Thursday, January 14, 2010

Simon Cowell, You Are The Weakest Link...Goodbye!

There's plenty to talk about right now, but first I'm obligated to give you one more ISIHAC recap. Here's the episode broadcast December 21, 2009:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell, and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded At: Futurist Theater, Scarborough

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Jeremy Hardy. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jo Brand.

Scorer: “And here to keep a tally of every score, please welcome the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: Uxbridge English Dictionary
Jack’s introduction makes fun of British politician Nick Clegg.

Game Two: Pick Up Song
Jack: “You should sing along teams, and keep going when Samantha turns the volume down. If, when the music fades back in, you’re within a gnat’s crochet of the original, I’ll be awarding points, and points mean prizes. What’s the capital of Norway?”
Audience: “PRIZES!”
That explains it, right? In addition, Barry and Jeremy accompany Jo’s rendition of Here Comes Santa Claus, and Tim changes the words of Winter Wonderland to make fun of Bob Dylan.

Game Three: Sound Charades
Lionel Blair, laser display board, and Hamish…without Dougal, as he’s played by Graeme. Instead, Jeremy plays the Laird, the character he played on the spin-off sitcom You’ll Have Had Your Tea: The Doings Of Hamish And Dougal (really!)

Game Four: Any Questions
Jack reads a set of “questions from loyal listeners” for the panelists to “answer.”

Game Five: Barry and Jeremy must alternate words of a letter from Peeping Tom to Lady Godiva; Tim and Jo alternate words of the reply. Jack gets a message on Twitter from Stephen Fry while explaining the game.

Game Six: Swanee Kazoo

Game Seven: Fisherman’s Songbook

Closing: "Barry Cryer, Jeremy Hardy, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jo Brand were being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant was Iain Pattinson, and the producer was Jon Naismith.”

That's ISIHAC Series 52, and I sincerely hope that by Series 53, we know who the new permanent host is. Moving on...

I hate American Idol. I really, really hate it. I hate it...and yet somehow I'm fascinated by it. Maybe I'm just trying to figure out why it's so popular; perhaps there's a part of me that actually likes this nonsense. It's not really a game show, but it is probably the biggest news in television right now (barring perhaps the battle over NBC late night, which I'm not even going to try to piece together.) The show is back, Paula Abdul is gone, and now Simon Cowell has said this season will be his last.

Must we walk through the career of Simon Cowell? To paraphrase, he makes 30,000,000 pounds a year and spends thirty of them on his wardrobe. Still, here goes: he was apparently some sort of record producer before he was unleashed on the world as a judge on a new talent competition on ITV in Britain: Pop Idol. This, in case you didn't figure it out, was the British version of American Idol; what's surprising about it is, it only lasted two seasons. That's not because it wasn't a hit (it was); ITV simply decided to quit while they were ahead.

Needless to say, that didn't stop Simon in the least. In 2002, while Pop Idol was between seasons, he became just as famous in America as a judge on American Idol, taking over the position of insulting British person from Anne Robinson (do you get the post title now?) After Pop Idol was canceled, he sold ITV a new talent competition on which he would be a judge: The X Factor. As far as I can tell, The X Factor is pretty much the same thing as Pop Idol (or, indeed, American Idol) except one thing: Simon Cowell created it and owns a larger stake in it. In other words, he makes more money.

The X Factor and American Idol have been their country's premiere talent competition ever since, and Simon actually added a third show in 2007 when ITV premiered Britain's Got Talent (the British version of America's Got Talent, which Simon created and produces but is not a judge on.) Now Simon is claiming he is leaving American Idol to focus on launching an American version of The X Factor. In other words, he wants more money.

First things first: I'm not sure I believe him. I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure there was a time when Simon claimed he was leaving The X Factor for some reason; needless to say, that didn't happen. Let's make this more interesting by imagining that it is true, and that in 2011, there will be an American Idol without Paula Abdul or Simon Cowell. Would it work?

I think a better question is, would The X Factor work in America? It's not a name Americans know. It could be argued that in 2004, it wasn't a name the British knew either - yet that's not a fair argument because Pop Idol was already gone, leaving this new show to essentially take its place. If The X Factor and American Idol were both on, which would win?

I'm not saying they'll both have new episodes on the same night or something - I doubt any network is that crazy, and anyway, the current plan is for the American version of The X Factor to also be on Fox. American Idol will be on during the first half of the year; The X Factor will be on during the second half. In my book, this is a really bad idea because, well, if one falls, it will bring the other down with it. Making matters even worse, Simon is apparently trying to get Paula Abdul, who already appeared briefly as a judge on the British version of The X Factor, to commit to being a judge on the American version. We're shaping up for all-out war between two shows on the same network, and frankly, my prediction is that they're both gone by 2012. Not that that will stop Simon - he'll probably end up as a judge on America's Got Talent. Wonderful.

Speaking of America's Got Talent, it has been confirmed that Howie Mandel will be replacing David Hasselhoff as a judge for the upcoming season.

Deal Or No Deal must be in big trouble.

See you next week,


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