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Two Sides to Every Coin - May 10

Conflicting stories are nothing new in the Numbers Game, although usually cases are more of a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full variety. A perfect example would be the eleventh-hour replacement of TPIR with CSI. Glass-half-empty: the bean counters at CBS no longer see Bob Barker as the Friday night cash cow he was a year or two ago and would rather go the safe approach. Glass-half-full: they are saving it for a time and place where people would be more likely to watch, also going for a safety rather than a risk during sweeps (see last week's "Sweeps, the Universe, and Everything").

But that's another column for another day. It's next week's, if memory serves.

Then there are the times when the numbers can go either way. If we're bringing up the past week in American Idol (this one last time, I promise!), aside from a lot of airing of grievances, there was really nothing going on in the aluminum world of nationally-elected pop stardom.

Before we go into the numbers, just another aside... I didn't see the special. I watched CSI after Idol. I couldn't give two holy damns about the whole fricking thing, and, on a personal note, I'm sick to death of hearing about it... There. Now that I got that out of my system, I can continue.

Let's take a look at the numbers for last week's two shows of "American Idol".

Tuesday's show, the performances, posted a 14.5/23 in the 8pm hour. What that means is that about 23 million people were watching and that 14.5 percent of all televisions were tuned to Fox during the 8pm hour. Last week: 14.7/23. The week before: 13.9/23. The week before that: 14.5/23. In short, over the last month... no change of any note.

Over to Wednesday's show. Last week, we saw Scott get the royal kick in the can. And by "we", I mean 15.1 percent of all televisions in the US and about 23 million people.   Last week, 14.4/22. The week before, 13.4/21. The week before that, 14.5/22, up against the premiere of NBC's much-ballyhooed-but-henceforth-wavering "Revelations". Again, nothing we haven't seen in the weeks before and nothing we won't see before the finale.

But that's nothing that we haven't seen before. The real test is tonight, when the final four take the stage, with all the cards finally on the table.

And speaking of which, from here we go to the PrimeTime Live special episode, "Fallen Idol", in which many former contestants debunk Corey Clark's claim, even though there was nothing stopping ABC from airing said claim. Then again, we should always hear both sides of the story, even though it's clear to anyone what side ABC was going for.

But what happened that night? Let's look at the numbers.

That night, the "Primetime Live" special won the 10pm hour with a 9.2/15, little over half of the audience of Idol one hour before, and building off of a third-place "Alias" (6.0/9 for the hour). This wouldn't be surprising given the overwhelming popularity of anyone and anything (well, almost anything, Justin) associated with the franchise since its debut in the summer of 2002.

And then there was the article linked from this very page documenting "our collective yawn," which stated...

"If ABC had really wanted to expose 'Idol,' it would have better spent its energies looking into the allegations of voting irregularities that arose at the end of last season. As the message boards make clear, what viewers care about is the contest, who's going to win, and against that some sideline sexual hanky-panky is hardly worth a nod. A recent America Online poll found that only 54 percent of respondents believe the "Idol" voting is fair. And 47 percent they didn’t believe Clark’s allegations."

In any event, ABC stands to gain from the entire experience, but whether that has done enough to damage the glittering star in Fox's primetime sky remains to be seen. If public opinion had any forbearance, though, the answer would be no. Even though it did just enough to get the word buzzing around in our heads, if we step back and let Corey Whatshisname fade back into obscurity, then we can all sit back, watch a pop singer get inducted into the firmament of radio stardom, and wait another six months for the cycle to begin anew. After all, at its heart, "American Idol's" just light entertainment, no more than a game show, and no less as such either.

Hell, if it was enough for Paula to debase the argument by poking fun at it on SNL, how salacious can it really be in the grand and immortal scheme of things? And besides, any one franchise that can survive several contestants mysteriously quitting for one reason or another, a deadlock that awarded a season to two Idols, a "racist" voting flap, and week after week of the likes of Jasmine Trias, Nikki McKibbin, and Scott Savol can surely survive this.

But for now, some food for thought: it's a common human trait and one of our most primal... to make a mountain out of a mole hill, just to see it turn back into a mole hill again.

Next week, more on the situation mentioned in the first paragraph. Until then, remember to say what you will about some folk... but the numbers never lie.

Chico Alexander
once wished at 12 that he was with Paula Abdul. He can be reached at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.


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