'Idol's' Still a Tough Act to Follow

Kelli Williams and Tim Roth in "Lie to Me," which precedes "Idol."
Kelli Williams and Tim Roth in "Lie to Me," which precedes "Idol." (By Mike Yarish -- Fox)

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By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama Maintains "Lie," Disrespects "Idol"!

That should have been yesterday's headline. Sadly, it was not. Here's what happened:

Back in early January, Fox, which had noted the ratings success of CBS's "The Mentalist" -- about a guy who uses his keen powers of observation to solve crimes -- announced that it would debut its drama "Lie to Me" -- about a guy who uses his keen powers of observation to solve crimes -- in the plum post-"American Idol" Wednesday-night-at-9 time slot.

Once again this year, Fox decided that the Wednesday "Idol" results show would move to 9 p.m., once viewers got to start voting -- so "Lie" would move to 8 o'clock. In late January, Fox sent out a memo to that effect, and the change was to have started this week.

When Fox found out, in early February, that the White House had scheduled President Obama's first speech to the joint houses of Congress for Tuesday, which meant next week's two-hour performance "Idol" would be bumped from Tuesday to Wednesday, causing "Lie" to be preempted -- "Lie's" second preemption in three weeks -- Fox sent out a memo that it would instead keep Wednesday's "Idol" in the 8 p.m. berth until March 11 -- as originally announced in December.

Sadly, all that news got past a trade reporter, who discovered Monday that "Lie" and "Idol" were swapping time slots, which would mean that the traditional Wednesday "Idol" results show would air in the traditional Wednesday "Idol" results show's traditional 9 p.m. time slot -- the same time slot in which ABC airs its struggling "Lost."

"Fox moves 'Idol' against 'Lost,' " the reporter blogged late Monday.

That, in turn, caused the Web site Defamer to write " 'Lost' faces a new villain: permanently rescheduled 'American Idol,' " yesterday morning, with a link to the trade reporter's blog.

The story spread like a rash through a "Real World" house.

" 'American Idol' to Take on 'Lost'!" shrieked Yahoo.com, TVWeek.com, Comcast.net, CNBC.com, MSNBC.com and IDon'tKnowMyTVFromMy[Heinie].org, as though this were, um, news.

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