. Let's say you have a 57-year-old Aunt that can sing. She's also very funny, performs at children's parties, and hosts the best New Year's Eve parties in yer entire home town. Basically, your Aunt is just plain talented. That's something to be proud of and enjoy. She probably sang at every family wedding and maybe she even broke out "Wind Beneath My Wings" at a funeral or two and simply nailed it! Great. Super. I bet she's a real humdinger of a gal.

Question for you? Could your mega-multi-talented Aunt fill a concert hall, hold her own on The Ellen Show, and make a cover of any magazine?

Now, she might still win because she's so nice, appeals to the boomer-Moms and soccer-Moms, and loves her own Mom (and we all know Blake and Jordin hate their own Moms, right?). However, I think she's boring. And if someone had picked some better songs for Ms. Sparxx, this vote tonight wouldn't be close.

I still think, because AI is a popularity contest above almost all else, she'll be booted tonight.

PREDICTIONS: If I believe the Internet polls and various talk shows, I have to say Belinda and Blake will be here next week. However, if I have to go with my favorites and my gut, I'm saying Jordin and Blake will be back and Melinda will be booted.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Time Shift Selfishness

A friend forwarded me this linked article ("Is Crucial Daypart Finally Past Its Prime?"). Using my superior reading comprehension skills (which got me a 28 on my ACTs), I determined I'm on the cutting edge.

In my study group of 2 (my wife and I), I've determined this is very real. Last night I watched Survivor from 9:30 to 10:10pm. then watched PTI from 10:10 to 10:25pm (skipping the topics that bore me). then The Office from 10:30 to 10:55pm. I then unpaused the Pistons game and got to watch their entire comeback whilst skipping free-throws, time-outs, and commercials. I was in bed by 11:45.

I watch EVERYTHING time-shifted. Everything!!! No exceptions. (NOTE: I use Tivo - not a DVR - because it is the superior technology to any generic DVR.)

I could use this opportunity to ask where all the viewers are going, as was asked at LostRemote. Instead, I'll use this opportunity to taunt and daydream.

First, the taunt. Join the club, TV. I'm a radio guy. For years, every friend, Uncle, industry trade magazine, and most opinion leaders have ranted and raved how radio is a dying medium. Never missing a chance to say XM and Sirius are better, radio is too cluttered, and if they want to hear something, an ipod is better than any radio station. Worse yet, sometimes radio would simply be forgotten - but never TV. And though nothing is more cluttered than the Internet, suddenly radio has taken a back seat even to the web.

Bottom line ...Tivo'ing is to TV what button-pushing is to radio. Until just recently, TV had its audience captive. Yes, you could flip channels during commercials, but typically you didn't, lest you miss the first :30seconds just back from commercials. People have favorite radio stations, but rarely to they have a favorite TV station - only favorite shows.

In your face, TV!

But here's what I think is actually happening - people love time travel and Tivo (DVR) is the closest thing to it. That's why people love their answering machines and camcorders. It's time travel, baby!

A marketing professor once told me the reason railroads went broke was because they didn't recognize they were actually in the "transportation" business, but instead thought they were in the "train" business. They could not adapt to the increasing dependence on airplanes and automobiles. This always struck me as absurd, though I'll apply it here. The reason people don't buy answering machines or VCRs anymore is because neither industry recognizes that they are actually in the "time travel" business. If Tivo could extend its brand, I could mow my lawn when I wanted (1am to 2am while I'm sleeping), go to the dentist at 5am similarly, and I could fast forward through the time I'm waiting for red lights to turn green.

Lifevo, if you will.

The other interesting statistic is that people watch more shows but spend less time with TV due to Tivo ...I mean time machine.

My weekly Tivo list includes:
  • Pardon the Interruption
  • The Daily Show
  • The Colbert Report
  • Late Night with Conan O'brien
  • South Park
  • LOST
  • American Idol x2
  • Survivor
  • The Amazing Race
  • The Office
  • The Apprentice
  • Cheap Seats
  • The Soup
  • Best Week Ever
  • Acceptable TV
  • The Whitest Guys You Know
  • Misc (Family Guy, Robot Chicken, Mr. Show re-runs)
  • Sports (+/- 2hrs weekly)
16+ hours of TV plus reruns. Impressive, eh? Consider that I can rarely sit down before 9pm, what with 3 kids under 4 years of age and I have a full time job - and I like to be in bed by 11pm. Without my time machine, these shows would not and could not get my eyeballs. I can watch this all in less than 10 hours.

So ...the question becomes, what will TV do with this. Tivo allows you/me to watch more TV, but we skip commercials. I have figured out the solution ...each and every TV ad should have a stationary image or graphic in the top corner of their TV ad so that, even as I'm skipping the actual ad, I'll see the logo. That logo could also be an offer. Basically, its like a stationary image in a flip-book cartoon. It wouldn't bother old fogies without Tivos, and they'd still get their ad impression onto us time travelin' guys.

There you have it. I've solved the Tivo problem for marketers. I've solved the marketing problem for Tivo and the DVR industry - focus on time travel and not recording-of-content. And I've shown the world why I don't call my relatives on their birthday TV shows take priority.

Hope you enjoyed reading this now ...or at sometime in the future. Freaked out, aren't ya?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

American Idol

My initial take is that the Bee Gees had great music, but not necessarily great vocals or lyrics. There was a genre bias that slightly favored Bla-a-a-wick-wick-ake Lew-ooo-ooo-zerp-is, but he blew it. But ...he didn't need it because, at the moment, he ain't splittin' votes with anyone, save for Linebacker.

It's one thing to make Doolittle, Lakisha, and the-next-Beyonce sing "white music" week after week, yet something even entirely more cruel to make them sing white-British-music that was almost all sung falsetto. Maybe next week Idol producers could skip singing all together and make them all Riverdance.

BLAKE: I said he could lose if he didn't quite beat-boxing. He keeps this up, people are going to get sick of him, and quick.

LAKISHA: Poor, poor Lakisha. No kiss from Simon for you.

DOOLITTLE: Not her fault, the music did not favor her. She was listless and will be gone.

LINEBACKER (AKA THE-NEXT-BEYONCE): I predict Simon will say tonight, "after going back and listening to your second vocal, again, I thought it was better than I had initially thought." Isn't there at least once a season he says this? Linebacker's second song was lights-out great! Period! How and why they didn't give her the credit is a fluke. She was great.

PREDICTIONS: Melinda Doolittle voted off.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

American Bon Idol

Has anyone even been kicked off Idol since I last posted? Not sure ...lemme check ...Bald Guy, Blake, Linebacker, Doolittle, Timberlake-guy, Lakisha and ...what?!?!?! Sanjaya is gone. Poor guy. And right on the eve of American Idol's tribute to Carnatic and Hindustani music. He would have cleaned up.

And so we bid farewell to a guy who'll be featured 20 years from now on VH1's "I Love the Aughties." We'll all laugh and remember we loved this show called American Idol and two guys named William Hung and Sanjaya Malakar became household names.

This week, we have a unique twist - two people will be kicked off based on the cumulative voting totals from the past two weeks. You see, there was such a positive vibe last week with the $70million dollars being raised for a good cause that the show's producers thought they would spare someone the merciless embarrassment that Paul F Tompkin of "Best Week Ever" would create reenacting the brutal moment.

Tonight we salute "rock" by way of Bon Jovi. I'll start by saying what I learned from tonight's show - Jon Bon Jovi is a much better lyricist than I had thought. Not just catchy tunes, I guess. His library will be loaded onto my iPod in short order.

BALD GUY: Your Mom will enjoy his performance tonight. Your Mom is not ready to accept Blake's hair, earrings, or beat boxing, but Bald Guy is just her style. Again ...he's like Michael Bolton, and we all know how Your Moms love Bolten. That said, Your Mom is only gonna vote once and Bald Guy is going home. I hate the walk-around-the-audience bit no matter who does it or what song they sing, but this song definitely did not lend itself to the walk-around. "Blaze of Glory" is more or less a ballad and should be sung under a single spot light in one spot. Some songs are like that. Imagine someone singing the Star Spangled Banner whilst walking through a stadium crowd and bumping fists with Randy Jackson? It would be awful, as was this performance.

LINEBACKER: Once again we have a victim of genre-handicap. This girl can't sing Bon Jovi - it just ain't in her. She got the double whammy actually, and you can blame her mother. I hate when the Idol finalist says things like "I grew up on so-and-so." Or in this case, "my Mom grew up on Bon Jovi." Really? Did your Mom *REALLY* grow up on Bon Jovi? Is that why she suggested you butcher *THIS* song? Momz steered her daughter way wrong. Linebacker sang a song she couldn't sing, she shared the stage with two men - both of whom she dwarfed, making her look even more the giantess. Plus two other performers managed to find some soul in other Bon Jovi jams. I'm still gonna stick by my prediction that she'll be "your next American Idol" but Linebacker'll need all the votes she got from last weeks' bring-the-house-down inspirational performance.

LAKISHA: Before she got on stage I said, "here we go again. She's gonna suck because..." Well, she said it herself. She'd heard of Bon Jovi, but she hadn't actually heard any of his songs. OK. Two things here. First, if you have any inkling that you might someday be in music, it wouldn't kill you to listen to more than one radio station. I'm whitey-McWhitey from suburbia, and I know about music other than Country, Classic Rock, and Pop. I'm just sayin' ...use those buttons on your car radio. Second thing - do your homework. And Lakisha did. Maybe by never having heard of Bon Jovi, she had a slight advantage. Personally, I couldn't browse his catalogue and find the gem she found because I'd gravitate to all the songs I knew (this is assuming I'm ever going to be in a singing competition). Lakisha was hearing all the songs for the first time. Now that I think about it ...what an incredible advantage. Lakisha found a song so perfect it may have kept her in for at least one more week.

BLAKE: Incredible. Creative. Original. Ballzy ("what's ballzy" -Kelly Pickler). Sometimes I think these guest artists are incredibly annoyed by these Idol punks who, after an 8 week musical career, try to take liberties with the songs. Undoubtedly the success Blake is having will give us train wreck renditions for many seasons as Idol hopefuls try to marry scat with Abba and Al Jarreau's style with a rock Anthem. On this night, Blake hit the ball out of the park. Of course Randy and Paula liked it, but when Simon gave him the nod of approval, you knew it was good. Each season has it's "performance to remember" which catapults a certain contestant into the final night. I believe, save for a monumental meltdown and misjudgement on when to beat box in the next 4 weeks, Blake will be performing on the final night with Linebacker.

TIMBERLAKE 2: Blake was a tough act to follow. "Dead or Alive" is a song that nobody should perform other than Bon Jovi. He's doomed. Bald Guy and Timberlake 2 are done. One may survive because of the demographical voting split, but neither is long for this competition. See you on tour, bud.

DOOLITTLE: Again, great. I'm happy that Simon has coached her out of her surprise-so-humble routine. Her growing confidence looks good on her. I always wonder about what happens during the week with all the contestants. If I remember, Doolittle has two friends - one a vocal coach and song advisor, the other a fashion advisor. Sure, she has the raw talent, but she's being well coached. I envision Doolittle on daily conference calls with these two advisors letting them know what Fox producers said, and they yell at her to tell the the producers to take that school-marmy dress and shove it and instead, her friend-handlers put her in a t-shirt from Ocean Pacific. Whichever way its happening, its working for her. Obviously Timberlake 2 and Linebacker don't get such a luxury.

PREDICTIONS: Bald Guy, Timberlake-Guy, Lakisha bottom three. Bald Guy and Timberlake-Guy going home.