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In The End...
Gordon Pepper

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 playing safe.

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 - 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


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