'American Idol,' Ready for An Unflattering Close-Up?

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Paula Abdul , American Idol
"American Idol" judge Paula Abdul allegedly aided a contestant.(Lucy Nicholson - X01565)
After beating back attacks by rabid fans and foes over three brilliant seasons, will Fox's "American Idol" be dragged down by the snapping teeth of ABC News and VotefortheWorst.com?

ABC is set tomorrow to run "Fallen Idol," its much-talked-of "Primetime Live" broadcast that, according to sources familiar with the situation, is mostly about "Idol" judge Paula Abdul and whether she coached contestant Corey Clark during the second season.

Fox had not, as of late yesterday, responded to any of the questions put to it by ABC News; a Fox rep declined to comment for this story.

Ditto ABC News, which continues to play coy as to what is in its report -- a strategy sure to drive about 15 percent more viewers to "Primetime," which is, you notice, not airing in its regular Thursday slot but on the night of the "Idol" results show. That's because it's the May ratings sweeps and ABC is not stupid.

But among the many bits in the broadcast is a message Abdul allegedly left on Clark's cell phone urging him not to respond to media inquiries, say sources familiar with the story, who insisted on remaining anonymous. The sources say the call was placed after syndicated gossip columnist Cindy Adams broke the story that Clark was shopping around a book proposal promising to tell all about his alleged relationship with Abdul.

Also in store for viewers is a look at Clark's telephone records, which allegedly show that he and Abdul spoke often and long while he was a contestant in the singing-competition series, according to some sources.

And, as part of ABC News's deal to get Clark's cooperation, we'll get to hear a portion of his new single during the newscast, one source reported.

As of last night, Abdul was standing by last week's statement that she would not dignify the allegations with a response. Her attorney also wrote to ABC last week informing the network of possible legal action if the broadcast runs, according to news reports.

Tomorrow's "Primetime" also will include appearances by second-season "Idol" contestants who did not make it as far as Clark. They complain they did not get the same help as Clark allegedly did from Abdul, including what to sing, how to look, etc.

Nonetheless, Clark didn't make it much past the 32-contestant mark. Viewers winnowed those 32 down to 12 finalists and, after three of those were voted out, Clark got the hook because word got out that he had been arrested for allegedly assaulting his teenage sister and then resisting arrest.

The "Primetime Live" report is from producer Harry Phillips and senior producer Chris Vlasto, who also produced ABC News's report on Donald Trump's finances, which aired the same night as the Donald's NBC reality series, "The Apprentice." Vlasto is better known for producing Jackie Judd's report nailing the Monica Lewinsky blue-dress story during the Clinton days.

Tomorrow's report also will include interesting behind-the-scenes footage from "Idol." Ironically, ABC News was the invited guest of "Idol" producers during the Fox show's second season; lots of footage was shot for a profile of the show that ran on "20/20" on Jan. 31, 2003.

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