The TV Column Live: Best reality show judges, goodbye Tim Urban, loooong 'Idol' episode, South Park brouhaha, more

Apr 23, 2010

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

This week the NY Post listed their thoughts for the best reality judges. Gail Simmons (Top Chef), Michael Kors (Project Runway), and Simon (Idol) were deemed the best. I think Tom Colicchio is among the top. Who is on your short list?

Hi. My list is extremely short. It has one name. Simon Cowell:  The pre-2010 Seasons. My list of best reality series host is equally short: Tom Bergeron. Anybody else out there have an equally short list?

Pookie, has anyone ever been sent home on Idol Gives Back night before? I seem to remember they always waited till the next week, and then sent two people home based on the total two-week vote. Do you think the producers had waited so long for Tim's name to come up last that they didn't want to take any chances by waiting for another week's votes?

I believe this is the first year they've whacked someone on Idol Gives Back Night because, they had always explained, whacking someone did not seem to be in keeping with the charity-ness of the night (and yet, Fergie stomping around dressed as a dominatrix while the Black Eyed Peas sang "Rock That Body" is  in perfect keepign with a charity fundraiser show).  But, given that the last time they did a Gives Back night it clocked the show's smallest audience of the seasons -- despite its celebrity lineup of performers -- I'm guessing they decided to return the whacking bit to the show to try to goose the ratings. Anyway, I was thrilled to see Turban eliminated this week AND Kate Gosselin eliminated the same week. Makes you believe somehow that the natural order of things is starting to return...

So the producer was saying there was going to be a big surprise with Melinda and Bill Gates. I didn't watch the show, and didn't see anything about a surprise in your blog. Was there one?

Nope -- total bait and switch...

I waited all season for the grinning Tim Urban to be sent packing, and missed it even with a DVR set to record 15 minutes over. They pay Seacrest 15 million a year for this?! (He could learn a thing or two from Tom Bergeron.) When will "American Idol" learn to manage its (already bloated) allotted time?

Pookie, they had given up trying to bring it in on time before the show even started. Seabiscuit announced the night before that it was going to run long so you should set your DVR accordingly. Which I'm guessing is another way of saying "record 'Glee'." geesh.

Vampire intervention! I have fairly high-brow TV tastes, but this show is my one guilty pleasure. Pookie, are you watching?

I tried the other day but it makes the top of my head come off and I have to stop watching. Vampires should NOT be allowed to be out during the day -- period. It's like wearing open-toed shoes after Labor Day.....I don't care what special ring they're wearing, or tea they're drinking, or hand lotion they're using. It's just not right. If a vampire can go to high school during the day then he's not really a vampire -- just some dude with bad teeth and pasty skin. Very unattractive...okay, I think I'm through ranting...

So sorry to see Numb3rs is on the bubble. Are their ratings that low? The cast of Rob Morrow, David Krumholtz, Judd Hirsch, Navi Rawat, and Peter MacNicol, and the others were great together, IMO. Plus cool graphics--however accurate the mathematical theories were. (How accurate were they??)

Yes, and, unfortunately, in the life of every show there are two lines. One is the line graf of how much the show costs -- it starts in the bottom left-hand corner of the chart and steadily climbs as it moves to the right over the years. The other line is the Ratings line and it starts high on the left and works its way down over the years. When you get to the point on the chart where they cross and the ratings line becomes lower than the cost line -- a show's pretty much over -- ESPECIALLY if, at the point at which they intersect, the show has produced more than 100-ish episodes, which is what you need for a series to be a viable product in syndication. "Number3"'s lines have converged and it has produced 118 episodes...

They also cut Michael Johns (in a rather cruel but hilarious manner) on Idol Gives Back in Season 7.

I had forgotten about that... that was fun....

Loved Jon Stewart's response to the brouhaha over South Park and RevolutionaryMuslim; the praise choir was a pretty awesome touch.

It was brilliant. If you have not seen it, I've asked my producer to embed the video here.

Pookie- What can we as Americans do to stop Ryan Trainwreck from further dampening my "Glee"? My theory is that Ryan has shared too much and the wheels have come off the Seacrest bus. We all now know that he is a sad, fat little boy trapped in the body of a power-mad pixie (hmm... Rumpelstiltzken?) courtesy of a picture shown on Oprah. It's like the curtain has been pulled to reveal that he is all facade. Which isn't true, but he feels that it is and he is now avenging himself by ruining "Glee" for the masses. How can Fox fix this so that it doesn't happen again? Have you heard anything about a drug/alcohol/donut addiction that is being addressed quietly?

Are you saying Seabiscuit is ruining "Glee" because "Idol" keeps running long? I am guessing that "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy is, as we chat, working on some wickedly clever episode of "Glee" in which he takes his reveng on Seabiscuit..

So Comedy Central was responsible for the bleeps during this week's "South Park"? I figured it was Matt and Trey. When I read your column this morning, I figured Comedy Central and Matt/Trey were in cohoots, but I couldn't think of what there would be to gain from it.

Comedy Central says they did the bleeping but Mat and Trey put in the black bars with "Censored" on them in place of the actual Muhammad figure -- which Comedy Central says, they did because the network told the guys they would not air it otherwise...oh, and what did they have to gain from it? Loads and loads and loads of publicity for the show which, you may have noticed, was getting absolutely zero buzz this season until this two-episode storyline was introduced to celebrate the show's 200th episode... very clever.

Do you think "My Boys" could do an episode about how they all could watch "South Park"? (now the world is safe for another week) Seriously though, its really sad that "South Park" is the only show on TV that is willing to point out the double standard when it comes to making jokes about a specific religion. How do you feel about the Network saying that they are censoring the episodes for the creators own safety. I think they had a chance to make an important stand for free speech. I also loved the Shakespearean aspect of Cartman's storyline.

Yes, I too think the network is making the wrong call on this one. Oh, and at long last, we have something to report on "My Boys." It is returning to TBS on July 25 -- that's a Sunday, I'm told -- at 10 p.m.... It's about time, I say!

Pookie, this is what the subject line offers as an example of a question to chat about. is my question: Can a Redskins linebacker, engaged and very stressed out about his upcoming nuptials, have the ability to effectively judge health care reform pros & cons?

I didn't think the lameness quotient of this new system could get any greater, but it has defied even my expectations...

My office-mate and I read your Idol summaries together in the morning. Love Love LOVE it. xoxoxo Way to help with office bonding pookie.

My pleasure -- always happy to help facilitate harmony at the workplace...

What does the arrival of Conan and the NCAA Tournament mean for "My Boys"?

It means My Boys is returning July 25 -- before Conan!

Hi Lisa -- Thanks for taking questions today. Would love to know what you of thought of "Glee's" "Madonnathon" this week (I know, it was only an hour, so not really a marathon, but I was going to use that no matter what). I suppose it would depend on how you feel about both Madonna and the show, but given how much work they put into using the maximum number of her songs that they possibly could, I was disappointed that they didn't have Madonna herself appear -- perhaps as the school's new hot chemistry teacher who tries to take over the glee club or something, or better yet as Sue Sylvester's that would have been clever, given Sue's obsession with Madonna, which to me seemed the most strained part of the whole idea.

What I think of the Madonna-thon is that if that gawdawful "Marriage Ref" can get Actual Madonna to show up to give marriage counseling to a lineup of hopelessly ill-suited couples, why cannot The Great and Powerful Ryan Murphy get Madonna to show up on his allegedly hit series, instead of having Jane Lynch stand in for her? Let me hasten to say I really like Lynch in this show -- just not dolled up as Madonna. That was super-scary -- so much so, I had nightmares about it all night.

Pookie, please tell me that new show with Bradley Whitford is going to be good. What's the scoop?

Let's just say Bradley Whitford is very, very good. Do watch the first episode...

Lisa, I find Comedy Central's reaction to those threats it received about the "South Park" episode's appearance of Mohammed utterly pathetic. It boggles my mind that insulting figures from other religions is perfectly fine, but anything involving Islam is too sensitive, so they would rather censor the whole thing and give in to a bunch of terrorist threats than just let the episode speak for itself.

preaching to the choir....

After watching the astonishing mish-mash of "Idol Gives Back" (which offered only one musical performance besides the group lip-synch in its first 40 minutes!), I realized that "American Idol" is slipping for reasons beyond the loss of Paula, or the presence of an unnecessary fourth judge, or having underwhelming contestants. It's biggest problem is that Nigel Lythgoe is no longer the producer.

I don't know if Nigel should get the credit or what, but that special was definitely lacking in star-wattage. Russell Brand? Jim Carrey? Black-Eyed Peas? You know what is my definition of a music special these days? No? Well, I'll tell you -- it's a special on which the Black-eyed Peas do NOT perform... I am up to my eyeballs in Black-Eyed Peas. Is there any music trophy show or special they WON'T show up at?

Just checking to see if AI is still on. I set my DVR for +3 days just to be sure.

lol....You saw that Fox is so contrite (read, Ryan Murphy is so mad) they're rerunning Tuesday's "Glee" episode tonight at 9? For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, "Idol" ran sooo long Tuesday (and Wednesday too but that's another story), the big music number -- to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" at the end of  "Glee" got cut off on the DVR of all the Gleeks who had recorded it that night. And if there is one group you do not want to mess with on TV -- besides, that is -- it's Gleeks...

Okay it's brain candy but I like the show. Will FOX renew the show for next year?

Hard to call. The season finale numbers were definitely not great and it can't be a cheap show with all that guy-candy -- aka pyrotechnics, etc. -- I too like the show. Okay, I actually just like the lead, but it's practically the same thing.

Will she ever fade? Her 15 minutes seem to have lasted 15 weeks. For someone without any particular talent, why does she stay in the spotlight? I've never watched her shows, so I can't understand the appeal.

I think Kate Gosselin was put on TV to make us all feel better about ourselves. No matter how mess up my life is, I can watch an episode of "Jon & Kate + 8" and say to myself, "well, at least my life isn't THAT messed up" and I feel much better....

Pookie, if you were going to write the 7 millionth "why does Idol suck so much this year" piece, and then retread all the prior seasons, why bring up that debunked texting fraud story from last season? Not even an Allen fan and I think it's ridiculous. He won because he was cute enough to appeal to the tweens, inventive enough to appeal to the "real musician" true believers, and close enough to the musical stylings/personalities of the former contestants (except Allison Iraheta) to pick up more casual fans than Adam Lambert did. (Especially after Gokey blew it.) It shouldn't have shocked anyone. Also, I really think the more obviously the producers stack the deck on AI, the more viewers turn out or confound their plans. They wanted a pretty blonde guitar girl this year, and of the four or five, they've kept one. If Bowersox weren't as good as she is, and if the boys weren't as boring as they are, I think another white guy with guitar would be going straight through just because it's clear TBTB don't really want one.

Pookster, not debunked. I am willing to concede that Kris got more votes, but for one of the show's sponsors to have held Kris Allen Fan Voting parties at which they were loaning viewers cell phones and teaching them how to speed-vote for Kris was wrong, wrong, wrong. Even if Adam Lambert had won last year it still would have been wrong because it wasn't about the outcome, it was about the impropriety of one of the show's sponsors. EQUAL TIME PART: AT&T insisted at the time it was just one rogue regional manager, or some such staffer, who had arranged these parties.

Several years ago the top two AI contestents got new Ford Mustangs. Last year they have them new Fusions. I guess this year they'll new Fiestas. Gosh what a let down.

Tough economic times.

Whenever I watch Kate Gosslin perform on DWTS, I immediately flash to Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane" video. It's all I can see.

I KNEW it reminded me of something. Thank you for clearing that up.

Meanwhile, I have neglected to let everyone know that we're going to try something new here at the WaPo TeamTV chat:  for next week's TV chat, please send your most bizarre TV trivia fact to @wapoteamtv on Twitter,  I am going to pick a winner.  It's all for a good cause -- amusing me!

"Wife Swap" and that nanny show also make you feel like maybe you're doing a few things right.

Isn't this the function of so much reality TV programming? I know I feel pretty smug after each episode of  "Real Housewives of Fill in the Blank"... friends have told me I'm insufferable for at least 3 hours after every broadcast.

This doesn't bode well for the finale, does it? Who are they gonna get for that---Neil Sedaka?

Hey -- Neil Sedaka night on "Idol" was fantabulous a few seasons back.

why does Cougar Town insist on airing their show at 9:31 to 10:01, it only hurts them cuz I have other shows at 10 that block it and I end up not recording ANY of the show. Do those TV execs NOT have DVR and know how it works?

I'm guessing ABC is doing that to squeeze one more ad break into "Modern Family" -- the show that airs right before it and which is more successful, ratings-wise. You can figure out most of what goes on in the TV industry if you just follow the money...

Why do the judges seem unable to grasp the idea that the same song can have quiet parts AND loud parts? Maybe Siobhan could sing a Kelly Clarkson song for Kara while they are hanging out? Maybe even one Kara wrote!

Let's all agree to just fast forward through the judging bits after Siobhan sings. Kara DioGuardi saying in response to her most recent performance that she would rather hang out with Siobhan than buy her album -- Why The Face?!

You mean like how Stephen Stills auditioned to be one of the Monkees and was turned down because he had ugly teeth?

See -- I'm extremely amused by that. So that's perfect!

I wish they would just bring back "Battle of the Network Stars"... there's something about Telly Savalas battling Gabe Kaplan and Robert Conrad in a relay race that just makes for gripping television!

Didn't NBC try to that during the Ben Silverman Years? Or did I just dream that it was part of that "Knight Rider"/"Gladiators" season?

C'mon pookie, give "Glee" it's credit. It's the top rated non-reality show 18-49, and the 2nd highest rated non-reality overall. There's nothing "alleged" about it.

Nichy, but I take your point. The point I was trying to make is that if it's such a big deal, why can't Murphy get Madonna to actually, you know, show up? She'll do "Marriage Ref" which means her standards are very, very low....

Agreed. But they ARE the biggest act in pop music right now. The problem with Idol Give Back is that it's way tooooooooo long.

Yes -- they should have cut the Black-Eyed Peas....

In the land of TV, where a ratings hit always breeds clones, can we expect another network to try and copy Glee with a jukebox musical show? Along the same lines, can we expect more faux-doc style shows with people talking to the camera (Modern Family, Office)? Your AI Gives Back wrap was awesome, by the way.

Thank you. Meanwhile, we already have our first "Modern Family" knockoff -- when NBC saw how well it was doing, it remade "Parenthood" to be more like "Modern Family." If you had seen the first "Parenthood" pilot, with Maura Tierney in it, you'd know what I'm talking about. It was very dark and drab....

What is this new show that Bradley Whitford is on, and when does it start???

"The Good Guys", on Fox, May 19.

Time drags on, and still no DC Housewives. So, will we get a "Christmas with the Salahis" special this year, or must we wait for 2011?

My guess is we have to wait until the feds give their stamp of approval on the Comcast buy of NBC-Universal (Bravo is one of NBC-Uni's networks). My guess is Bravo's parent company doesnt' want the network to announce this show with the Salahis while that merger is under talks here in Washington. The Salahis are catnip for the network, because they'll pull in a huge rating, but they are also radioactive for the network's parent company right now what with them having embarrassed the White House and all. Just my guess...

RE: "Didn't NBC try to that during the Ben Silverman Years? Or did I just dream that it was part of that "Knight Rider"/"Gladiators" season?" YES! I had totally forgotten that. Although they used C-listers, and they paired them up with professional athletes, and one got "voted off the island" every week. So it was only kinda' like the old BNS, since there wasn't any network affiliations.... Does that count as my obscure TV trivia, or do I have to try again?

No, that's a fine entry....

Did we forget to mention Lost?

What about it? Except that it's about to be euthanized?

As a horse racing fan , I would like to protest the appellation of the name of one of America's all-time greatest race horses to a third-rate, shrill, possibly deranged television emcee. The real Seabiscuit, Horse of the Year in 1938, was an inspiration to Americans during the Depression. When he retired, he was horse racing's all time money winner. He also sired 108 foals, a claim that some others certainly can't make.

But he kinda looks like a horse -- you'll at least give me that, right?

Do you watch Survivor? If so, have you ever seen anything like the last two episodes, where a) an immunity idol is just given to an opposing tribe member with no strings, and then b) two idols are used by the same person to save two entirely other people? It's insane! and, against all odds, making this season one of the most interesting in ages (even though the cast is yet another rehash).

Okay, this is making my head hurt. Reality TV is not supposed to be that complicated: please tell me the women are all in bikinis. At least give me that to hang on to.


No. His comments are always geared towards kicking off the person the show wants off, as opposed to the person who messed up the worst that week.

So we'll kick him off the list....

Did you think Seth Aarons clothes were wearable?

Yes, absolutely -- if you are a cirque du soleil performer.

So the show has entirely given up even pretending to be run professionally? And when I think of how much of "Idol Gives Back" could have safely been cut---starting with the group lip-synch, extending through the phone-bank gag, and ending up with George Lopez---I mean, gosh, Pookie, it's sad. When has Tom Bergeron ever allowed "Dancing With the Stars" to run over?

Well, I dont think Tom Bergeron ever has allowed "Dancing" to run that long. But let's be fair -- Seabiscuit is not yet powerful enough that he dictates whether there will be some lame Group Lip Synch every week and I have no idea what Fox exec George Lopez has photos of...

In the Happy Days episode where Fonzie waterskies over a shark enclosure, no one, not even a stuntman actually jumped over a shark. Accordingly, the TV phrase "jumping the shark" is a misnomer, since no shark has actually ever been jumped on TV. Also, the show Happy Days started to suck way before Fonzie and the gang ever went to California.

another excellent entry.. I'm out of time. thanks for joining me...

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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