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'Idol' Parody Hits Sour Note at the Box Office

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

NBC Universal's sendup of the hit Fox singing competition "American Idol" bombed at the box office over the weekend.

"Idol" executive producer Ken Warwick is not surprised.

Although nearly 30 million viewers were bombarded with ads for "American Dreamz" during recent "Idol" broadcasts, after the flick finally opened Friday it copped a hugely lousy estimated weekend box office of $3.7 million.

Divide that by $6.41 -- the average movie ticket price in the country, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners and the Motion Picture Association of America -- and it would appear that slightly fewer than 600,000 people went to see "American Dreamz" in its opening weekend.

The flick stars Hugh Grant as Honest I'm Not Playing Simon Cowell and Dennis Quaid as Really I'm Not Supposed to Be President Bush.

Quaid's dim-bulb, non-newspaper-reading President Staton, on the advice of his slimy chief of staff, tries to bolster his terrible approval ratings by becoming a guest judge on a wildly successful television singing competition show headlined by Grant's snippy Brit judge, Martin Tweed.

Things get complicated when one of the competition's finalists turns out to be an al-Qaeda-trained terrorist whose dream is to sing Broadway show tunes.

Of course, anyone who watches "Idol" knows they no longer use celebrity guest judges -- they use celebrity guest coaches , who advise the competitors as they prepare for performance night, in return for getting to sing a tune from their latest album on the results broadcast the next night.

Verisimilitude, people!

"What fascinated me is that every single person" with a role in the film has gone on a talk show and said they've never seen "American Idol," Warwick said during a phone news conference yesterday.

He speculated that the actors were all told by the studio, "Whatever you do, don't say you'd seen ['Idol']" or that it "influenced your performance in any way."

Actually, Quaid, on a recent edition of "The Daily Show," was pretty frank about Staton being Bush and "American Dreamz" being "American Idol," although he added, "This is all fictional, though."

Warwick insisted he's not bothered by the film rip-off.

People have been copying the show since the second episode "and making a pretty lousy job of it," he said. "American Dreamz," he added, is "just another one for the pile."

* * *

A producer for Maury Povich's syndicated talk show filed a multimillion-dollar sexual harassment lawsuit against him and members of his staff Monday, claiming she was subjected to sexual remarks and made to watch pornographic movies and expose her body, the Associated Press reports.

Bianca Nardi, 28, of Fort Lee, N.J., says in court papers that she had a heavy workload because she had to do jobs that should have been performed by staffer Donna Benner Ingber, who was having an "intimate and sexual relationship" with Povich, according to the AP report.

Povich is married to former TV news anchor Connie Chung, who co-hosts "Weekends With Maury & Connie" on NBC cable network MSNBC.

NBC Universal, in a statement sent to The TV Column, said the company had been served with the complaint. "We do not believe that Ms. Nardi was a victim of unlawful sexual harassment and intend to defend this lawsuit vigorously," the statement said. "NBC Universal is committed to maintaining a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment."

According to Nardi's suit, she joined the show's staff in June 2000, was promoted twice and worked there until this month, when she took a temporary medical leave.

Throughout her employment, Nardi's court papers say, Paul Faulhaber, executive producer of "The Maury Povich Show," ordered her to wear provocative clothing. Court papers say Faulhaber, also a defendant in the suit, directed her to wear concealed cameras and microphones for undercover assignments such as going to bars to secretly videotape married men agreeing to have sex with her, and forced her to watch porn with him, court papers said.

She complied for fear of being fired and when she did complain, Faulhaber retaliated by making her do other demeaning jobs, the AP reports, citing court papers.

The lawsuit also names NBC Universal Television and Povich's production company, Mopo, as defendants.

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