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It's a Lock: How Can Sanjaya Lose With Hair Like That?

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gwen Stefani, who was supposed to be the second biggest thing to ever happen to "American Idol," behind Prince, was totally upstaged last night by Sanjaya Malakar's hair.

The hair, which, let's face it, already has won this edition of "Idol," gave its best performance to date, this time playing a ponyhawk -- seven ponytails in a row to look like a faux-hawk.

Sadly, the hair had neglected to send the Ponyhawk Week memo to Sanjaya himself, who thought it was On the Good Ship Lollipop Week. He sang a Stefani tune about wanting to wash in some chick's used bathwater because she's so naughty and hot, but he came across like a shy little child who didn't really understand the lyrics, while his ponyhawked hair flounced and strutted like a drag queen.

(Yes, we were told this week the Idolettes would all be singing "pop songs," which was later revised to "songs done by people who had a major impact on Gwen Stefani." Turns out the singer who's had the biggest impact on Stefani is Stefani -- three of the night's 10 songs were from her No Doubt days.)

Stefani had been enormously helpful coaching Sanjaya, telling the camera afterward how she feels for him because the song's too hard for him, adding philosophically, "and he chose it, so good luck to him tonight."

Judge Randy Jackson said he was once again left speechless by Sanjaya but added, "Come on, man," in re his singing.

Judge Paula Abdul, in an "American Idol" first, used the word "gumption," which we will now use in a sentence:

If, Sanjaya, you have the gumption to come out with your hair all done up like one of the Lipizzaner stallions, why did you sing like a frightened pony at the petting zoo?

"I presume there was no mirror in your dressing room?" judge Simon Cowell asked Sanjaya rhetorically.

"You're just jealous because you couldn't pull it off," Sanjaya snapped back -- it was the hair talking. And suddenly, we think we know which of the guy singers told the other Idolettes weeks ago he had this competition sewn up. Show host Ryan Seacrest did a "blind item" about it on his radio show back around the time Antonella Barba got booted from the competition, but he has yet to reveal which of the guys was that cocky.

Anyway, Simon, exasperated, told Sanjaya & Hair: "I don't think it matters anymore what we [the judges] say. I genuinely don't. You are in your own universe. If people like you, good luck."

"Well, thank you!" Sanjaya shot back.

Nothing could top the Ponyhawk during the entire 67-minute broadcast. Not even Stefani.

Sure, the other nine contestants performed. Some were pretty good, but, turns out, when you're limited to songs by people who had a huge impact on Stefani, you're mostly confined to her No Doubt material, Police tunes, Donna Summer songs -- picture Melinda Doolittle singing "Heaven Knows" while looking like one of your mother's friends who'd squeezed herself into her daughter's Pucci knockoff to attend karaoke night on a cruise ship bound for Majorca -- and Haley Scarnato simpering her way through "True Colors," which was a crime against Cyndi Lauper. It doesn't make for much of a night. Thank God for Sanjaya's Hair.

* * *

Fox says it's beefing up the "American Idol" results show from 30 minutes to one hour a month ahead of schedule in response to producers' pleas. But the change, which will expand the Wednesday show into the 9:30 half-hour, won't happen until April 11 -- the same day and time as ABC's premiere of its sitcom "Notes From the Underbelly."

This is the second scheduling shock ABC has received at the hand of Fox in just a few days. Last week, ABC discovered this week's "Idol" performance show would run seven minutes past the hour. That's seven minutes of "Idol" going head-to-head with the first results show on the new edition of "Dancing With the Stars" -- which ABC had so carefully scheduled to steer clear of "Idol."

The trades cited "sources" telling them the change would give the booted contestant a chance to sing one last time. The Booted Idolette's Teary-Eyed Swansong used to be a highlight of results night, only now the broadcast is jammed so full of Other Stuff there's barely room for the contestants.

Last week's half-hour results show, according to The Washington Post Team TV Stopwatch, offered viewers a full 15 minutes of commercials and/or ads masquerading as programming -- you know, the weekly mugging with " 'Til Death" star Brad Garrett, who just happens to be in the audience and whose sitcom just happens to follow the "Idol" results show, etc.

The Idolettes themselves were the focus for a mere five minutes of a show so crammed with plugs that the producers had to cut not only the Teary-Eyed Swansong but also the bit in which the judges recap the previous night's performances and the bit where they get to say how shocked they are -- or not -- by the voting results. Last Wednesday, the judges got 2 seconds of on-air time.

* * *

Thanks to "American Idol," Fox last week won the 2006-07 TV season -- which doesn't officially wrap until May -- in the 18-to-49 age bracket, the one on which the broadcast networks say they base virtually all their ad sales. CBS won the week with a basketball-propped-up Friday and Saturday and actual original episodes of its scripted series.

Here's a look at the week's victors and vanquished:

WINNERS

"Dancing With the Stars." Dance competition's latest-edition debut, featuring highly promotable, one-legged, cause-y former Beatle's estranged wife, cops ABC's largest Monday 8 p.m. audience -- nearly 22 million viewers -- in more than 15 years.

"Planet Earth." The first three hours of Discovery's lush documentary clocked nearly 6 million viewers Sunday night -- the network's biggest haul since its docudrama "The Flight That Fought Back" in November '05. Discovery says 12 million people sampled at least a minute of the program, which was more than five years in the making.

"Bring It On: All or Nothing." Nearly 5 million people caught the cable TV premiere of the second direct-to-video sequel in the (gak) "Bring It On" high school cheerleading saga. It was ABC Family's most watched movie premiere ever and the week's No. 1 basic cable flick. Sunday from 8 to 10, nearly 11 million people were watching Discovery or ABC Family.

"American Idol." Fox has already snagged first place for the season among the 18-to-49-year-olds advertisers crave thanks to "Idol," which logged 30 million viewers on last Tuesday's performance night and 27 mil on Wednesday's advertising, er, results night. Last year, Fox didn't take the demographic crown until the final night of the TV season, which also happened to be the night Prince performed on the "Idol" finale.

" 'Til Death." Minutes after Brad Garrett camped it up onstage with the Idolettes, his sitcom copped nearly 15 million viewers on Fox -- the network's biggest sitcom haul in more than three years and the biggest sitcom draw on any network so far this season.

LOSERS

Miss USA. Even the lure of seeing outgoing Miss USA Tara Conner post-rehab couldn't keep Donald Trump's chick pageant from falling to its smallest audience on record, 7.4 million viewers.

"Six Degrees." ABC's returning serialized drama scored just 4.5 million viewers Friday after a "Grey's Anatomy" rerun. That's about 2 million fewer than the network posted in the slot last month with mostly newsmags.

"Grease: You're the One That I Want." Nearly 7 million watched the wrap-up episode of NBC's singing/dancing competition. That was its best performance since late January, but it came nowhere close to the debut audience of 11.5 million.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: Fox's Tuesday and Wednesday "American Idol"; ABC's Thursday "Grey's Anatomy" and "Dancing With the Stars" debut; CBS's "CSI: Miami," "NCIS" and "Criminal Minds"; Fox's " 'Til Death"; NBC's Monday "Deal or No Deal"; and CBS's "Cold Case."

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