Thursday, January 25, 2007

Just What Are They Looking For?

So, now that the Memphis show has aired, I can share my opinion of the American Idol audition process. We all know Idol is the television phenomenon of the moment. The audience grows each season literally making it the Super Bowl of regular prime time entertainment television. This season's premier, the show's sixth, had more than 80 million sets of eyeballs watching. Idol draws wannabe stars by the thousands to show up in various cities hoping to earn the coveted yellow ticket to Hollywood and possible stardom. And it is this audition process that makes me wonder, "just what are they looking for?"

WACH-TV, the FOX affiliate in Columbia, SC, hosted its annual Palmetto Idol contest last year and the winner received an all expenses paid trip to Memphis to audition for producers of the show. Crystal Garrett won and was very excited about the opportunity to audition for American Idol. We, at the station, all felt she had a great chance of making it to the Hollywood round only to learn that she was turned away well before Simon, Randy, and Paula got a chance to hear her beautiful voice. Here's the clincher. She returned to Columbia, grateful for the opportunity but a bit disenchanted, and shared the story of how somebody who couldn't really sing but was dressed like a clown, was advanced to the next audition level.

All you have to do is watch a few minutes of one of the audition episodes and you know that plenty of "clowns" make it through to waste the time of the judges. I readily admit, it makes for entertaining television. Remember William Hung? But, as much as I love the show, the competition, and thought Hung was hilarious, I have a problem with the notion that someone with true singing talent is turned away while some "clown" is passed through.

In our local competition, someone who clearly can't sing doesn't win. We're not going waste our time and money sending a contestant who can't legitimately compete to a guaranteed audition. At the very least, American Idol could do its affiliates the courtesy of guaranteeing that local winners will get to audition for the Simon, Randy and Paula. Crystal tells us the producers who cut her couldn't have been much older than she. Crystal is 20.

Tens of millions of viewers watch Idol each week and love it. My humble opinion likely means little, if anything, to the show's producers. They know they have a winning franchise. And, American Idol's impact on entertainment is abundant. The success of Kelly Clarkson, Rueben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry, and others speaks for itself. But it's hard to take the competition seriously when so many non-singers get farther in the process than real singers.

Oh, Good Evening!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rising Prices

While watching the midday news this afternoon, I saw a story about a survey of moviegoers in which customers were asked what things would make their movie going experience more enjoyable. The results indicated that 86% want lower ticket prices.

That made me think of a recent trip to an Atlanta theater for an afternoon matinee. I purchased my ticket from the automated machine and when the price popped up on the screen I commented to myself, "whoa, there's no matinee price anymore?" Then I called up an evening showing and quickly realized, "oh, that is the matinee price." The regular ticket price: $9.25! At that point, I gladly paid the $7.25 matinee price to see "Dreamgirls" at 1:15 PM.

Does anybody else remember $4.50 or $5.00 matinees?

Oh, Good Evening!

Monday, January 22, 2007

They're Baaack!

The Terrific Trio of judges-- Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson-- are back for the sixth season of American Idol. The new season's premier episodes aired last Tuesday and Wednesday with auditions from Minneapolis and Seattle, respectively. After viewing them on TiVo... I know exactly what I want to say but I'm going to wait until the Memphis auditions air for a specific reason.

The good thing, since I work at a Fox affiliated television station, is that more than 82 million people tuned in across the country making this year's premier the biggest yet.

Oh, Good Evening!

It's Going To Be A Looonnnggg Day!

I finally found the time to watch the first four hours of the hit action-drama "24" sixth season premier. With 20 hours remaining in "Day 6," I'm drained already!

Wayne Palmer, brother of the assassinated former President Palmer, is now President Palmer, himself. He negotiates Jack Bauer's release from a Chinese prison as part of a plan to stop a series of terrorism attacks in various cities across America. As is always the case with "24," it's never that simple.

After two silent years in captivity, Jack is back in the states helping his CTU brothers and sisters save the nation, again. And, in the first four hours, he is forced to make life and death decisions that leave him-- and viewers-- in gut-wrenching pain.

I'm not going to give away any of the storyline in this posting to keep from ruining the experience for those who may not have had a chance to see the season premier episodes. (If you failed to record them, they are available on DVD already. Just $9.99 at you local video store!)

With the body count rising and plot lines twisting like braided hair, we are clearly in for a long "day," five-sixths of which is yet to play out. Don't miss a minute!

Oh, Good Evening!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The More Things Change: Reprise

Two days after finishing a dismal 3-13 season with an upset road victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli used his final news conference to announce several coaching changes.

Donnie Henderson is out as defensive coordinator and Larry Beightol is out as offensive line coach, both after just one season with the Lions. I agree with both moves.

Henderson came in, highly touted, after running the New York Jets defense under Herman Edwards. Henderson took the Jets from the NFL's #21 defense to the #7 defense after his first season. No such outcome in Detroit. The Lions finished 2006 with the #28 defense, down from #20 in 2005. All season long, I would watch games and comment to myself and my brother that the 2006 Lions were defensively worse than last year. Pass and run defense was poor and Detroit didn't seem to get much spark from the defense when it was really needed. We could seem to count on the defense folding at key times late in games when the Lions needed to protect a lead, or get the ball back quickly to give themselves a better chance at waging a one score comeback.

Head coach Rod Marinelli and Henderson have a long term friendship but couldn't seem to agree on the defensive system so Marinelli pulled the plug and sent his buddy packing. He's bringing in his son-in-law, Joe Barry, to take over. Barry spent six seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as linebackers coach. Marinelli was expected to introduce Barry at a news conference at 11 AM Wednesday morning. As Lena Horne said in her Broadway show, "nepotism never hurt nobody." Let's hope this in-law, father-son defensive tandem can get the Lions defense moving back up the rankings instead of down.

Also out is offensive line coach Larry Beightol. Marinelli called Beightol a very good coach but said he felt like he needed to make a change. Considering the fact that Detroit's O-line couldn't create holes for Kevin Jones to run through and couldn't hold a pocket long enough to give quarterback Jon Kitna enough time to let a pass route complete, I agree. Similar to Henderson, Beightol had years of success as offensive line coach with the Green Bay Packers but things weren't working in Detroit. No word on a successor yet.

The final coaching change, Marinelli had no control over, but he had to accept. Long time special teams coordinator Chuck Priefer is retiring. Priefer is one of the best special teams coaches in the league. He's been with the Lions the past 10 seasons and has 17 total coaching years in the NFL. He will be missed. He's produced any number of special teams pro bowlers including Lions return specialist Eddie Drummond and place kicker Jason Hanson. Punter Nick Harris also has enjoyed his best seasons under Priefer's tutelage. Priefer is 65 years old and says he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren. He will likely still help the Lions as a consultant or clinician.

The one change we won't get is a change at the top. It appears team president Matt Millen will be back for a seventh season, despite his 24-72 record since taking over the team. In his six years with the franchise, he has fired three coaches, hired three coaches, exercised numerous first round draft picks, and fired one of them. I don't know what owner William Clay Ford is thinking by keeping Millen. Of course, that's just it-- he's probably not thinking.

Sirius NFL Radio host and former NFL lineman Randy Cross made the perfect analogy on Monday's Movin' the Chains program. In a nutshell, he said ownership can be the biggest problem. He made the perfect analogy between the Ford Motor Company and the Detroit Lions. Ford Motor Company once produced a car named after William Clay Ford's father. The Edsel was a huge flop and its production run didn't last long-- only three years. Randy Cross says William Clay Ford hired an "Edsel" in Matt Millen and, like the car, he's been a huge flop. Yet, Ford is letting this "Edsel" stay around longer than the original-- twice as long, so far.

Oh, Good Evening!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Goodbye 2006, Hello 2007!

Here's to hoping that 2007 is a better year than 2006 for everyone!