'Primetime' Indulges Its 'Idol' Curiosity

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

ABC News has discovered "startling" things about Fox's singing competition series "American Idol" -- just in time for the May sweeps!

In a news release more breathless than even an NBC promo for "ER" (you know, the ones that scream "a bomb goes off in the ER, Thursday at 10!!" only the "bomb" turns out to be some character having a nervous breakdown during his/her shift), ABC News announced yesterday that a special hour-long "Primetime Live" report "will explore explosive claims about behind-the-scenes activities at 'American Idol,' the hit television show that became a cultural phenomenon."

And, in a bit of understatement befitting a network news division, the special edition of "Primetime Live" has been titled "Fallen Idol."

ABC News had not contacted anyone at Fox with questions about "explosive claims" on "American Idol" as of presstime, according to a Fox rep. (However, ABC News has contacted public relations firm BWR, which represents the show, asking to interview the "American Idol" judges and the producers, the agency confirmed.)

The news release was unusually short and coy for a broadcast network news division, giving no indication of what these "explosive claims" are.

There have been lots of news reports lately about a book proposal from Corey Clark -- an "American Idol" contestant from a couple of editions back who was booted after the Web site the Smoking Gun posted a report saying he was due in court that month for allegedly assaulting his teenage sister and resisting arrest.

Clark claims in his book proposal that he had an affair with show judge Paula Abdul, and that she promised to help him pick tunes to sing during the competition and to spend millions promoting his career.

Oh, and Clark is preparing to release his first album.

In its report this week, the Globe, which seems to have the most dope on Clark's book proposal, quotes TV critic Marc Berman saying, "If the charges are true, then this is a huge scandal that could kill 'American Idol.' If a judge and a contestant have an affair, the future of the entire show is in jeopardy."

A call placed late yesterday to Abdul's publicist had not been returned at press time.

At the end of its posting on the Globe report on Clark's book proposal, the Web site Mediabistro yesterday cleverly added the words "Twenty One," "Charles Van Doren" and "Quiz Show," in order, it said, to make sure the story shows up "on the Google search about to be conducted by every lazy cultural commentator in the country."

Now we have, too.

"Fallen Idol" is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. "Primetime Live" normally airs on Thursday. But, of course, Wednesday is results night on "American Idol."

Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame notwithstanding, America is just not that into Ryan Seacrest.

A measly 4 million viewers tuned in to watch the Seacrest-hosted and executive-produced "American Top 40 Live" from 8 to 10 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

The special was based on Premiere Radio Networks' nationally syndicated "American Top 40" radio countdown show, which, in one of those incredible coincidences, is also hosted and executive-produced by Ryan Seacrest.

The live special, in which Ciara, J-Kwon, Black Eyed Peas and Avril Lavigne made special appearances to discuss how the "American Top 40" countdown show has propelled them to stardom, got trounced by a CBS movie about bionic locusts and a "Desperate Housewives" clip job called "Desperate Housewives: Sorting Out the Dirty Laundry."

"American Top 40 Live" had aired just four days after Fox devoted a good chunk of its "American Idol" results show to fawning over that show's host, who in yet another of those incredible coincidences just happens to be Ryan Seacrest, for getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Which, in another of those incredible coincidences, had happened that same day.

After long and arduous negotiations with itself as well as the cast and crew of "Will & Grace," NBC Universal is wrapping up a deal to renew the sitcom for an eighth season, according to a source with knowledge of the talks who declined to be identified because keeping his job is more important than seeing his name in The TV Column.

NBC Universal will produce at least 24 episodes of the series for next season but will receive a smaller fee per episode from NBC Universal, only about $4 million instead of the current $5 million per this season, according to trade paper reports. This is understandable given that the show tumbled in the ratings this season without its "Friends" lead-in.

This season "W&G" is averaging 10.4 million viewers and ranks 43rd out of 194 shows. At the same point last season, it was clocking an average of more than 15 million viewers and ranked No. 16.

Among the 18- to 49-year-olds NBC and advertisers covet, the sitcom ranks No. 27 this season; same point last season it was a top 10 show.

On the other hand, "Will & Grace" is one of this season's most upscale series. According to a recent report from media buyer Magna Global, the series has the second highest ranking among 25- to 54-year-olds in households with an annual income of $125,000 or more, behind only the third edition of NBC's "The Apprentice."

In addition to that minimum of 24 episodes, trade papers reported, NBC Universal has ordered one of those clip-show specials that generally run right before a series finale.

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