“Glee” Star Matthew Morrison Says He Hopes There’s No Britney Episode. After reports that Britney Spears is in talks for an episode of her own on “Glee,” Mr. Schuester himself says he hopes it’s not true. Matthew Morrison doesn’t want to see the pop princess join the “Glee” club. ”That’s a rumor her manager started,” Morrison said when asked about it at the White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner red carpet. “I hope our show doesn’t go along that route.” Creator Ryan Murphy had already discussed the possibilities of a Britney episode following the success of the recent “The Power of Madonna” episode, which earned a #1 soundtrack and over 13 million viewers. “I’m interested in the Britney Spears idea,” Murphy told Entertainment Weekly. “I’ve always loved her. I’m entertaining it. I think young kids would like that.” Even cast members were getting in on the act of showing Britney love, with cast member Jenna Ushkowitz, who plays Tina on the show, calling Spears her “idol.” “Britney was my idol when I was growing up,” she said. “I have been waiting for a Britney song. I would die.” Meanwhile on the show, Morrison’s character Mr. Schuester still has yet to divorce wife Terri, made out with the coach of Vocal Adrenaline, shared his bed with Kristin Chenoweth’s April, and all while dating and nearly bedding guidance counselor Emma. We think Britney’s “Womanizer” would be a perfect choice for the girls to sing.
Tonight, an “American Idol” first, I believe: An onscreen arrest of a contestant. But is “Idol” still worth getting arrested over? Or having your old arrests be dragged out into the sunlight? I mean, let’s have some perspective: Guest judge Kristin Chenoweth couldn’t even be bothered to stick around for day 2 of the Orlando auditions, though all she missed was a teenage felon.
1. How long before TMZ or the Smoking Gun unearth Matt Lawrence’s presumably sealed criminal record?
2. How necessary is this article? There’s nothing particularly surprising or infuriating in it, but it’s important to have the show’s fabrication laid bare. (Also, kudos to Jackie Tohn, “Idol” Deep Throat.) (Actually, I completely take it back.)
3. Alleged finalist Janell Wheeler is no stranger to the news: Like that, Tim Tim? That Heisman getting lonely?
4. Have you heard Kristin Chenoweth’s Christmas album? Recommended.
5. Between Charity Vance and the Desimone sisters, what is it with home salons this season?
6. How excited will I be to see Jay Stone get eliminated in the first round of Hollywood week? The answer is: Extremely. If he makes the top 24, I’ll buy a (used) copy of “Heartbreak on Vinyl” and eat it.
7. (And apparently Blake Lewis taught Michelle Obama how to beatbox? So much worse than the Salahis.)
8. You want “Pants on the Ground”? Cornelius Edwards will give you pants on the ground.
9. Is it supposed to be meaningful to watch a dozen consecutive clips of rejected contestants crying when we never see why they’re upset?
Paula’s gone. Ellen’s coming. Is Simon going? (There’s singing, too!) American Idol enters its ninth season Tuesday (Fox, 8 ET/PT) with more focus on the musical-chairs judging panel than on the auditioners aspiring to pop stardom. Even if it temporarily distracts attention from the show’s hoped-for stars, all the chatter about judges — and that includes eight celebrity guest arbiters during the auditions — has created early and perhaps helpful buzz for a long-running series that has suffered some audience losses while remaining TV’s dominant ratings power. The departure of original judge Paula Abdul and the upcoming arrival of her successor, talk-show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, is Idol’s biggest change. Abdul, who tweeted goodbye last summer, will be replaced during the first four weeks of audition shows by celeb guests. The audition period opens in Boston on Tuesday with guest judge Victoria Beckham, followed by Atlanta on Wednesday with Mary J. Blige (8 p.m. ET/PT). Viewers will have to wait until Feb. 9 to see DeGeneres, who will join Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi during Idol’s Hollywood round. It’s more than a comedic part, DeGeneres says.”If there’s something funny, I think I’ll add humor to it. If it’s not funny, I’ll just talk about what I liked or didn’t like,” she says. “I’m going to be honest, and I’m going to be looking for somebody that’s special and hope people try to set themselves apart.” It could take longer to learn whether Idol will have to go on next year without the show’s biggest attraction: Cowell, whose deal expires after this season. Cowell was non-committal in an interview, although it sounds like he’s not done with the States regardless of his Idol future. In a podcast, his brother Tony said Cowell would leave Idol after this season to concentrate on bringing his British talent show, The X Factor, to the USA.Says Cowell, “I’ve had conversations — as you know, there’s been speculation for months and months. We are continuing to talk to Fox, but right now the focus is just about this (season), and we’ll see where we end up.”Whether I’m on it or off it, I promise you — and I really mean it — I think the show will flourish without me. I genuinely do,” he says. “I’m very grateful. I’ve had the best experience in my life since I’ve been on this show. I hadn’t spent that much time in America. I really like working in America. I like the American people, so I feel very at home there.”Abdul ‘was the heart’ The Abdul-DeGeneres judging change could refresh the show, especially if DeGeneres turns out to be a good sparring partner for Cowell, says Shari Anne Brill of media agency Carat. “I really don’t see (Abdul’s absence) impacting the show, as long as the judge dynamic is good,” she says. “Next year, if Simon isn’t there … then you’ll see a real decline in the show.” The departure of Abdul, who has been on Idol with Cowell, Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest from the start, marks the biggest change yet to a formula that has resulted in the decade’s most popular series. Judges and producers say Abdul, known for her unfailing empathy and wildly unpredictable nature, will be missed.”I look across the table and go, ‘Where’s my girl at?’ ” Jackson says. “You miss your good friend, but she’s off doing her thing.” DioGuardi, who joined last season, says she took on some of Abdul’s supportive role during the auditions, trying to buffer the blow for some of the poorer performers. The guest judges helped, too. The roster includes Beckham, Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Joe Jonas, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Shania Twain. Abdul is “very nurturing,” DioGuardi says. “She was the heart, and I think I was very aware of that during the auditions. There were times when someone would get upset, and I wanted to make sure that was represented.”"It’s a different show without her,” Cowell says. “I’ve gone on record saying how close I am to Paula, even though w used to fight. I have to respect her decision, and then I have to get on with the job, but I missed her (during auditions). But, like we say, the show goes on.” That it does. And it will go on with DeGeneres, a proven comic performer and music lover who arrives with first-name familiarity and strong connections to the show. She hosted the 2007 fundraiser Idol Gives Back and frequently discusses the show and features Idol judges and performers on her weekday program. Jackson calls his fellow Louisianan “a pro and a cool, cool girl” and promises “we’ll sauce it up.” DioGuardi, who had to get used to being in Idol’s bright spotlight, says an established star like DeGeneres should have an easier adjustment. “I think she’s such a strong character,” DioGuardi says. “When you lose someone like Paula, you have to replace her with someone who’s loved, who’s respected, someone who’s been through so much in their life and come back only to conquer it all.” The chemistry of the panel, which has added new members in each of the past two seasons, remains to be seen, but DeGeneres is confident the quartet and Seacrest will make it work. “I’m a talk-show host, so I know how to make things comfortable and I can feel what chemistry is going on or the lack thereof. I think I’ll fit in. I know these people. It’s not like I never met them,” she says. “I think Kara is really more serious about it because she’s a songwriter. She takes it really seriously and comes from a different place. And Randy is Randy. He’s got his opinions. … I sometimes disagree with Randy a little bit more, but I like Randy. I think you kind of want us all to disagree, don’t you? The good news is we all like each other.” And Cowell? “Simon and I respect each other,” DeGeneres says. “He likes me, I like him. He’s really a genuinely sweet guy, (but) I think sometimes he does things maybe for shock value, and sometimes he’s a little insensitive. I’m going to call him on that, which I’ve done all along. I’ve said that on the air on my show and said it to his face.” About the singers Fan Clarke Brown of Anchorage thinks that DeGeneres will add a lot but that the show’s fortunes ultimately come down to the singers. “The stars of American Idol are not necessarily the people sitting behind that desk. The stars of American Idol are the kids who give their all every week. That’s what I like about it. I like helping make a star,” Brown says. Oh, yes, the singers. Judges promise the traditional mix of good, bad and ugly as thousands of auditioners hope to follow last year’s Kris Allen to victory — or perhaps runner-up Adam Lambert to controversial stardom.”There definitely were a few people that came in, and I never would have imagined they sounded like that. I was pleasantly surprised,” DioGuardi says. “When you look at someone like Adam, he has the personality, the presence, and that’s exactly what you got. Some people came in and shocked me — in a good way.”Jackson says he expected more Broadway-style singers this year after Lambert’s success.There’s one potential difference from the pasttwo years, in which guys took the top two spots. The women seem likely to pose more of a challenge this year. “We need a girl. Where the girls at? C’mon, girls, show up,” Jackson says. “There are some strong boys, but I think we’ve got some really strong girls. Hopefully a girl is going to show up and knock our socks off.” “So far, and these things change, it feels more like a girls’ year,” says executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. She notes another interesting factor: younger singers who can barely remember a time without Idol. “A lot of them are 16-year-olds who have been watching since they were 8. They have been dying to come to audition.” As for the bad singers? “Inevitably, there were a ton of people who thought they were good and obviously weren’t and end up arguing with me, but that’s par for the course,” Cowell says. Structurally, the big change will take place in the semifinal round, where Idol will abandon last year’s 36-semifinalist format, which featured wild-card picks by the judges. The show will return to 24 semifinalists, 12 males and 12 females, to be determined solely by viewer votes. “The good thing about 36, it gives America a chance to vote on more people,” Frot-Coutaz says. “The downside is 36 is a lot of people to get to know. Due to the emotional engagement, you lose a little bit by doing 36. Where we came down on balance is we’re going to go with the emotional connection.” Cowell, not surprisingly, disagrees with the change. “I prefer the wild-card pick.” On a smaller matter, Frot-Coutaz says Fox plans to expand a couple of one-hour finalist shows to avoid a problem that occurred last year when there wasn’t enough time for each judge to critique each singer adequately. Idol remains TV’s most-watched show, with the Wednesday and Tuesday editions (26.9 million and 26.3 million, respectively) ranking first and second last season by a wide margin. But its combined average (26.6 million) was down 6% from Season 7, the third consecutive ratings drop since Season 5′s peak of 30.8 million. “It’s natural to lose viewers each year as a show ages,” Brill says. “Even though the numbers are down, they’re still the highest-rated shows. Even if it lost 2 million viewers, it’s going to still beat everyone up.” The show’s audience has grown older, too, with the median age of viewers rising 12 years since its inception, says Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. That means a comparatively greater loss of the younger viewers desired by advertisers. Even with viewer loss and talent changes, Idol remains that rare big-tent TV hit and is likely to endure, Jackson says.”Me, Simon, Ryan and Paula started the journey together, and you want the people whostarted the journey to complete it, but sometimes things don’t work out that way. But I think it’s going to be fine,” he says. “A show like this can go on for a long time. It may not go in the same iteration or may not be quite the same strength as always, but I think it can go on for a long time because it’s the best of these shows ever.” Cowell credits the talent pool. “America is one of those countries where you have a never-ending supply of talented people. So for that reason, the show could run literally for decades,” he says. “People only get bored when useless people show up, and I don’t think you’re going to have that problem in the States
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