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"Idol" Wednesday

By admin Published: January 31, 2007

Olivia Newton-John makes her second appearance as a guest judge on a reality show in a week. First contestant has so many sound effects with his moves that it feels like a segment on "Funniest Videos." Which is not a bad comparison, considering how he sang....

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"American Idol": The Greatest City in Alabam'

By admin Published: January 30, 2007

Well, we're in Birmingham, famous both for "Idol" finalists and for being the subject of the Randy Newman song cited above. (Check out the "Good Old Boys" album, notable also for "Louisiana 1927," which has become a post-Katrina standard.) First contestant tries "Unchained Melody" and has them calling for security when she refuses to quit singing ...

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Celebrity Waiter?

By admin Published: January 30, 2007

I managed to sit through last night's "Studio 60" (as well as the last 15 minutes or so of "24" which is NBA-like in holding the real drama until the clock is ticking down). Mostly a snooze, once again no point to a two-parter. But I did perk up at the reference to the TCA being in town.

TCA is the Television Critics Association. I'm a member, and you have read about some of its gatherings in this blog.

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Proposals: "Friday Night Lights," "Grey's Anatomy"

By admin Published: January 29, 2007

Caught up with a couple of things, and wedding bells were ringing in both of them. "Grey's Anatomy" even offered two proposals (neither answered yet) as part of an episode that seemed at least partly designed to tidy up some storylines. Not did it stabilize the McDreamy-Meredith relationship (and with some nice talk about what a relationship is), the clinic seemed a way to settle what Izzie does with her money and -- although it hasn't been explicit -- what the Chief will do after he retires. Sure, the failure of his marriage suggests that he may un-retire. But the Chief can remain part of the cast if he's running the clinic, too, and that leaves open the battle to succeed him.

And what of those two proposals? Beats me. And it may beat the writers, too, if the rumors about T.R. Knight wanting out of the show are true.

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"Grease": Smirking in Memphis

By admin Published: January 28, 2007

Many things to say about tonight's "Grease: You're the One That I Want" but I'll start with a simple one: How could anyone smile while singing "Walking in Memphis"? It's a booming song, to be sure, but one that does not remotely call for a big Ipana grin throughout. Yet that is what we got from Kevin, and I am still wondering why no one called Kevin on it -- especially when Juliana was called on not conveying the drama in "The First Cut Is the Deepest."

But I am so cynical about the show at this point, that even with two Buckeyes in the competition (Kate and Ashley S.) I am wondering if what anyone does really matters. Besides the Kevin/Juliana inconsistency, here are a few reasons:

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Movies for the AARP Crowd?

By admin Published: January 26, 2007

No mockery here. We're talking about movies that have won kudos from AARP. Here's the press release:

AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine, today announced the winners of its sixth annual Movies for Grownups Awards. From Best Movie to Breakaway Accomplishment to Best Actor and Actress, AARP The Magazine’s Movies for Grownups Awards honors a range of cinematic accomplishments in 13 categories, all of which are featured in the March/April issue, available February 1, 2007.

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"Idol" Wednesday

By admin Published: January 25, 2007

Update: You can catch the latest podcast with me and Malcolm Abram on www.ohio.com by clicking here for the MP3 file. Or, subscribe to the podcast.

Things the audience learned from "Idol":

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"DaVinci's Inquest" on DVD

By admin Published: January 24, 2007

A lot of people discovered this Canadian series during its replays in U.S. syndication, so here's some news they'll like:

Acorn Media announces the February 27, 2007 DVD release of Da Vinci’s Inquest, Season 1, five-time winner of Canada’s coveted Gemini Award for Best Dramatic series. The 4-volume DVD box set includes all 13 episodes of the first season.

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"Idol," Welcome Back, "Veronica Mars"

By admin Published: January 24, 2007

Last night a little after 9, I turned on "American Idol" and it wasn't very good. There was this guy from Texas, and he didn't really sing. He talked instead. His audition went on forever, it seemed, even though the judges weren't all that excited by what he did.

All right, I'm kidding. In fact, we should probably give some thanks to the president for having the State of the Union address last night, since it made "Idol" just one hour instead of two.

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Monday by the Numbers: "24," "Studio 60"

By admin Published: January 23, 2007

Caught up with "24" yesterday and this morning, and I have to say the absurdity of it is so brazen that I'm almost amused. As near as I could tell, exactly one southern California street was clogged by panic-stricken drivers. Jack's own driving attempts, as well as those of other characters, for the most part were blissfully unimpeded.

Then there was the seeming lack of real alarm about the nuke and the radiation -- oh, it's blowing somewhere else! Sort of like the second-season nuke, which was put aside almost immediately after it happened. Jack moved on, and so did the show.

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Good Morning, Oscar

By admin Published: January 23, 2007

For years I've been talking about the Chamber of Commerce theory of entertainment awards. Basically it says that organizations issue awards based on what they think makes them look good -- socially responsible, politically aware, far-ranging -- instead of what actually is good. Of course, other factors can also come into play, among them sentiment and the need to honor previously overlooked careers, but when in doubt, the Chamber of Commerce theory explains a lot.
I'm still scanning this morning's Oscar nominations but there appears to be a lot of Chamber of Commerce action -- the bump for "Blood Diamond" in the major acting categories, for example; the overlooking of "Dreamgirls" for best picture and director; the nodding to independent film with "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Half Nelson," the acknowledgment of the international importance of film.
A few more notes: Mark Walhberg was very good in "The Departed" but Alec Baldwin stole the movie.

Jennifer Hudson may have been submitted as a supporting actress but let's be real: "Dreamgirls" is her movie. Let me say it again: "Dreamgirls" is her movie.

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Whit Stillman

By admin Published: January 22, 2007

While relaxing a bit at home today, my channel-flipping came across "Metropolitan," the first of three films by writer-director Whit Stillman. I've seen it -- and the other two, "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco" -- more than once; "Barcelona" is probably the least interesting to me, but I very much admire "Last Days of Disco" and today reminded me how many things I like in "Metropolitan."

Stillman's preoccupation is with educated, urban sophisticates, often with money and at least a patina of class. The movies are driven by those characters' talking: They have plenty to say, though much of it is foolish. Still, they are interesting to listen to, especially when we sense that their foolishness is going to catch up with them.

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Salute Your Digital Shorts and Other Weekending

By admin Published: January 22, 2007

Here's how I watch ''Saturday Night Live" these days: Record it because I don't stay up late. Watch the opening sketch. If it's good, keep watching until it isn't, then fast-forward. If the opening is bad, watch a little more but with a finger on the fast-forward button, ready for action. Skip the musical guests. Eventually get bored (the show is still uneven) and start trolling for the week's Digital Short.

Stop and watch the digital short.

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"Grey's Anatomy": Most Is Forgiven

By admin Published: January 19, 2007

I've had my beefs with "Grey's Anatomy" lately. You've read them here. And it was with a certain amount of dread that I came back to the show tonight, when the bride and I caught up by watching both halves of the two-parter back to back. I can't say that I liked everything -- it does on occasion push from funny into overly cute, and the Alex-Addison hookup just feels wrong wrong wrong. But on the whole, this was the "Grey's Anatomy" that makes me not only come back week after week. but that makes me want to come back. Solid finish to the second part. Lots of emotion, but it felt honest and honorable.

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Riding the Rail

By admin Published: January 19, 2007

You may have noticed that I have added a few lists to the right rail -- about movies, TV shows and music. If nothing else, they will give you some more information about me and the tastes I bring to what I write. None is close to being finished, and each will change over time.
Also, on the categories list I have added "My Favorite Singers" to make it easier to find the items I post on that topic, since the posts will be spread out. (I hope to add another this weekend.)

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Thursday Viewing

By admin Published: January 18, 2007

Got to "30 Rock" and "The Office." Not my favorite "Office" episode, mainly because the Andy-annoys-Michael stuff felt too drawn out. In going for the squirmy, the show kind of forgot to be funny, and the phone bit didn't do it for me -- until Andy's fit.

Excellent Dwight-and-Angela reunion, though, and liked the way they handled Jim's feelings at the end. Once again, the show was set up for a TV cop-out -- Jim could have said that he asked Karen to help in the prank first -- but it went for something that felt more real, and all the sadder for it.

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''American Idol'' Podcast!

By admin Published: January 18, 2007

Malcolm X Abram and I have chattered about the four hours of ''Idol'' that aired this week, and you can find it here or subscribe to the podcast via this link.

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An Update from the "Nobody's Watching" Folks

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

If you're looking for the latest "American Idol" post, scroll down a bit. As for this one, because I've written about ''Nobody's Watching,'' the folks from the show have sent me regular e-mails about their projects, new YouTube posts and the like. This arrived yesterday:

Good news!!! We've been told "Nobody's Watching" has been picked up for a half-hour LIVE primetime special in March!! Woo-hoo!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course, things have always been a little unclear with our show, but hopefully Kevin will provide more details tomorrow at the TCA's (are you there?), Thanks for all your support, Rich. We promise we'll make you proud!

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A Few Words About This Blog

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

New location, obviously, and I'm still learning how to make some things work. (I expect to be asking the online guys at work a lot of questions.) But I have been experimenting with this for a bit, including with some items billed as ''My Favorite Singers,'' which were not in the old location and which I hope to add to here and there. The first two are on Frank Sinatra and Lucinda Williams, but there's no order of preference at work here. Just some occasional remarks about singers I love.

Anyway, here we are, and I hope you drop by now and then. Comments welcome, as always.

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American Idol, Night 2

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

(The complete night in one post, filed while watching.)

Well, we're back for another night of ''Idol.'' I am once again tuning in a little late, but will catch up via DVR.

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Randy Newman the Amazing Human

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

E-mail that makes me happy ....

Silver Screen Sunday!

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Recycling Ideas

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

Because I am old and have a memory like -- well, Swiss cheese, but this is in one of the parts that has cheese -- this announcement from Fox was kind of interesting:

This spring, FOX, the home of genre-twisting hits “Joe Millionaire,” “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé” and “Temptation Island,” will expose the battle of the sexes, turning traditional gender roles upside-down and giving women all the power on WHEN WOMEN RULE THE WORLD (working title).

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Movie Ratings Overhaul?

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

This is on Variety's Web site (and thanks to George Thomas for pointing it out):

Looking to reform and demystify the ratings system, the MPAA and National Assn. of Theater Owners are planning a series of changes, including a new admonishment to parents that certain R-rated movies aren't suitable for younger kids, period.

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News From NBC: More "Office," "Earl," "Heroes," "CI"

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

In today's e-mail:NBC has ordered early full-season pickups for the 2007-08 season for four hit series -- the comedies "The Office" and "My Name Is Earl," and dramas "Heroes" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, " it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment.

"These four series represent some of the best of what we consider to be the 'NBC brand' of quality shows," said Reilly. "It is a pleasure to give them an early renewal to develop more stories for next year since we know they will remain both critical and commercial successes for a long time to come."

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"Idol" Night One. Post 4

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

Rachel Jenkins, auto mechanic, married to a soldier in Iraq, a reservist herself. Pass her through unheard!

Nope, must sing. ''His Eye Is On the Sparrow.'' Little rough. No, pretty rough. The judges, who know the whole military story, are forgiving. Hello, Hollywood.

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"Idol" Night One, Post 3 (Hour 2)

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

Ryan is calling the Midwest the ''Mid-Worst.'' Hey, if it weren't for people like the woman singing ''If I Were King of the Forest,'' they'd have a much harder time filling the early shows with mockery.

''I Don't Want to Miss a Thing.'' ''He's singing it like a show tune,'' says younger son. He does not mean it as a compliment. The auditioner is throwing attitude, enough to peeve Randy.

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"Idol" Night One, Post 2

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

Still in Minneapolis. Now we're getting into the wacky costumes. Famous dead fictional fighter Apollo Creed, with music by famous dead real-life James Brown. Singing ''an aria song'' in Italian. Paula wants something, dare we say it, ethnic? And, getting it, remains unimpressed -- or, as she describes it, ''confused.'' Lot of that in Paula's life.

Auditioner with sad personal story. And sunglasses. Dong ''And I Am Telling You.'' Brave. And crazy. She's not making me forget Jennifer Holliday, or Jennifer Hudson, but she's the closest we've gotten to not horrible. She gets the Hollywood call -- and I'm guessing we will hear a lot more of her personal story. Note made: Denise Jackson, 16, Madison, Wis., 34 minutes into the telecast.

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This ... is ... ''American Idol''

By admin Published: January 17, 2007

Night 1, Starting a little late -- thank goodness for DVRs -- but tuning in. First question of the night: If you're in a stadium full of people, told to scream ''I'm the next American Idol,'' do you really want ot make a funny face on camera? Don't you want that to be a wonderful clip in case you win -- and not the only way people will notice you if you don't get past the auditions?

Well, don't you?

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''Amazing Race'' All-Stars

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 16, 2007

Here's CBS's announcement:

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Despair, Comfort and ''Friday Night Lights''

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 12, 2007

On some bad days, when I couldn't seem to control anything in my life, I took comfort in sitting at a keyboard and putting sentences together. It was something I believed I could do well, something I could give all my focus to, something that felt good to start and even better to finish.

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Pushing Oscar, Peddling DVD

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 12, 2007

The Academy Awards nominations come out on Jan. 23 and the Oscars themselves are on Feb. 25. There has been at times expectation that ''The Departed'' will do well. But considering the timing of a DVD release -- after the nominations but before the awards -- I have to wonder if Warner Bros.' faith has been shaken in some way. Here's a bit of the announcement:

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''The Office,'' ''30 Rock''

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 12, 2007

Thursday night, the bride and I went to a University of Akron men's basketball game. (They won, though neither easily nor in entertaining fashion.) That required considerable recording of Thursday shows. Some will be considered this weekend; this morning I caught ''The Office'' and ''30 Rock.''

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''High School Musical'' News

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 12, 2007

When my column about ''HSM: The Concert'' ran yesterday, a reader called to ask why I was writing about a concert that was sold out. I tried to explain that ''HSM'' is a cultural phenomenon and still deserves attention. To provide more evidence of that, here's an ''HSM'' announcement from today:

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Because I Love the Sound of My Own Voice...

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 11, 2007

Well, not really. In fact, I am always surprised at how I sound. Anyway, the first in an expected series of ''American Idol'' podcasts is available via www.ohio.com.  This one features myself with Beacon Journal pop music writer Malcolm Abram. We plan for more once the show is on the air. I'm also hoping at some point to get my old podcast buddy Amy Carlson Gustafson back on the block, perhaps after Malcolm, not an ''Idol'' fan, is sent screaming from the room. Special guests may also appear.

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BCS, ''Mother,'' ''Men''

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 9, 2007

Yesterday at the office, there was a festive feeling. You don't get that a lot at newspapers this day. But, since we're an Ohio newspaper, and Ohio State was in the BCS game last night, people were beginning their celebration of an expected win. Wonderful donuts in Ohio State colors.

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My Favorite Singers, Part 2: Lucinda Williams

By admin Published: January 8, 2007

I hesitated at first about naming Lucinda Williams a favorite singer. Amazing songwriter, no doubt. But I can't easily forget a TV appearance she made some years ago where her stage presence was almost nonexistent; she even seemed reluctant to open her eyes as she sang.

But a singer she is; the gravel in her voice comes with plenty of grit. And, in something like ''Hot Blood,'' she makes you feel the heat -- and the sweat, and the need. She knows her way around a swamp. As entertaining as Mary-Chapin Carpenter's ''Passionate Kisses'' is, Williams's original has far more texture. When she sings about a comfortable bed that won't hurt her back, you hear that her back has been hurt a lot -- probably after she had worked long and hard during the day. It's no accident that her early work in particular was heavily built on the blues.

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My Favorite Singers, Part 1: Old Blue Eyes

By admin Published: January 8, 2007

My current mandate as pop-culture writer does not exactly include pop music, since the Beacon Journal still has a music critic -- two, in fact, since Elaine Guregian's expanded cultural beat includes classical music. But if you have read my columns and my blog over the years, you know that I still use my ears. In fact, my Christmas swag included CDs by Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles and The Pretenders.

I have been suitably delighted by all of the above, but this isn't meant to be an album review. Rather, it's an explanation of why I love certain singers, even when their work isn't the best they might accomplish.

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Rock Hall: It's Like a Jungle Sometimes (Expanded)

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 8, 2007

Here's the official declaration:

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Bob Woodruff News

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 8, 2007

From ABC today:

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Has YouTube Gone TOO Bigtime?

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 6, 2007

You may have read about the latest YouTube controversy, involving the attempts to keep a voyeuristic Brazilian video off the site. When I read about YouTube's problems, I went to the site to see if the video had been posted yet again. No such luck. But it just took a Google of ''Cicarelli video'' to find it on other sites including, conveniently, Video Google.com.

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No Grace Period for Megan's Talk Show

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 3, 2007

Emmy winner Megan Mullally delighted folks on ''Will & Grace.'' Her talk show proved less enthralling, and is ending production according to the story here.

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O.C-Ya Later...

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 3, 2007

During its first season, ''The O.C.'' was a more than credible drama. Later, not so much. So we come to the end of the trail, according to today's announcement from Fox:

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Mario Meets Miss America

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 3, 2007

From the morning e-mail (and that ''tap'' pun at the beginning is pretty bad ...):            

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Entertainers and Politics

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 3, 2007

As I mentioned, I am reading ''Hello Americans,'' the second volume of Simon Callow's biography of Orson Welles. And last night I came across some words that may be of interest to Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, the Dixie Chicks and other entertainers who take public stands on politics.

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The Extra Might Be Better Than the Show...

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 2, 2007

From tonight's e-mail:

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The First Day Back

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 2, 2007

Vacation plus a Monday holiday added up to a return that included the following: a short cover column for Channels (the Beacon Journal's TV supplement), a new Pop Quiz (daily question and answer) for Wednesday, a mailbag column for Thursday's editions, a HeldenFiles for Wednesday's and a longish column tied to the Ohio State-Florida game, also for Thursday. I also managed to read some mail, make some phone calls and chat with co-workers, though at the end of the day I mostly remembered writing.

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Happy New Year

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 2, 2007

We boxed up the Christmas decorations yesterday, and today I return to the office with a mental list of things to do. So vacation's over.

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