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Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010
On the verge of driving a stake into its own heart with interminable audition shows, Idol finally reaches Hollywood week to separate the wheat from the chaff and end up with the Top 24 singers who'll make up the season's official talent pool.

On the verge of driving a stake into its own heart with interminable audition shows, Idol finally reaches Hollywood week to separate the wheat from the chaff and end up with the Top 24 singers who’ll make up the season’s official talent pool. The show to this point has been a typical sleight of hand in showing some promising auditions but also withholding others in order to keep a lid on the Top 24, already decided behind locked and heavily guarded doors. Amid the technocalypse, however, it’s virtually impossible to keep anything under wraps that involves two-dozen people, so not only did a story surface that one of the finalists was yanked for blabbing, but the entire Top 24 was leaked last week by a mystery source who has been accurate when letting the cat out the bag during two previous seasons. In any case, it’s down to (mostly) people who can actually sing, so hooray for Hollywood.


As the show unveiled this season’s first look at the Kodak Theater (described by Ryan Seacrest at “The Most High-Profile Stage in the World”: Hmm.), we also got our first look at new judge Ellen Degeneres, strolling out in denim and heavy makeup. News sites last week, with story lines running thin, were trying to make hay out of Ellen’s supposed comments that Simon was meaner than she thought he was. No signs of salty-vs.-sweet friction last night between the two of them, as Ellen seemed to charm about everyone, including Simon and, based on early poll results, the home audience, as well, by finding a balance between praise, criticism, and wit.


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Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010
American Idol has never been accused of being subtle, particularly during the audition weeks. But the number of sob stories being foisted on viewers this season has gotten out of hand. And, yes, I’ve made a list.

This week on Lifetime, the story of a guy/girl who overcame disability/disease/hardship to reach a lifelong dream of auditioning for American Idol and getting that golden ticket to Hollywood.


So far this season, I’ve felt like I’m watching that TV movie promo over and over. Nearly every decent singer that has gotten airtime so far seems to have a tragic tale to tell. It has happened more during the auditions this year than any season in the past, so far as I can tell. The I’m-a-special-person music starts to play, letting us know that the judges will be putting this person through before a single note is sung. Then, the pre-packaged video montage of their sob story. Oh, and if you didn’t get the point, next comes the interview where they actually sob.


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Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010

Call this episode a hooker with a heart of gold. Project Runway oh-so-cleverly spent an entire show shilling for Campbell’s Soup, and managed to look noble in the process.


The challenge was to make a red evening dress for a gala sponsored by Campbell’s AdDRESS Your Heart Program. The crassness of the designers being forced to incorporate the brand’s logo into their garments was somewhat leavened by the fact that the models this week were real women who had survived heart disease. Confronted with altruism and normal-sized women (two things that cannot be found on the Bluefly accessory wall), several of the designers seemed to lose their ability to form rational sentences. To wit:


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Monday, Feb 8, 2010

The Super Bowl was overshadowed again by its heavily hyped commercials, with advertisers paying about $2.6 million per ad this year in order to broadcast them to a large audience. While some ads are interesting, funny, weird, flashy or just stupid, they all serve as an example of what advertisers think will gather attention and money from consumers.



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Friday, Feb 5, 2010
Modern Family is more than just a very funny show. It also takes a step toward rescuing the sitcom family from the mean-spirited vein it has been stuck in for more than a decade.

The sitcom is experiencing a revival. Every broadcast network has a night devoted to the half-hour genre that had been left for dead just a few years ago. NBC has its uncomfortable workplaces, CBS is home to the spawn of Friends, and Fox has its animation broods. This year, ABC jumped back into the sitcom game as well. Most of their offerings are middling at best, but there is one standout: Modern Family


It is the story of three families—a May-December multicultural couple raising her child, a gay couple with an adopted daughter, and a nuclear unit with two parents and three kids—that all happen to be branches of a larger extended family. The December patriarch of the first family is also the father of one parent from each of the other families. Don’t worry, it is not as complicated as I made it sound. 
 
What is so refreshing about Modern Family is that it manages to be about a family where the individuals actually care about each other in a believable, non-cloying way. It avoids both the saccharine triteness of yore and the ugly animosity that has marked recent clans. For many years, I thought the live-action family sitcom was all but extinct. Turns out it was just waiting to evolve.


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