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A Phlegmsy Excuse for a Commercial

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page C07

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Watching "American Idol" last night, we were revolted, shocked and sickened.

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Oh, and Nikko Smith got the least viewer votes, so he's out. Scott Savol got the second least, so there's hope he'll get whacked next week. All in all, not bad.

What really has our knickers knotted, however, is that we turned on "Idol" expecting to see a wholesome half-hour of wannabe pop stars being humiliated on national television, and instead we got ambushed by a close-up shot of two enormous loogies hanging from a tree during some lame don't-smoke ad.

According to the ad, there is an age when younger guys are interested in hot chicks but also interested in competing to see who can cough up the biggest wad of phlegm and spit it up into a tree branch. Smokers, we learned, produce more phlegm than nonsmokers, which puts nonsmoking guys at a total disadvantage in a Loogie-Hacking-Up competition. On the other hand, the ad taught us, if a hot young chick is walking by, it's better to have a smaller loogie fall from a tree onto your head than a really big fat juicy one. Yeah, like guys didn't know that already.

Still, the show wasn't a total loss. Last season's winner, Fantasia Barrino, screamed and stomped her way through some song that's probably on her CD, after which she advised the remaining competitors that the way to win is to come out onstage and act ugly.

Ruben Studdard, who won "Idol" two seasons ago, wasn't allowed to perform; he got to wave from the audience. Fox was saving him to sing in the following half-hour, in a bit part on the new Fox sitcom "Life on a Stick," about workers at a fast-food outlet in a shopping mall.

Between Fantasia's act, Ruben's waving and host Ryan Seacrest's blah, blah with the show's three judges, Randy, Paula and Simon, there wasn't time for Seacrest's Torture the Contestants ritual that does so much to attract more than 20 million viewers each week to Wednesday's voting results show.

Instead, Seacrest right away read off the names of the three lowest vote-getters: Nikko Smith, Scott Savol and Vonzell Solomon, who, week in and week out, delivers one of the show's best performances. Seacrest only had time to torture Vonzell briefly before sending her back to safety, then he tortured Scott until the commercial break, after which he broke the bad news to Nikko, who took it graciously, being an old hand at it. He was booted once before, only to be brought back when another finalist dropped out mysteriously, telling "Idol" viewers that they hadn't seen the last of him. They haven't seen him since.


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