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Judgment day arrives, finally, for the new 'American Idol' panel

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; C06

"Annoucingseason 10 Idol team 2morrw at The Forum. You are going to love the mix!," Ryan Seacrest, "American Idol" host and keystroke-saver, tweeted Tuesday morning.

Late last Thursday, Fox acknowledged that the new "Idol" judge's panel was essentially unveilable but said that it would not do any unveiling until a news conference Wednesday morning. By the way, at the same venue, they will be wrapping up the last of the national contestant auditions for the show's next -- and first Simon Cowell-less -- season.

That tryout is being held near Los Angeles, at the Forum, which is the former home of the L.A. Lakers.

Only invited members of the press who agree to wear closed-toed shoes -- not kidding! -- will be able to attend the official "American Idol" New Judge Panel unveiling at 10 a.m. PT. Fox did not elaborate about its no-open-toed-shoes policy; one of The Reporters Who Cover Television speculated closed-toed was regulation because they would be stepping into some deep horseradish at the event.

We continue to suggest concerned parties put money on Jennifer Lopez, who, according to reports, signed a deal for the gig, though it may be just a one-year agreement. That's not normally considered a resounding vote of confidence. On the other hand, Ellen DeGeneres had signed a multi-year deal to be a judge on the singing competition series -- and she was out after just one season.

Also expected to be unmasked as a new judge: aging rock squirt Steven Tyler.

They would be replacing not only Cowell, who left to work on a U.S. version of his Brit hit "X Factor" for Fox, and DeGeneres, who "decided" after one season that she wasn't a good fit, but also Kara DioGuardi, who "decided," on Take Out the Trash Day (the Friday before a holiday weekend -- in this case, Labor Day) that now was the perfect time to return to obscurity.

And, of course, the new judges will be joined by Randy Jackson, who somehow is the only surviving original "Idol" judge.

What's Wolf's intent?

The tenth, eight-episode season of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" will be its last, USA network and Dick Wolf announced Tuesday.

Or will it?

Vincent D'Onofrio, who played Detective Robert Goren for eight seasons, will be back for the 10th and last season, the two parties said.

Or did they?

"The plan is for this to be the series finale, but with a Dick Wolf franchise, one really never knows until it's over," Jeff Wachtel, president for original programming at USA, said in Tuesday's announcement. Please listen for sound of celestial gavel when the solemn moment arrives.

"Only time will tell if this is a fond farewell or a renaissance for Detective Robert Goren but everyone both here and in New York is ecstatic about going back to work on a show that's a passion for all of us. Signed, Brett Favre," Dick Wolf added while, we assume, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

Universal Cable Productions, the NBC Universal-owned studio that co-produces "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" with Wolf Films, has given a pilot commitment for a new project with Wolf Films. That's for suresies.

An expansive empire

Nearly 5 million people watched the very first telecast of the very first episode of HBO's Martin Scorsese exec-produced period mob drama "Boardwalk Empire" -- the pay cable net's largest premiere crowd since "Deadwood" was unveiled right after an episode of "The Sopranos" more than six years ago. "Boardwalk" had no lead-in to speak of for its debut.

HBO wasted no time announcing it had picked up a second season of the series, which stars the unlikely Steve Buscemi as the lead heavy, operating in Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition, when the sale of alcohol became illegal throughout the United States -- and profitable in select places.

HBO re-ran the premiere episode at 10:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Sunday night, and the show collected more than 7 million viewers.

Sarah Palin, dance critic

Former Alaska governor and current TLC reality series star Sarah Palin says her daughter's cha-cha on "Dancing With the Stars" on Monday night "is a story of perseverance, taking personal responsibility and keeping her head up while having faith."

We know that's what we were thinking as we watched Bristol strip off the drab gray business suit, reveal a brilliant Tina Turner-esque red mini-dress dripping with eyelash fringe and shake her booty to Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)."

The interview with Sarah Palin about her teenage daughter's TV dancing debut comes compliments of In Touch Weekly Magazine, which spoke to Bristol's mom in Wasilla, where she had a party in her living room Monday to watch the ABC reality series. (She was not in the audience, as had been hyped and hoped.)

Sadly, one Las Vegas oddsmaker thinks Bristol is a long shot to win the dance competition.

Johnny Avello, director of Race & Sports Book Operations at Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino, is putting Bristol's for-entertainment-purposes-only odds at 25-1 -- slightly behind Michael Bolton and Florence Henderson. That's not nearly as bad as the 75-to-1 odds he's given comedian Margaret Cho who, we hope we can agree, is everyone's pick to go home tonight.

But qu'est-ce que c'est? A tweet, from host Tom Bergeron! "DWTS producers seem rattled by who is going tonight," he tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "Guess they had high hopes for this star (aka thought they'd be ratings draw). Hmm. . . ."

He's referring, turns out, to David Hasselhoff.

"I got to tell you, of all the first people to leave, in all the seasons I've hosted, this was the biggest surprise to me!" Bergeron marveled at the end of Tuesday night's results show.

Avello seems to think this season's "Dancing" is going to be won by either former NBA star Rick Fox or former NFL star quarterback Kurt Warner. Either, given the edge that sports figures seem to have in this competition, seems like a very safe bet.

Fading 'Lone Star'

While ABC, CBS and, yes, even NBC danced the Happy Dance over their numbers for the first night of the new TV season, Fox suits mulled whether they could claw their way out of the black hole that was the premiere of their new drama "Lone Star."

The new prime-time soap, about a hot young con artist who feels really bad about tricking people -- so bad that he goes and marries a second wife to take his mind off of things -- experienced an epic flop Monday night.

First, more than half of "House's" a-lot-smaller-than-last-Premiere-Monday (10.5 million, compared with last fall's 17.3 million) audience ran the other way at 9 p.m. when they saw "Lone Star" coming.

Then, another million people put "Lone Star" into their Life Is Too Short category after watching the first 30 minutes of the one-hour debut episode.

When the stampede ended, only about 4 million people had watched the whole show.

Fox suits were huddled Tuesday in Los Angeles to sift through "Lone Star's" numbers in search of a shred of hope.

The network's average for Monday night was 7.3 million viewers; on Premiere Monday last year, when Fox coughed up a two-hour "House" season debut, it averaged 17.1 million. That means they're off by 9.8 million viewers this year -- 57 percent. Where I come from, we call that a bit of a hole to dig out of, one night into the new season.

On the bright side, ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" with America's Favorite Teen Mom Bristol Palin was the night's most watched program and copped about 3 million more viewers than last fall's season debut -- though not as many as the just over 24 million who watched the spring edition's kickoff when America's Most Put Upon Mom Kate Gosselin was the star. And a lot of the new "Dancing" fall viewers were young, thanks to the inclusion in the cast of Palin, "Jersey Shore's" Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, and Audrina Patridge, a.k.a. The Affectless One on "The Hills."

But CBS's "Hawaii Five-O" reboot (14 million viewers) and new aren't-fat-people-jolly comedy "Mike & Molly" (12.2 million) can so far be called the top two new shows on the very competitive Monday, in which five new series were launched across the broadcast networks.

NBC, meanwhile, had cause to rejoice. Nearly 11 million people watched the first episode of its new thriller "The Event," where since-canceled "Trauma" last year had opened with an audience of fewer than 7 million.

The Jason Ritter rocket enjoyed a start that is even more impressive if you consider the show had to self-start, what with "Chuck" feeding it a puny lead-in crowd of fewer than 6 million people at 8 o'clock. For "Chuck" that's actually a good number. Anyway, that amounts to an 88 percent improvement in audience size from "Chuck" to "The Event," if you're keeping track. NBC certainly is.

demoraesl@washpost.com

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