In The End...
AMERICAN IDOL - If there's
one thing we learned this season, it's that people make
their judgments on the Tuesday episodes. Did I expect
Carrie Underwood to defeat Bo Bice? No, as I think that
America got it wrong this season. That being said, I did
think that Carrie outsung Bo on the Tuesday finals, and
Simon's endorsement of her plus the tearing up at the
end of Tuesday's show obviously didn't hurt.
What could have hurt Bo? His criminal record. Is it
fair? Of course not, and it should not be a factor - but
I have a feeling that it was. America doesn't want their
role models to have a rap sheet, and fair or not, that's
what Bo had. This contest is also a game of consistency,
and Bo's reputation of 'phoning' it in and not taking it
as seriously as some of the other contestants may have
come back to bite him against someone like Carrie, who
may not have been perfect, but clearly wanted it more.
Was Carrie the better singer? I would think not, and
this time, style may have won out over substance - or
country may have won over rock and roll. Either way,
we'll see how they do in the battle that really counts -
their album sales.
One final thought here - I am always amused by critics
who are quick to blast the show as 'The Worst Season
Ever'. These are usually the same critics who are either
old jaded writers who still think that singers need to
pay their dues in order to be talented or the
'self-proclaimed' writers who are experts after only
watching a handful of episodes (and who clearly just
don't 'get it') or think that they can get credibility
by tossing barbs at the contestants or the judges
without actually analyzing what they are singing and how
they are singing it. I am not going to muckrake, but you
should know what I am talking about when you read one of
their columns. Conversely, my favorite movie critic is
Roger Ebert, because although he may not like the movie,
he knows what the people want and he rates movies based
on that. I wish more television critics could be like
him and judge things based on how other people perceive
it instead of their own biases.
The idea of American Idol has always been to take an
unknown with limited training and make them a star -
nothing more, and nothing less. They are all talented
people and although we know they are going to have their
moments, they are still amateurs and should be treated
as such. Do they sound bad sometimes? Sure they do, and
that's why critics are there, but never forget to go
after the song or performance, and not the person - they
are all human, and deserve to be treated as such.
One of the reasons why this season, in my opinion, was
one of the best ever? Of the 12 finalists, you had 8
specific music genres, which made it the best Idol ever
(being the most eclectic) - but maybe the worst Idol
ever in some people's minds, because you had no 2 or 3
universal favorites. You will probably even have the
lowest sales ever from an Idol with Carrie's Album - but
it's not because of their talent as much as it is their
niche. Country doesn't sell as well as R and B or Pop,
but with 8 people who you could have seen walk away with
the title, it makes this season possibly the best ever.
Was Carrie the best technical singer in the group? No.
Did she deserve to win it this year? Absolutely - she is
very talented and incredibly charismatic as her country
audience welcomed her with open arms. This was a
wonderful season and I'll be looking to see how they
could top it off next year.
JEOPARDY - Congratulations to Brad Rutter for defeating
Ken Jennings and Jerome Vered for one of the best ideas
this season. There were lots of memorable moments of the
tournament and it was fun to see the best of the best go
after each other.
I do have a gripe, though - this is a tournament for $2
million. Too many times in this tournament have we seen
people compete not to win - but to not lose. In the
first game, both Jerome and Ken had golden opportunities
to try to blow the game open and to try to force their
combatants to come back by making major bets, but
neither of them pulled the trigger. As a result, they
got to watch Rutter outclass them in the second game and
then blow them away outright in the third game.
It's a classic sports cliché, but so true - if you play
not to lose, then you will eventually do so. It was a
great tournament, but if I'm playing for 2 million with
a guarantee of $5,000 just for showing up, you better
believe that if I go out, I will show more fire than
STUMP THE SCHWAB - First of all, congratulations to Adam
Garfield for winning the second season of Stump the
Schwab. Second of all, at the last Game Show Congress
meeting (PLUG PLUG PLUG - Don't forget to gregister for
GSC4 by going to
www.gameshowcongress.com - PLUG PLUG PLUG), I made a
mention that the old adage "The two hardest things to
work with in television are animals and young children"
should be amended to add "and the Schwab".
After seeing the past season of Stump The Schwab, I more
than stand by that comment. I have never seen so many
tension spots blown because of Schwab belittling his
opponent by telling him the right answer in a clear
pressure-packed moment when it should be emcee Stuart
Scott who is controlling the action. You can see it in
Scott's eyes when he anti-climactically gives the bonus
round clinching answer, and at the end of the show, when
he says 'Hugs and Handpounds', you wonder if he wants
his hand pounds upside of the Schwab's head.
The Schwab is still coming off as non-charismatic. Let's
not confuse this with unlikable. Ben Stein was the
villain of Win Ben Stein's Money, but he was full of
charisma, and you can even go as far as to say that he
was the villain's anti-villain. The Schwab doesn't come
off as unlikable as much as he comes off as a bore. The
only personality that he shows off is more of a spoiled
child who is silent and whines when he loses and
completely ruins the tension when he wins. And the
finale, when he gets carted off in a golden cart with
women by his side after successfully defending ESPN's
$25,000? It's never a good sign when you get upstaged by
a golden cart.
The good news here? All of these things that the Schwab
is doing can be fixed. The Schwab himself is very
knowledgeable and is still a good fit for the show,
which I reluctantly admit did significantly improve
between last season and this season. All I ask is that
Stuart Scott - or anyone in charge - PLEASE give him
pointers on what to do - and what NOT to do - in front
of the camera.
STREET SMARTS - The end of an era happened when Teresa
Lee won $100,000 on the last ever episode of Street
Smarts. It goes much further than the end of a great
show with a great host - it could be the last syndicated
game show you'll see in a while. The syndicated market
is glutted with talk shows and court shows, and since
they get the ratings, it will be very hard for them to
be uprooted by a typical game show that would be more
expensive to produce.
Besides, there's a much easier way to get your game show
on television. How? Cable. With the almost-infinite
number of cable channels, it's much easier to pitch a
show to a specific cable channel and have them pick up
the tab instead of going to some wacky NATPE conference,
sit at a booth and hope that someone loves you enough to
add you on their schedule. Add to it that repeats only
have so much value (A 6th repeated episode of ER,
anyone?) and it seems like a no-brainer when you hear
that many stations are desperate for new material. It
seems like this is the way to go, because though there
are no new game shows at NATPE...
THE GAME SHOW SCENE IN GENERAL - ...there is plenty to
look at this summer. A number of years ago, I said that
game shows will find a summer niche and even when the
prime time fury dies down, there will still be plenty of
game shows. That seems to be the case - there will be a
whopping 31 game shows debuting this summer, encasing
all sorts of genres. Sure, some will crash and burn, but
some of them will succeed and become cult hits. Will one
of them become the next Amazing Race? We'll have to tune
in and see...but it will be fun doing so.
Here's hoping that your Memorial Day Weekend is memorial
- for the right
Gordon Pepper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.