We Watch . . . So You Don't Have To

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Shocking night on "American Idol."

Andrea Bocelli, Tenor Muzak Man, was supposed to be the guest coach, only his "Amore" album producer, musician and songwriter David Foster, took over, seen at the top of the show saying things like "Are these the finalists?" -- and not in a good way.

Katharine McPhee wasted no time sucking up to Foster, saying this week she'd picked "I Have Nothing," written by someone named David Foster.

Oh, are you David Foster?

Not the David Foster!

Then she just burst into opera like you or I would start humming the "Friends" theme song, and totally charmed the pants off Bocelli. It's sickening.

"I think Katharine has a great future," Foster simpered.

McPhee, who suffers from performance dyslexia, finally figured out how to distract viewers from this crippling inability to move naturally onstage -- cleavage.

Lots and lots of cleavage.

"Great moves in that dress," oozed Ryan Seacrest, who has completed his transformation from T-shirt-wearing pop-culture-phenomenon-show host to banker, in a bespoke suit, pink striped shirt and blue silk tie.

As if it knew some great evil was about to befall, Paula Abdul's microphone shut itself off; she could be heard only faintly telling McPhee something about "know what your money is" and "back pocket."

Like that first little tremble of the ground you felt in your bed in L.A. on the morning of Jan. 17, 1994, right before the Northridge earthquake hit.

Elliott Yamin -- this season's best singer by a mile -- sang Donny Hathaway's "A Song for You" and things really got weird.

Paula started sobbing: "You move me! . . . You've moved me from the beginning!"

Paula also wanted Yamin to know she thinks he's very handsome.

(And producers of ABC newsmag "Primetime," smelling another May sweeps special, began to furiously e-mail each other.)

Simon Cowell -- the only judge worth listening to -- called Yamin's performance "a vocal master class . . . superb."

Then Kellie Pickler sang "Unchained Melody" because it reminded her of that sweet little pottery scene in "Ghost" and she bemoaned the fact that "I don't have anybody to play pottery with."

Hello? Patrick Swayze was dead in that flick, Trampy Barbie.

Bocelli said she seemed "very happy and I like her -- this is important."

"What color hair does she have?" Foster snidely asked Bocelli, who is blind.

"Blond," Bocelli responded.

"Wow," Foster said, after which Trampy Barbie trudged her way through what Simon called the Neverending Song and he was right, as usual.

Little Paris Bennett sang "The Way We Were" but voters won't remember it because she got totally upstaged by what happened next.

And no, we don't mean spotting Tori Spelling in the audience.

When Taylor Hicks sang "Just Once," Paula said he looked "handsome as heck" (more frantic e-mailing among "Primetime" producers) and when Simon started to trash-talk his performance, Paula leapt up and shouted Simon down, screaming, "We love you!" like a woman wailing to her demon lover.

" Paula , I am the one who was talking!" Simon yelled back to no avail, while Paula turned to the audience with a "back me up here, people!" look.

By the time Chris Daughtry did his psycho-stalker rendition of "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman," Paula was utterly out of control.

"LOVE YOU!" she hollered, jumping up and down.

"We all love you!

"Love!

"You!"

* * *

Armed with a Sing Along With Rod episode of "American Idol," featuring songs loved by your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, Fox pulled into a tie with ABC for first place this season among the 18- to 49-year-olds advertisers covet. Go figure.

Here's a look at the week's bewitched and bewildered:

WINNERS

"American Idol." Last week's competition, featuring tunes by George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Isham Jones, etc., and coaching by 61-year-old rocker Rod Stewart, outstripped its combined five-network competition by nearly 30 percent among 18- to 49-year-olds.

"Unan1mous." Airing immediately after the "American Songbook" voting-results broadcast of "Idol," Fox's underground torture series continued to rank as the No. 1 new series this season in that demographic group craved by advertisers. When we figure out what it all means, we'll get back to you.

"Deal or No Deal." NBC's one bright spot last week was Monday's chicks-with-money-in-briefcases series, which beat Fox's highly hyped "Prison Break" in its hour by nearly 30 percent among young viewers.

LOSERS

"Celebrity Cooking Showdown." Suffering succotash -- those were some kind of stinky numbers NBC's sounded-good-on-paper celebrity cookoff series scored! After three consecutive nights, NBC came as close as it could to canceling the five-night special on which it had too many product-placement deals to actually scrub: It burned off the remaining two episodes Saturday night. And that brought NBC the smallest audience in two years of any Big Four on a Saturday night -- just over 3 million viewers.

Miss USA Pageant. Friday's pageant scored 7.8 million viewers on NBC -- about where it was when CBS decided not to renew the contract to air the chick parade after 2003.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: Fox's Tuesday and Wednesday "American Idol" and "House"; CBS's "CSI," "Without a Trace," "CSI: Miami," "Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island" and "NCIS"; ABC's "Desperate Housewives"; and CBS's "The Unit."

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