The TV Column Live with Lisa de Moraes

Apr 08, 2011

Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes takes your questions. Ask about the drama, comedy and heartbreak of the world of television -- both onscreen and behind-the-scenes!

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Lisa, I have no idea how you keep up the blistering pace you keep in your reporting, but way to go---you're WaPo's star. How in the world did a talent like Pia Toscano get dropped from Idol? I've always had my doubts about the integrity of the AI balloting, and this just renews that sense. Or maybe the vaunted power of the young teen female vote is at work, what with so many eligible young guys in the pool?

In order:

Caffeine and chocolate...and a love of covering TV.

Thank you!

Tweener girls and older women.

Once again we're heading down the path where the women get wiped out and some safe guy will win. My money's on Scotty...I can't wait to see Jimmy Iovine put out Scotty's first album...

I see them going with Lara Logan as the anchor. She is young and very attractive and will attract quite a few viewers who just want to check her out. Some of the same reasons the weather channel is watched....you mean it tells me about weather.

And yet, word on the street is that the frontfunner is Scott Pelley, who just could not be less Lara Logan-ish....

I heard on another discussion that Real Housewives DC has been cancelled. I never watched it, but enjoyed reading about it from you and the Reliable Source duo. Is this like the tree falling the forest thing if no one is there to hear it?

Bravo contacted the producers Thursday and gave the show the official axe.. we blame/thank Beverly Hills. Its numbers were sooo much better...

Does Scotty have a chance to win?

It will be either Scotty or James Durbin. My money's on Scotty -- only because I want to see Jimmy Iovine have to put out his first album

Is it just me, or are the idolettes getting orders-of-magnitude better training/preparation for their weekly performances than ever before. Are the producers stepping up just to prove they can hack it without Simon?

Jimmy Iovine and his Band of Genius Hit Maker Producers are doing a terrific job -- far more interesting than previous season's lameola "guest mentors" who were always varying degrees of awful. Now if we could just get the judges to actually distinguish between who they thought were the best and who not so much, to guide voters, we'd have a show...Let's face it, the judges are really there as eye candy and trafffic cops for the viewers/voters and they have really fallen down on the job. They seem to rave about everyone equally and then are shocked when one of "the best" gets knocked out of the competition, like Pia last night...

Government shutdown; Cancelling DC Housewives; What's disaster could happen next to our nation's capital? We need more cowbell!

Wasn't the Cherry Blossom Parade cancelled? Or was that just an ugly rumor? Would that count?

Well, it was a maybe-no-go and then back to a definite go.

Pia must have been very good on "Idol," since Tom Hanks' facebook status reflected his disgust with her getting the boot. Was it a mistake? His status cracked me up because he says he "may be done with the season," due to this. Who would have thunk that big stars get disgusted with their tv shows just like us?

You'd be surprised at some of the people who are closet "Idol" fanatics... I could tell you stories....

I always felt defamed anytime that show came on. I can't say that I will miss it.

Hardly anybody will -- its audience was much smaller than "Bev Hills" and Bravo just announced a very ambitious schedule for next season. They had to cull the "Real Housewives" herd and "DC" got whacked...

Because its not actually a talent contest. She'll be signed in a second and have a great career. Not like winning Idol has helped anyone lately.

As I recall it was during the dreaded Week After Elton John Week that Jennifer Hudson got booted.. she did just fine... Pia needs to learn how to perform on stage. and she needs to learn to tell her dresser that she will not wear 8 inch heels on stage unless they expect her to just stand there and flap her left arm about... the chicks on this show operate under an enormous disadvantage compared to the guys -- and not just because of the whole tweener chick voting bloc thing.  How can someone jump around on stage like James Durbin -- which the studio audience, bloggers and,presumably, voters loved -- while strapped into 8 inch heels? It can't be done.

The guest mentors weren't always varying degrees of awful -- Harry Connick Jr.?

I stand corrected. But he was an unusual mentor -- one who actually got involved and wasn't just trying to sell an album or tour tickets -- and even performed with the Idolettes.

Has he recovered well from last week's bee sting?

Yes but my gosh what a drama queen Winky is. I thought he was dying from all the howling and screaming that went on. And someone told me that if you smash a fresh clove of garlic and put it on the bottom of  the dog's foot,  it draws out the venom or something like that, and makes the pain go away.  Are there any doctors in the house? Sounds like something out of an old Disney animated flick -- "Snow White" or something...

The Defenders is one of my favorite shows, but the show has not been on for several weeks. What's up? I hope it's not being cancelled...

On the fence... the shows that have been tried out in the timeslot and they have performed better in the ratings. I'm guessing back but midseason...

Let's face it, Pia had all the charm of a Stepford Wife. But what truly finished her off was that awful Gwen Stefani outfit on Wednesday night that made her look oddly lumpy. If she had performed in last night's skin-tight, cleavage-baring, black-booted outfit, she would never have gotten voted off.

No kidding. Did she look hot last nght or what. Especially compared to the L.A.M.B. diaper she was wearing on performance night. Do you think the show's regular "dresser" was trying to make a point about Stefani guest-dressing this week of the Idolette chicks. I certainly hope so...

I'm curious about how OWN is doing. It seems to be All Oprah All the Time. I don't see anything worth watching on this channel. Am I alone?

Last I checked the show that was doing best on this network was the one about "backstage" on Oprah's syndicated show. Which, unfortunately, is a terminal show, because Oprah's syndicated show won't have any back stage after this season, since it's coming to an end...

Twice now he's been up there in the bottom two and had the better singer---first Casey and now Pia---sent home instead of him. And both times it was clear that he recognized the results were a travesty. Last night he looked so shocked, I half expected him to offer himself up to save Pia.

And that modest, shocked look on his face when Seacrest announced it was Pia, not Stefano going home, probably bought Stefano a couple more weeks on the show. Stefano has a really nice voice. He just performs every song the same and is all about the peformance, not about what he's actually singing... Oh wait, did I just describe Pia?

OK, I take back the comment I submitted two weeks ago. Idol is no longer bland, and I am back in. Of course, now that I am in, I have to deal with the travesty of sending Pia home. Can we form a 40 year old gay male voting block to combat the female tweens? Save the divas!

I wish someone would form some voting block to save the divas.. I'm sick of this endless loop of whacking the women and winding up with some bland guy who's [Fill in the Blank] Light, winning the competition. So we need to all get out the vote for, say, Lauren Alaina?

Did you watch the premiere of Breaking In? I liked it - a bit sophomoric but kinda funny and kinda interesting. I have to find out the song that started the show out, something about dancing my face off - I hope they play it every episode. I am not a fan at all of Fox politics so I'm feeling rather ambivalent watching Fox TV but I love Glee, American Idol, liked Lie to Me, am loving Raising Hope and Traffic Light. And now I will probably add Breaking In to my viewing schedule. I usually watch cable! What's Fox doing right? (ouch, that hurt to type).

Fox actually has a hard time with live-action comedy and "Raising Hope" and "Traffic Light" are not ratings barn burners. "Lie to Me" is a goner. So I'm not sure how to answer a "what are they doing right" question like this...but I too liked the pilot episode of "Breaking In."

Every time I see him mentioned (quite a lot lately), it gets me wondering: what ever happened to the other guy from "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place"?

Richard Ruccolo -- he's no Ryan Reynolds! (and can someone please explain to me why Ryan Reynolds has a career?) Anyway, Ruccolo was most recently in Dean Cain masterpiece "A Nanny for Christmas".. and how could you have missed him in "Rita Rocks"?

Two weeks after Idol gave us one of the best hours of live TV ever, it gave us something that could only be described as craptastic without the -tastic part. The cringe-inducing bits with Russell Brand and TMZ were bizarrely pointless, the styling of Gwen Stefani was pitiful and wrong-headed, AND we had to listen to Constantine commit an act of desecration and Saggy---er, I mean Iggy---Pop do something-or-other that I was compelled to fast-forward through. What a trainwreck.

I thought THIS week's performance show was alo one of the best hour of live TV I'd seen in ages, followed the very next night's performance episode, which you just recapped perfectly. Iggy Pop was beyond creepy. Gwen Stefano's outfits on the chicks were awful with the notable exception of Haley Reinhart's outfit. Russell Brand is skeevy. I did not mind  the TMZ segment so much as you, because the Idolettes came off so well compared to the TMZ-oids..

Pookie, posting early 'cause I'll be on the NJ Turnpike during the chat. I think it sucks that Pia was sent home when Jacob was barely "meh" this week but Pia was fantastic. I didn't even expect her to be in the bottom 3. IDOL needs to USE the judges more like Dancing With the Stars. It's a travesty to see one of the more talented than the winner to get sent home this early. Other than the Hudson Save, the judges are ornaments when they should be making the decisions. OK, let the public have 50% of the vote. But let the judges and producers make the decisions. It's a popularity contest now. I'm nearly over it.

Or at least have the judges doing some actual, you know, judging on the show. They use superlatives for everyone and then wonder why the viewers did not vote the way they would have. If they do not make it clear how they would vote, what are Tyler, JLo and Randy so  mad about? They said very clearly this week that they loved every single performance, so what's the problem here? Or do they not realize someone has to go home every week? And Randy in particular should know by now that every season the chicks get whacked so if he does not want to see Pia go home the week after two chicks got the hook, he needs to single the women out for special praise. This is not rocket sciences.....

American Idol: Is Pia this year's Jennifer Hudson? And to think the judges wasted their save on Casey. Idol needs a "judges safe" each week like the dance show...

Let's start by getting the judges do to their jobs which is to judge, rather than to heap superlatives on everyone and then say they're angry with the outcome. The judges are supposed to be the "parents" guiding the viewers in their voting. Assuming anybody's listening to these judges at this point. It think what everyone saying, who is upset about Pia leaving, is that this week is a ringing non-endorsement for the mandate the judges have been given this season to be positive about everyone and everything...

The past Idol contestant Pia Toscano most reminded me of was Katherine McPhee -- another beautiful young woman with flawless pitch and impressive technique, but lacking in charisma or a relatable personality on stage. I also thought the song she chose sounded dated and Gwen Stefani's clothes didn't do her any favors, nor have the make-up people, who week after week have made her look like 22 going on 40 (let's sic Joan Rivers and her Fashion Police on 'em!). When I listen to what my kids are into (college age and recent grad), I think Jacob, Haley and Stefano have more of that sound than Pia. Maybe she'll follow some of the other idols onto Broadway though. PS Let this week be a warning to Jacob tp pull back on the preachy stuff...

Pia does have that whole McPhee thing going on. And I too had to keep reminding myself that she is young. She really did look older than the others..

Hi, Pookie! Last week you commented that Kathy Bates' series was one of NBC's most successful new shows (I'm paraphrasing). I thought the initial reports were not very promising, but maybe it picked up steam? Anyway, I'm a big fan so I hope that means it will be picked up. If so, any idea when it might come back (summer? midseason replacement)? Thanks!

It is NBC's most successful freshman series in terms of overall viewers and I think it's No. 3 among 18-49 year old viewers that NBC targets. But, if CBS shows are any template, when it comes to show like "Harry's Law" the older viewers will come first and the younger ones later. It's the "NCIS" formula.....

I never thought that the nightly news anchor position was right for her. She is pretty good at one-on-one interviews so she may have a good show there. I still think that if I were her I'd take my millions and call it a day, but I'm just lazy that way.

She's much more suited to a daytime talk show because it more closely resembles what she did on "Today" and she was brilliant at that.. She'll do well in syndication.

- but my mom put a cut onion on my foot when, as a kid, I stepped on a bee in my bare feet. And it WORKDED

Thanks! I'm hoping Winky never steps on another bee, but I'll keep onion around in case...

Did your column imply that Real Housewives of DC will be cancelled because it isn't trashy enough? And I thought it was bad that Snooki earns more than Toni Morrison for college speaking engagements.

...I'm still back on "Snooki" and "college speaking engagements"...

Hi we're having (hopefully brief) technical difficulties. Hang in there! Thanks.

And we're back!

Lisa, I'm hoping you have some insight that I do not. Why do networks and, especially cable channels, premiere their new shows by merging the first two episodes into a two hour block? What do they get out of it? Two hour episodes are disruptive to my schedule, and, frankly, they're boring. These episodes aren't written and paced like films, so there's no way in hell they should go on that long. For example: The Borgias seems very interesting and I'm going to continue watching it, but only because I know I won't have to worry about falling asleep half way through next week. It's the same deal for The Killing, Camelot, and, a few weeks back, The Event.

Network executives have learned that the best leadin for a show is the same show. Did you know that "Biggest Loser" ratings went up, a lot, when NBC decided to double the show in length?  I can't explain it, because I feel the same way you do, but apparently we are not typical TV viewers...

Hi Lisa. How well did "The Killing" do for AMC? How well does a show made for AMC have to do? Are all the 12 or 13 episodes complete before they go on the air, so even if its a bust it still runs?

The premiere of "The Killing" clocked 2.7 million viewers, which while no "The Walking Dead" -- that opened with around 5 million watching -- is  a very good opening for an AMC series...

Pit should have worn Thursday night's outfit on Wednesday night. It emphasized her shoes much more, so that maybe some more guys would have actually voted for her.

No kidding. Can we all just agree to agree that Gwen Stefani's clothes can be pulled off by Gwen Stefani but not the average Idol competitor? Pia's shoes looked incredible last night..

James Durbin has more ticks than a boar hog. You would think he'd realize some of the looks he gives while panning the group while seated and would do his best not to contort his face like he does. Clark Gable ears, too.

James Durbin has Tourette Syndrome.  I'm guessing you missed his in audition, at which that was mentioned...glad to catch you up. Meanwhile, we're going to keep going on the chat for a while since we had another of our now famous technical glitches a little while ago.....

Another shot on TV for Christian Slater - whats the buzz on his new show?

I hope this one sticks.. It's his best so far which, yes, I know is setting the bar pretty low. Whoever is picking his TV projects for him hasn't been doing him any favors... this one's kinda fun, don't you think?

Wow, Casey lucked out this week after his soggy rendition of that damp and dreary song. Will the producers ever let him display any energy again? Or is that he's suddenly weak after having his hair cut?

CCR songs -- the worst...He's lucky he brought back his bass. I think the bass saved him.

I watched this show for the first time a few weeks ago and loved it. I'm guessing it's already been cancelled since I'm watching it on Comedy Central and I think it was originally aired on another network. Is that true?

Nope, it's not cancelled, they just produced enough epsiodes to sell it in syndication -- to Comedy Central. It's still on FX....

Here's my take: yes, I think Pia was one of the most talented singers on the show, but she wasn't one of the most talented performers. She was boring to watch. Each time she got out there, she was good, but never interesting. Interesting is what brings in the votes.

but those shoes! How can we let those shoes slip out of our lives?

Pookie, Is DC Cupcakes the absolute worst (most boring) "reality" show of all time? How was this renewed? Are its ratings on BravoFlyover that good or is that network so hard up for programming that it will air just about anything (cough...clipping coupons...cough)?

Yes, it's ratings were good. Ditto "Extreme Couponing" which opened with nearly 3 million watching.  I told someone about this show and they thought I was pulling their leg... I'm in awe of TLC that they got three million people to watch a show about coupons...

As you put it today: "Here's how it works: they start off the season with the same number of chicks and guys. The chicks get eliminated and then the safest, cutest, most pet-able guy is named American Idol, and the tweener girls and the middle aged women who voted him there, all celebrate and do not buy his music." Does that not mean that Paul McDonald is our next American Idol? Stefano's almost out the door, Casey's too hairy and goofy, James is too weird, Scotty's too country and Jacob's too self-righteous and (let's be honest, here) too black. That leaves Paul, who would easily be the worst Idol winner ever. How do you see it?

girls and their grandmas love Scotty...

Her Wednesday night outfit looked like she was wearing a herringbone diaper. Poofy shorts are a Fashion Don't for a tall, curvy girl! Of course, last nights disco jumpsuit wasn't a big improvement...

that's gingham, pookie, not herringbone! Yes, she looked like she was wearing a diaper made out of a picnic tablecloth..

Me too, although I imagine it wasn't exactly a banner day for the bee either (especially with all that hive-collapse thing going on as well).

Actually it was a wasp -- they have waists , I have learned so much about bees and wasps this week -- and I confess, I too felt bad for the wasp which mostly got squished and I put it out of its misery.  Yes, I'm one of those people...

I suddenly realized: A few years from now, there could be a new cast to the Real Housewives of New Jersey. And Snookie could be on that show.

She will be asked, once she ages out of MTV, I'm sure.. unless she's got her own syndicated talk show by then.. or is a judge on Simon Cowell's 25th reality competition series...

Lisa - I LOVE your Idol reviews and enjoy them more than the show itself now! I think if voters voted on who they wanted eliminated rather than who they wanted to keep it would be a more valid result. Thoughts?

Somebody suggested that on tv the other day. I wish I could remember where I saw that but by Friday my brain  is mostly goo...meanwhile, how do we all feel about Wendy Williams leaving "Dancing".. I personally think anyone who tweets a photo of their bunion gnarled feet needs to go immediately...

Do you think Matt wants to divorce his wife, but dares not to while still co-hosting "Today," for fear of public backlash?

Really? No.. you think there would be backlash?

Is Fringe painting themselves into a corner? They've sped up timelines, probably because they were worried about being canceled. Now that they have another season, will they stick us with pointless plot lines just to fill episodes?

They're just counting the episodes until they have enough for a "Fringe" library... it's sort of sad, don't you think?

Thanks for the confirmation, Lisa. Sorry to be a pest, but does that mean the show is likely to come back?

That is an interesting question. It's not owned by NBC, it's owned by Warner Brothers, which makes it more vulnerable because, whether they'll confess it in Washington or not, the networks favor shows they produce. Meanwhile, NBC has a new programming chief and he won't feel so attached to product he inherited. On the other hand, NBC has so many trouble spots on its primetime, they may leave this show in place so they can focus on bigger issues...

Talk about looking older than one's age... she's 16 and looks 34. And never has any freaking clue what she's singing about. And seems to have the brainpower of a 4 year old. And they have been pimping her from the start. Comparing her to Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood... for the love of the flying spaghetti monster, no.

I think she's become completely intimidated by Jimmy Iovine and his Band of Genius Hit Maker Producers.. she mostly seems scared.. which is too bad because she wasn' that way when she auditioned. ...

That's what you ought to call this discussion. So far, it's been almost non-stop "Idol," "Pia," "Idol," "Pia." In the meantime, at least five new drama series premiered since the last chat, only one of which was mentioned, and several other shows ended their seasons, or entire runs, without comment.

I'm delighted to take non-Idol questions, pookster. It's just that I'm getting a whole lot of them because there is a biggish bruhaha that broke out last night when one of the show's most talented singers got the hook...

Pookie -- I saw that Mandy "Voice of an Angel" Patinkin will star in a new Showtime show. How long will he last?

He's usually good for two seasons, right? On the other hand, a Showtime season is usually 13 episodes whereas a broadcsat season is generally 22-24. So maybe he won't burn out until season 4... we can always hope...

Divine Ms. de M, sorry for this late question. I'm bubbling over with excitement because I'm going to see those named in my topic line in Sondheim's Company at Lincoln Center tomorrow. Is this a golden age of TV or what, when folks like NPH and Plimpton are both doing awesome theater and enjoyable sitcoms?

Absolutely. I'm a huge Martha Plimpton fan and, getting back to the question about what is Fox network doing right, casting Plimpton in "Raising Hope" is one of the best things that network is doing this season...

Sweet fancy Moses, I say this as an opera singer AND your future intern: Pia can hold a note but she's flat (I guess that would be Pitchy to you, Randy) and she has the performing charisma of my grandmother's underwear.

she seemed to be mostly flat on the big notes, didn't she? Or did I just notice it more? And I love the grandma's undies analogy. May I use that in future columns?

Didn't that happen once already?

divorce or backlash. I'm getting lost in this conversation -- it's too deep for me...

Don't forget Nathan Fillion..........he was on there too...and now does CASTLE.

"Castle" is our generations "Murder She Wrote" or "Loveboat" don't you think. I love all the guest stunt casting. I'm a big fan of this show, though yes I set my watch to it like i used to with Murder She Wrote way back when...

What is a flying spaghetti monster? Does it throw meatballs?

That has been weighing on my mind ever since someone brought it up. According to Wikipedia, my intrepid colleague Emily Yahr reports, it is the diety of the parody religion, The Church of the Flying Spahetti Monster. ...thank you, Emily.... who knew...

My feeling about Pia is that she lacked vulnerability. Now she's got some. She was too much like the teacher's favorite straight A super focused girl. This experience could end up working for her. Not to say I prefer Paul etc.

So glad you brought up Paul. Did he knock it out of the park Wednesday night or what? I loved his rehearsal tape when Iovine and Will.i.am told him to act insane... that was some great live TV...

In previous seasons of "Idol," contestants were often saved by Simon being particularly vicious to them---they would wind up garnering a lot of sympathy votes. You could almost tell when he was ready to send someone home because he would suddenly be nice to them. But this season, the judges aren't offering anything---whether true criticism or unbridled contempt. And Steven's lecturing *us* about a lack of passion? Show some life, there, judges!

The judges need to step up. they've been disappointing lately...

Seen any episodes yet? What do you think of it?

I am not a fantasy book series kinda gal, but fans of the books seem to like it....and so I'm going with Mission Accomplished for HBO.....

The comment is yours, if you can promise me that they will never drag that bag of hangers that is Iggy Pop out on my screen again. Love you, mean it!

...and The Best Description of Iggy Pop I've read since he rose from the dead last night on "Idol"...

Thank you for relieving my guilt about that...

some times you just want to turn off the brain and rest. I save "Castle" on my DVR for Friday night when, to recap, brain is total goo...

What happened before was that Matt separated from his wife, and was rumored to want to divorce her (apparently he was involved with another woman), but then he returned to his wife, and it was rumored that he needed to for the sake of keeping a goodly portion of his audience from becoming unhappy with him, ratings-wise.

ah, clearly I need to keep up with the sex lives of news talent...

Scotty looks like Alfred E. Newman-What, me worry?

He does, doesn't he? I was looking forward to his "American Idol" makeover, but it seems he's holding true to his country self on that front too..

What a gentleman to claim it had nothing to do with hoisting Kirstie!

Totally....I'm out of time. thanks for joining me. See you next week!

In This Chat
Lisa de Moraes
Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites. de Moraes worked for a decade as the television editor at The Hollywood Reporter, the entertainment industry trade paper, where she was routinely on the receiving end of more shouting phone calls from TV suits than Paula Abdul's manager.

When she upgraded to The Washington Post in 1998, a well-known executive producer called to suggest she have someone else start her car, but her trenchant writing (and refusal to use words like "trenchant") earned her the following praise from the brilliant, handsome media observer at Slate: "She writes like a wicked bitch." Wikipedia has called her "a noted television columnist," but they're often unreliable. It's pronounced "deh more ICE."

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