Archive for August, 2008

Channel Flippin’ – ‘American Idol’ Jumps the Shark

August 30, 2008

The nation’s favorite reality competition may have seriously just “jumped the shark.” A fourth judge will be added to the panel of American Idol when the series debuts its eighth season this January.

By Blake

Originally posted August 30, 2008.

In its heyday, Happy Days was a television craze that had countless viewers tuning in during each sensational episode. Though, in one fateful move, the show’s pretty-boy Fonzie water-skied over a shark. Fans claim that after Fonzie “jumped the shark,” Happy Days began to lose steam and had seldom decent episodes thereafter. And so, since then, the coined term “jump the shark” has referred to when a television series makes a risky move for the worst that possibly ruins its popularity and destroys its reputation for future episodes. With Andy Griffith, it was when Barney Fife left and the show began to air in color. In Scooby-Doo, it was when the tiny Scrappy-Doo began to tag along with Mystery, Inc. on their adventures. Other shows jump it all when they begin spinoffs or movies.

But when thinking of these legendary television series that made a mistake that messed them up eternally, the one show that doesn’t come to mind is American Idol. Sure, some individual seasons may have been better or worse than others, but as an actual television series, the show has done quite well without making any significant changes in its layout. But an announcement that was made last Monday, August 25, 2008, made me think that American Idol’s luck may just about be up. This January when American Idol returns to Fox for its eighth season premiere, a fourth judge will sit alongside Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell as they review contestants’ performances. If that doesn’t spell out “shark jumpage ahead,” then I don’t know what does.

The fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, is a songwriter and producer that has collaborated with quite an impressive roster of performers, including Christina Aguilera, Jewel, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Carrie Underwood, Gwen Stefani, and even newcomers (and American Idol contestants) David Cook and David Archuleta (both on their upcoming albums). And that’s just to mention a few. So, needless to say, with that many extremely popular singers that she’s worked with, and with her several Grammy nominations to boot, DioGuardi could prove to be a very positive, honest, tell-it-like-it-is asset to American Idol’s judging panel.

So, why does DioGuardi’s involvement with the show have me worried about American Idol “jumping the shark?” Well, it’s not so much about DioGuardi herself. It’s that I just don’t want anything to change too much! American Idol is my very favorite show and I certainly do not want it to be altered.

With certainly no offense to Kara DioGuardi, I don’t really think American Idol currently needs a new judge. It’s great as it is and all three other judges have well chemistry when reviewing together. Additionally, the judge’s comments seemed rushed enough when it was just the three of them . . . who knows how frazzled it will get when they has even less time than they do already to state her opinions.

To be brief, I don’t think Kara DioGuardi herself will be a major problem for American Idol. She won’t be the cause of it “jumping the shark.” Hopefully she’ll fit right in with Randy, Paula, and Simon and be a welcoming new addition to American Idol. But what might cause the show to jump it is if her presence results in subsequent conflicts with the show’s content or current judges.

By Blake; originally posted August 30, 2008. All images (C) Fox.


BlakeOnline Special – ‘American Idol’ 2008 Concert Report

August 18, 2008

Words can’t describe the amazingly awesome feel-good experience of this year’s American Idol season and contestants, which is sensationally amplified on this year’s concert tour.

By Blake

SPOILER WARNING: If you’re going to an American Idol 2008 concert and want to be surprised by the song lineup, performances, and, well . . . surprises, then please don’t read any further. It would spoil the entire concert for you! However, if you’ve already been to the concert or just don’t care about not being surprised, then please read on! You’ve been warned, though . . .

It’s not just a reality show. American Idol is a program that the entire family can enjoy without worrying about inappropriate content, and at the same time the show expands itself beyond the television set by creating solid singing careers out of everyday aspiring performers.

So you can imagine my excitement when the moment had arrived when I would be experiencing my first American Idol concert, this year featuring this 2008’s top ten contestants: Chikezie Eze, Ramiele Malubay, Michael Johns, Kristy Lee Cook, Carly Smithson, Brooke White, Jason Castro, Syesha Mercado, and, of course, the Davids – David Archuleta and David Cook.

I had taken a visit to the American Idol message boards about a month beforehand just to read other people’s comments to get the lowdown on what to expect at the concert, how things were run, etc., without spoiling any of the show itself for me. I’m certainly glad I had read the information that I did because I found out that right as the American Idol buses pull into the venue, many of the contestants come outside to talk, take pictures, and sign autographs for their fans waiting outside. This was great news.

We arrived at the arena around 11:45am and found a small crowd waiting near where the buses were scheduled to arrive. WHAT AWESOME TIMING! Just as we got there, a group of policemen arrived telling everyone that the meet & greet would be moved to another area of the arena because the current spot would interfere with traffic on the road. So everyone relocated to the new spot, where we were among the first people behind the barriers for the red carpet-like walkway, just without the red carpet or press. It was just fans.

The contestants finally arrived around 2:30, which was about an hour after they usually come out in other cities (I learned later that they had just finished a 7 ½ – hour bus ride). If you plan on going early to see if you can meet the contestants, I’d advise to bring some snacks and water. There’s no set time for how long you’ll be waiting, and standing in the summer heat can get sweltering. Thankfully, the morning’s thunderstorm had passed over, leaving behind a shady spot of clouds which hovered over us, occasionally dropping some rain sprinkles, but nothing too serious. We could have been out in the sweltering sun for the 2 ½ hours of waiting. I’m very thankful for the weather we had. It could have been MUCH worse.

The clouds eventually disappeared, revealing the sun . . . oh, and DAVID COOK!!! I guess he could tell by the looks on everyone’s faces that we had been standing out there a while, so when he arrived he literally leaped out the arena door, landed with a stomp on the ground, and then – again literally – ran over to the fans waiting in the line. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such loud screaming in all my life. Carly and Jason soon followed.

I must say all of the contestants’ energy and enthusiasm during the little greeting was certainly contagious! As each of them came out and walked by, you couldn’t help but have a huge, obnoxious smile on your face. Some of the people around us were complaining about the heat and that they couldn’t see the contestants . . . I was thinking, HOW could you POSSIBLY not be beaming when DAVID COOK is merely a few feet away?!?!? I just couldn’t see how anyone could not be happy in that mob of people.

It was such a thrill to meet all of them. It was like, here they are. All of the people that brought joy into your home every Tuesday and Wednesday night for the past year, and you have one chance to say to them anything you want and tell them how much their work is appreciated. I just didn’t know how to express how much each of them meant to me and my family. My Disney fascination is great and all, but I can’t physically thank any one person for the happiness that Disney brings to me, except for maybe Mickey Mouse. But he wouldn’t even say anything back. With the American Idol contestants, they were all lined up right there in front of me. I wanted to thank each of them immensely for all their hard work, for being awesome role models, for taking the time to meet us right now, but somehow I never got around to saying any of that. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to say, it was just I didn’t know how to say it. So, other than a “Thank you” to each of them for their autographs (who responded gratefully and appreciatively), I pretty much kept my mouth shut.

Beforehand I had made a collage of all ten contestants using Picasa and then formatted it sepia, and then with some help mounted it on a poster board for the contestants to sign autographs on. Carly was the first to sign. She seemed sort of rushed, but I totally understand that all of them are pushed for time on their packed tour schedule.

Next was Jason, who was talking to everyone, and drew a little smiley face with some dreadlocks next to his name on some of the autographs he was signing.

Then, while David Cook was still making his way down the line, out came David Archuleta! I take back what I said earlier – this was the loudest screaming I’ve ever heard in my life. David A. started at our end and worked his way down the line VERY slowly, but certainly not in a bad way. He took his time with each and every one of the people standing out there and signed everything they asked him to, posed in every picture, and was definitely out there longer than any of the other contestants. He was one of the first to come out and the 2nd last to leave. He still seemed to be just as overwhelmed – in a good way – with how many people adored him as he was on the show. I did manage to tell David that I was enjoying his tour blog – he seems to update it more than any of the other contestants – though my compliment was drained out by the woman next to me who said something loudly to David so he couldn’t hear me.

Next out was Kristy Lee Cook! She made her way down the line and seemed to efficiently give autographs to anyone who wanted them.

Then Chikezie came out and started at our end of the line. Although he looked tired, he also seemed to be very patient with each fan in line, and posed for more than one picture with us. (He remarked at how the many cameras everywhere “always confuses me!”)

Next was Brooke, who WANTED to stop and talk to everyone, but was being urged by one of her handlers to go inside and take a phone interview, as the interviewers were already waiting for her. Right when she got to us she started doing a countdown from ten as to how many more autographs she would give out. You could tell she was heartbroken when she got to zero and couldn’t sign any other autographs, as were the last few fans that she didn’t get to see.

Lastly was Michael Johns! (Ramiele and Syesha weren’t going to be coming out.) He too seemed to take his time with the fans, but not nearly as slowly as Archuleta. When one of his fans gave him a picture of himself to sign his autograph on, he remarked “Oh, I hate this picture!” in his Australian accent. “I couldn’t look worse in this picture!” Hahahaha.

After that, the crowds began to dissolve, as only David Archuleta and Michael Johns were left and most of the fans had gotten their pictures and autographs. We stuck around a little longer . . . eventually David made it through the end of the line and finally Michael headed on in.

And so . . . we came back to the arena around 6pm for the concert! The preshow started around 6:55 and included a walk-around Pop-Tart guy dancing through the audience. When it was finally show time, I could feel the anticipation gathering in the air. I guess it was that American Idol contagiousness again because I couldn’t help bearing a smile.

Chikezie’s set was great, and then Ramiele came out and had a bee-boppin’ pop set. I was thinking that her performance sounded like something I would hear on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, and then later I read in the concert program that she hoped to do something with Disney Channel in the future.

Next was Michael Johns who ROCKED THE HOUSE. He sang “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”, “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right”, and “Dream On.” It was awesome.

Next was Kristy Lee Cook, who of course had some country songs, including “God Bless the USA”, which happens to be the song that saved her in the voting process. I was a little surprised that Kristy didn’t sing her new single “15 Minutes of Shame,” especially since her album is being released on September 16. Perhaps she doesn’t yet have the necessary rights to perform it live or something.

Then it was the incredible Carly’s turn, who was jammin’.

Next was Brooke, who sang her best American Idol song (in my opinion, at least) “Let It Be”, along with “Yellow” and “1, 2, 3, 4”. I had recently taken a liking to “1, 2, 3, 4”, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it sung at the concert. When I first heard it (which happened to be on a clip from Sesame Street on YouTube) I thought “This would be a great song for Brooke White to sing.” And there she was singing it!

Then it was time for the act one finale, which included the bottom six contestants singing U2’s “Pride” white footage from American Idol Gives Back played on the big screens to promote Fox’s campaign for viewers to donate money to needy families in Africa.

The intermission was Guitar Hero central! The two Guitar Hero commercials featuring the Davids (that originally played during this season’s finale) showed on the big screens, as did a brand-new commercial that’s exclusive to the concert. It’s promoting the upcoming Guitar Hero: World Tour game and features the entire top ten decked out in 70’s clothes and hairstyles.

Then there was some live entertainment, as opposed to up on the screens. First two crew members had a live Guitar Hero competition and then two audience members had an “air guitar” competition.

After that, it was time to get back to the show! Jason Castro was up first, singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on his ukulele, followed by two other songs. Next Syesha wonderfully belted out some tunes, and after that you could just feel the excitement in the audience (even way up from our 2nd floor seats) as everyone anxiously awaited David Archuleta’s performance. He arrived via a stage lift playing the piano and singing “Angels”, “Apologize”, “Stand By Me”, and “When You Say You Love Me”. Again, I was surprised that he didn’t sing his new single “Crush”. Anyway, as always he was phenomenal and, as I stated earlier, he seemed just as humble as he was on TV. And I even got to hear his laugh in person.

Lastly, it was time for David Cook to take to the stage! As he entered through a stage lift, the arena was almost silent. He calmly walked to the center of the stage, stopped, looked around, and simply said “Hi.” The crowd goes bazerk. He was FANTASTIC. He sang “Hello”, “The Time of My Life”, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, “Hero”, and “Billy Jean”. He seems to have taken his instant superstardom very professionally, with having a powerful stage presence and in the way he acts in interviews, performances, and such but at the same time hasn’t let his sudden fame go to his head in any way. In the concert program interview with him, when asked who his best friend on the show was, he proceeded to list all 23 of his competitors, and when asked what he was going to do after the tour, he said “I can’t wait to do some charity work.” While not being an obsessive fan, David Cook is someone who, between last January and now, I have grown to greatly respect and admire and I sincerely hope he goes on to have a successful career and not let his opportunities slip through the cracks like some have done. He even threw his half-finished Coke bottle into the crowd.

As David Cook’s set came to a close, it was time for the big finale! “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna began to fill the air and I was literally bouncing in my seat my now, clapping along, since everyone else in my section still neglected to get on their feet. The finale I think will be the most memorable part of the show for me, for several reasons: “Please Don’t Stop the Music” is my favorite current song. My favorite group of performers was singing it right before my eyes. I got to see the Mavid in person. David Archuleta playfully kicked David Cook’s hiney. And all this going on as I realize that with such an incredible American Idol season that took place this year, it’s unlikely that any other future season will top this year’s outstanding display of artists and their incredible voices. Right now, watching this amazing top ten, was probably as good as it was ever going to get. I just couldn’t help but getting reflective and soaking in the atmosphere, watching an excellent group of performers. I still can’t comprehend how much each and every one of them has musically impacted my family. They’re an amazing group of talented people.

As the show-stopping finale came to a close, it was time for the contestants to head on in. Everyone had one last look at the bottom nine as they walked backstage, and at David Cook as he glided back down through the stage lift.

As we exited the arena, we saw a huge mob of people waiting in the same area that we had been earlier to meet the contestants (they came out after the show, too). However, whereas when we met them the crowd was at most two people deep, this had to be at least seven people deep. It was insane, so we decided not to stay. We later found out that the contestants finally made it outside a little after 11pm (the concert ended around 10:15ish), and all of them except David Cook and Ramiele come out. I kinda wish we would have stayed, but at the same time I know it would have been crazy. Fun crazy. But still crazy. I needed sleep, anyway.

Well, the awesome night was finally over. The whole American Idol concert experience was . . . amazing. Outstanding. Phenomenal. ROCKIN’. Superb. Unbelievable. Excellent. And what’s that word that you say when you don’t know what to say? Oh, yeah. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I just can’t describe it any other way.

By Blake; originally posted August 18, 2008. All images belong to Blake’s family.