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The TV Column
TV Week
Lisa's Reality TV Archives
Talk: Style Message Boards "Ruben Studdard Idol Winner"
Live Online Transcripts

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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, May 22, 2003; Noon ET

Feel the need to vent about the winners on "American Idol" and "The Bachelor"?

Join Washington Post TV Columnist Lisa de Moraes every Thursday at Noon ET to discuss the latest on Reality TV -- and those other shows too.

De Moraes has written the TV Column for The Post since 1998. She served as the TV editor for the entertainment industry trade publication the Hollywood Reporter for almost a decade.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

washingtonpost.com: Lisa will be along momentarily. Stay tuned.

Washington, D.C.: Loved the article about IDOL. I was rooting for Clay (thought he had the better voice) but, figured that ROOOOOBen would win. It was interesting to note that Simon stayed away from making remarks about Ruben's size, while feeling free to make disparaging remarks about the other contestants' looks and clothing choices.

My thought is that all of these Idol finalists (winners included) will have to stay in the public eye to sustain a long, successful music career. Do you agree and who do you think has the best chance at doing so?

Lisa de Moraes: Hi ... I don't know how long a career any of these Idol winners will have. It all seems a little too made-for-TV for me ...

New York, N.Y.: Lisa,

Do you think there was anything fishy with the vote totals for American Idol? I know I voted my heart out for Clay and could only get through 1/1000 of the time. It seems it was basically a coin toss with the way the phone lines were clogged.

Lisa de Moraes: During a phone call between Fox suits and critics yesterday to discuss Fox's May sweeps performance, a lot of critics reported their readers had said they couldn't get through to vote for the entire three-hour voting period after the Tuesday broadcast. If Fox does not fix this problem fast, they will lose a lot of fans because the fans will become extremely cynical about the voting. And then it's over for this show ...

Chicago, Ill.: Thanks for your article on "American Idol."

There are so many Web sites that discussed how voters weren't able to get through to vote.

I do have a life, however I got caught up because of Clay. Thousands if not millions of requests were sent to Fox to open up lines because we knew it was tight. My family had two cell and one home phone going for three hours straight on redial and never got to vote. There is the Newsweek article which address the issue of the Ruben hype from Fox to win. Never again for me. Never again Fox TV. All I ask for is fair, and this was terrible for all who believe America picked the winner.

Lisa de Moraes: ... I rest my case.

Alexandria, Va.: No way would Fox let Clay win. American Idol is all about making money, and Ruben will make them money, not Clay.

Lisa de Moraes: Actually I have to disagree with you. I think the producers at some point -- maybe when they saw that Amazon.com story saying Clay's CD was No. 1 while Ruben's was back in the 300's -- decided they'd misjudged Clay's marketability. There is a reason that Simon, who is one of the show's executive producers, announced at the end that they would release albums by both Clay and Ruben simultaneously to let the competition between them continue. It left me wondering what was the point of being the winner on this show. Wasn't the winner supposed to get his/her time in the spotlight? They're not treating Ruben that way if they release both records simultaneously. Notice how they released Kelly Clarkson's album first, and will release Justin's several weeks later ...

Phoenix, Ariz.: Hey, just want to give you a heads up that it looks like the American Idol results may have been SEVERELY skewed simply because of a phone capacity issue -- that's why the results were razor thin. People are really talking it up on the newsgroupalt.tv.american-idol. I speculate that this story will break sometime soon. A snippet from the ng:

"Metro - Milwaukee, Wisconsin ...

Using our two lines, and redialing 4-5 times per minute on each line ...

Over 3500 calls and NOT ONE VOTE got through ...!

All normal busy signals (no fast-busy signals)...

Our vote for Clay never got there ...

Clearly the voting was really a "capacity test" of the system, and nothing >more ...

Mr. Bill ... "

Lisa de Moraes: I'm getting loads of comments along these lines in this chat ...

Wichita, Kan.: Isn't it unethical for "American Idol" and Fox to have a contest and then use their own judges and the media to influence the outcome of the contest?

If it is then what can be done about it?

Lisa de Moraes: Hey, it's a TV show ...

Arlington, Va.: It was great to see BOTH winners last night on "American Idol." Sure, America voted for Ruben but in essence, neither lost since they have both began recording their albums. Doesn't it kind of make it a little pointless to have a "winner" when they and maybe even Kimberly Locke all get contracts to sing?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes I agree. Look at Tamyra from the first edition. She's the one from that show who got a serious acting gig on a national prime time TV series. Not Kelly Clarkson ...

RUBEN!: I'm not a big reality TV fan at all and I didn't start watching American Idol till the top three, and I'm extremely happy that Ruben won! Clay is so bland! I guess he's got that "boy next door" image and that's why all of those teenyboppers voted for him. Ruben has a lot of personality and I wish him a long and successful career!

Lisa de Moraes: I'm with you re: Ruben. I'm also with you re: Clay being very popular with teen and pre-teen females -- who, by the way, buy loads and loads of CDs. They rock.

Washington, D.C.: Is it me or did Kelly Clarkson look and sound terrible last night? I did a double take when I saw it was her. What's the deal?

Lisa de Moraes: I thought everyone sounded bad last night -- Kelly, Ruben and Clay. Ruben and Clay are probably just exhausted. Don't know what's up with Kelly ... I didn't think she looked as bad last night as she does in the clips from that flick that's coming out ... that's her worst look yet.

15th and L: With the closeness of this vote, the only thing that's missing from this are hanging chads and dueling court cases.

Lisa de Moraes: That's coming ... the Idol voting is getting a lot of play today ...

Washington, D.C.: Gyp, gyp, gyp, gyp! Clay got gypped!

However, was Simon serious about dropping their albums the same week? Is Simon signing Clay too?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes ...

The fix is in!: Clay was robbed. But if Ruben doesn't lose some weight, Clay may wind up in first after all, because a concert tour schedule just might give Ruben a coronary. He was drenched in sweat and losing his breath last night -- and that was with lots of breaks, not a full-on concert schedule. Not saying that to be mean (I actually like Ruben too, just like Clay more), but pointing out a real concern.

I am confused by the logistics, too -- I did hang up/redial over and over during the voting, and got through maybe 20 times (or less). How did those extra votes manage to get through on Ruben's line when I just got busy signal after busy signal on Clay's?

Lisa de Moraes: Can't explain the phone thing, but it's a big concern to viewers and ought to be to Fox and the show's producers. The minute fans lose faith in the voting system, this show is over ...

Noble, Okla.: No question just a comment ... both Ruben and Clay are wonderfully talented. The closeness of the vote says it could have gone either way. I was pulling for Clay because his vocal instrument was the best by just a little, but Ruben may have had better stage presence.

Lisa de Moraes: I think you've really hit on it. Ruben was a doll and a good singer; Clay's voice was, I think, better trained. Not sure a well trained voice is necessary to be a pop star. Look at 'N Sync. Personality and "the whole package" is very important to the manufacturing of pop idols ... Ruben has all that ...

Southern Maryland: So what kind of movie are you thinking Ruben and Clay will make? How about a buddy/cop musical -- a la "Bad Boys" or "Beverly Hills Cop?" Or a buddy road trip musical -- two Southerners travel across the country to Hollywood, who knows what fun they'll have? There is great potential to do something original and fun.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, absolutely. There's a great tradition of buddy flicks. They would be fun together. They're like the odd couple.

Lincoln, Neb.: Is anyone seriously going to look into the phone problems during the voting call-in period for American Idol on Tuesday night?

Also, the excessive manipulation of viewers by the judges seemed over the top this year ... even into the final three songs by each contestant.

I guess that would be two questions/concerns that I have about this whole process.

Lisa de Moraes: Could they have picked worse songs for the final night of competition? It was painful. Both Ruben and Clay did SO much better and had much better material on other nights. And then to have them sing the same dreadful songs on the final night instead of going back to some of their best material. It was painful. The whole thing was painful. How about that video with Simon and Paula on a romantic date. What the heck was up with that. I had nightmares about it ... Re: phone thing, I think Fox is going to have to handle this swiftly and announce how they are going to fix it in time for the next edition. If they do not publicly address the problem, they are in trouble ...

Washington, D.C.: Why does the media insist on reporting that the difference in the number of votes is only 1335, as Fox has reported? If there really were 24 million votes, and Ruben got 50.28 percent, leaving Clay with 49.72 percent, the difference in votes is actually 134,400. I realize that 1335 votes is much more dramatic, but that doesn't make it factual.

Lisa de Moraes: Seacrest corrected himself twice, I think, in the course of the night, which means he's an idiot, or the people crunching the numbers were. In any case, Fox has a problem.

St. Louis, Mo.: Why doesn't the math add up on AI2?

24,000,000 votes
1,300 votes separate them
Ruben 50.28 percent
Clay 49.72 percent

Ruben = .5028 x 24,000,000 = 12,067,200

Clay = .4972 x 24,000,000 = 11,932,800

Difference = 134,400 votes

This is in addition to the horrible time trying to connect a vote for Clay. Three hours and I never got through.

Lisa de Moraes: I love math people!

Silver Spring, Md.: Lisa! This isn't an "American Idol" question (though I'm glad Ruben won). How can "The Practice" dump all of its stars and still plan on having a successful show? Also, what happened to Hunter?

Lisa de Moraes: Glad you're glad Ruben won. Can't explain how David Kelley thinks he can dump the stars of "The Practice" and still carry on with the show. It's a pretty cynical position. But ABC managed to get the license fee slashed -- because the ratings were down because ABC had moved it to Monday. Funny how that worked out so nicely for ABC. It appears that Kelley decided to cut the cast in order to cut his costs so that his company would continue to make a profit on the show in its first run ... Hunter was cancelled because the ratings were bad. Why it was ever brought back in the first place is the better question ...

Washington, D.C.: Hey, I don't agree with your comment that Simon was implying that Clay was gay by referring to him as a "Broadway" singer. I really think he was implying that Clay was too much into the performance, and not enough into really connecting with the audience, in spite of possessing a better voice than Reuben. Hey, at least Clay did an original song. I still ended up voting for Ruben, as I agree that Clay was just a bit too showy for my tastes.

Lisa de Moraes: You know, both of them were talented. It's just a matter of taste ...

Washington, D.C.: I am obsessed with "The Bachelor" and I missed last night's update show. Did Andrew and Jen look happy, are they still together, engaged etc.? Do you have any information that was not on the show last night? I HAVE to know details.

Lisa de Moraes: I am sorry to report that I taped it and, what with writing a column and all, did not have time to watch it yet. Anyone out there who can answer this question ... my bad.

Alexandria, Va.: Seems to me that Aretha Franklin the "real" American Idol ... Kelly Clarkson covered "Respect" during her rise to the AI title. Now Clay Aiken wows the judges with a gospel-tinged version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" very reminiscent of Aretha's. Is it just coincidence or is something going on here? Will this unacknowledged tribute to Queen of Soul continue in Season 3?

Lisa de Moraes: You wish!

Raleigh Native: People at home would have my head for saying this, but is it possible that people voting for Ruben had phone trouble as well?

Also, how much does it really matter? Don't get me wrong, I'm naturally disappointed that Clay didn't win. However, it seems like they both got plenty of publicity and a good deal.

Lisa de Moraes: I don't think it will matter much because both are going to get recording contracts and their future will be determined by sales. period.

Buffy finale!: I am a longtime fan who really enjoyed the series finale on Tuesday. It left a lot of loose ends logically, but provided great emotional satisfaction for the end of a well-loved series.

Lisa de Moraes: I also thought the show bowed out well. Glad they knew when to call it quits...

The Office: Any news on when BBC America will start showing season two of The Office? A British friend thoughtfully sent me a tape with the seven episodes, and I can assure you that they are even more brilliant than the first six.

Lisa de Moraes: Great. That show is brilliant. I do not have the start date. I will find out and report ...

Timonium, Md.: Any idea when the next "American Idol" will hit the screen? I'm hoping in time for November sweeps.

Lisa de Moraes: Not until January. Fox has this chronic problem with its schedule because of the shrewd deal it cut to run baseball playoffs and the World Series, which messes up their prime time and makes it almost impossible to launch anything in the fall. That's why Fox does so much better at midseason than in the fall. They usually have a lousy fall. They are running this juniors version of Idol, "American Junior" in the summer and they have a second edition of that scheduled for the Idol timeslot in the fall, though if the summer version tanks they will probably pull the fall version.

Possum Trot, Ky.: Has anyone noticed that Ruben and Clay bear an uncanny resemblance to Laurel and Hardy? I see a future for them in comedy flicks -- maybe even remakes of Stan and Ollie classics.

As fer them there Beverly Hillbillies, us'n's here in Kaintucky fahnd that kinder steereo typin' jest a mite offensive. And besides, we laiked the old show jest the way it wuz. That Clampett gurl shore wuz purty!

Lisa de Moraes: Wow, these Beverly Hillbillies detractors are to be found even in large urban centers like Possum Trot. CBS still insists it's "looking at" that reality series, but I would not hold my breath. And I'm glad to learn that you agree with me re: Ruben and Clay in a flick -- much more interesting than Kelly and Justin. No chemistry there.

Re: The Bachelor: Andrew and Jen are still together, happy and engaged ... for those of you who missed it. AI got so loooong that I had to start switching back and forth!

Lisa de Moraes: AI was hideously long and padded. If they had thrown back to their hometowns one more time I was going to start throwing things at my TV set ...

Virginia: Why would they have kids on the "American Juniors"? I feel that kids can't handle and thing like that.

Lisa de Moraes: I actually think that is one of the points of the show. It appears from the promos that a lot of the show is going to be highlighting the evil stage moms and dads. Which sounds like fun for about 5 minutes and will then become very very sad because you will want to rescue these kids from their parents ... ick.

Petaluma, Calif.: Good story. Did you know that the producers messed with Clay's arrangement of "Vincent" 25 minutes before the show in which he sang it? After he "forgot the words" (actually since he hadn't had a chance to rehearse the new arrangement, he missed a cue) the producers told the studio audience, but not the television audience, that they had changed the arrangement. Dean, an AI staffer, told a radio station the next day that the producers had added a verse because the show was running short (Ryan said something about that during the show). And not only did the judges criticize Clay for forgetting the words that evening, but Paula Abdul yapped about it for the whole following week.

They wanted Ruben all along and they got him. There's no way a contest in which a producer has a vested interest in the winning contestant will ever be fair.

Lisa de Moraes: No comment needed here.

Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

I missed you last week. I'm asking again a question I posted last Thursday before I knew your chat was cancelled. Will ABC bring back the "reality" (heh) show "The Family" for the summer or ever? George Hamilton was wonderfully suave, the staff hilariously unctuous, and the extended Long Island-New Jersey family itself was hysterical to watch as it self-destructed. I still can't understand why more didn't watch. The few episodes that were broadcast were better than watching any car wreck.


Lisa de Moraes: I too was a fan of The Family -- mostly because of George Hamilton, who was terrific. ABC has promised to bring it back in the summer. I think this show got lost in the glut of reality that was coming out at exactly the same time. It was just too much for people to absorb.

Fairfax, Va.: I think I'm inclined to agree with your view of American Juniors, Lisa. Even the promos looked terribly sad. The only parent that I was feeling was the mother who state that there was "a lot of talent here". At least she SEEMED to get it!

Lisa de Moraes: The parents all looked like losers ... where's social services when you need them ...

American Juniors: I am already in pain about that show just by seeing the one commercial they incessantly run. "Cause I'm your LAAAAAAA-DEEEEEEEEEEE!" And that mother who says "I'm not a stage mother BUT blah blah only my kid can really sing blah blah." shudder. Let's put colorful masks on the parents!

Lisa de Moraes: Colorful masks -- and have the host snuff their torch at the end of every episode and tell them to shut up, shut up, shu tup ...

New York, N.Y.: Lisa, in three hours of non-stop voting from a landline in New York, N.Y., I logged one vote. The Internet message boards show this happened all over the country. How can the results of the voting reflect any kind of reality when such a tiny percentage of attempted votes actually got through, and what can be done to force the producers to create a fair and open voting system that allows all attempted votes to be counted?

Lisa de Moraes: .. .adding this posting to the pile on ...

Harrisburg, Pa.: I have a question about these reality shows. A major theme in most of these shows is one person is eliminated from the show every week. Yet, the idea of most television shows (except for "The Practice," but I digress) is to build characters with whom the public creates appreciations for. In a reality show, many people get to like a character only to find that character suddenly removed from the show. Has anyone studied this premise: would the public appreciate a reality show where the characters remain through the run of the show and are either rewarded through competition or only rapidly eliminated toward the very end of the show's run?

Lisa de Moraes: I think that's called a newsmagazine ....

Washington, D.C.: (Channeling Randy) Lisa, Lisa, Lisa:

Am I the only one who noticed Paula Abdul appearing to faint at the very end of the show? She has seemed a little, uh, "off" the entire season. Any idea what's going on there?

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently she lusts after Simon and her little heart flutters from sitting next to him ... I cannot explain anything about Paula ... Like, Simon, I do not understand a word she says ...

Fairfax, Va.: It seems to me that the close "American Idol" vote was dictated by the limits of technology more than anything. For example, if there were only one phone line per contestant and both lines took as many votes as possible, the contestants would be tied. No matter how many phone lines you have, there is a maximum number of votes those lines can take. If each contestant gets the maximum number of votes, they are essentially tied (it doesn't really reflect how many people tried to vote for them though). That would also explain why the votes last week were so close.

Lisa de Moraes: I am a techno moron and so cannot discuss or refute this...

Birmingham, Ala.: Hey Lisa, love your column -- what did you think of this season's Survivor, and how do you see the Celebrity Survivor playing out?

Lisa de Moraes: I think Celebrity Survivor could be a bore because the people are not fresh. One of the best things about Survivor is discovering over the course of several episodes, what each person is like/about. We already know what Richard Hatch is about. I'm sick of Richard Hatch. I'm sick of Jerri. Especially Jerri. And they will all be playing to the camera because their first 15 minutes of fame did not work out, so this will be their very last shot. They will all appear to be desperate and it will be more about getting camera time than winning the money. I'm not optimistic about that one.

Downtown D.C.: Hey Lisa,

I love your insight and humor into the world of television. Although most of today's chatter concerns A.I., I'd like to know what has happened to the female star of "Felicity"? Will we see her perform again on TV in another role? Is it difficult for her to find another spot due to her previous title role? Or is she just taking a break to reinvent herself?

Lisa de Moraes: It will be difficult for her to find another role because a) she could not act, and B) she cut her hair, which was her greatest talent ... Unless she grew her hair all the way back. Then she has a brilliant career ahead of her.

Washington, D.C.: Do you find that "The Bachelor" is becoming predictable? ABC always makes it seem that he is going to pick the trashy girl and then he always picks the nice girl. Was it really a surprise to anyone that Jen was picked?

Lisa de Moraes: Totally predictable. They need to mix it up, like Mark Burnett did on Survivor, which really reinvigorated that show for this most recent edition ...

'Mr. Personality' ends: Even though I am as cynical as anyone else about this show, I was a little choked up when the nefarious Hayley accepted Will the Millionaire (Willionaire)'s proposal. However, how could he really fall in love with her, as he professes, under these circumstances in that short a time?

Lisa de Moraes: I don't get it either. Because men NEVER tell chicks they're in love with them unless they totally mean it ...

Fainting Paula: Yes, I too saw Paula faint/slip at the end of the show. But since Clay was soon smiling, I figured it wasn't serious (since he would be fretting and his eyelashes twittering if anything bad happened to Paula!)

Lisa de Moraes: I think Clay would have fainted had Paula fainted ...

Atlanta, Ga.: It DOES seem a little made-for-TV ... but I just heard Kelly Clarkson's new song on the radio on my lunch break and she has an AMAZING voice.

Lisa de Moraes: The miracle of modern post-production ...

Farragut, Washington, D.C.: I am an open fan of The Bachelor and enjoy watching it despite the skepticism and criticism from my friends. My problem: On every interview I have watched with Andrew Firestone, interviewers ask whether he will arrange a pre-nuptial agreement. They seem surprised when he says "no." Does anyone else find it inconsiderate to his fiancee, Jen, that they do not pose the same question to her? I understand he has the money, but they are automatically suggesting she is in this for the money.

Lisa de Moraes: She's not in it for the money. She's in it for the attention.

How many AI votes?: I have heard 1,300, 13,000 and 130,000 votes separated Clay and Ruben -- your column says 1,300; is that the officially right answer?

Lisa de Moraes: We'll never know, because Fox is doing the math. Seacrest reported 13 thou at start of show, but corrected himself to 1,300 half way through the marathon. But that math does not work out. So I can't give you a final answer ...

Chicago: Finally, another fan of "The Family"! Oh why did I move away from D.C? That could have been my soul mate.

Lisa de Moraes: So sad ...

Alexandria, Va.: I think this year's finale show format was terrible. Last year they had original songs that they each had to sing so we could get a feel for who we liked, but this year it appeared the producers already knew each had a recording deal already so why bother. Why do you think Ruben's weight never came up as an issue with Simon since he's all about image. I think it's because he got burned with England's Pop Idol coming out of the closet and didn't want it to happen here so he'd rather have an overweight American Idol than possibly a gay one.

Lisa de Moraes: I believe that Simon was impressed with Ruben's considerable talent and felt that Ruben was very marketable, and so was not going to knock him down if he didn't have to. On the other hand, he did not like the idea of Vanessa or Josh as potential clients, so he felt free to make negative comments about their weight in the course of the competition. Which, of course, then made it seem odd that Simon never commented on Ruben's weight. If he had just stayed away altogether from taking whacks at people over their weight, this would never have been an issue. But if you're going to ding Vanessa for her weight, and Josh, and even Kimberley, how can you not discuss weight with Ruben?

NE, D.C.: Hey -- where was out Marine last night?

Lisa de Moraes: Noticeably absent. Apparently he's now vitally important at Camp Pend.

Washington, D.C.: Lisa, I'm trying to decide which is scarier -- listening to the people in my office fight over American Idol, or seeing the first previews for the Justin to Kelly movie.

Lisa de Moraes: From Justin to Kelly, definitely. Glad to hear that there's fighting going on in your office over American Idol final. I want to hear more ...

Virginia: Two comments:

Why can't we vote for American Idol online? That would help, although the Web site might crash from high traffic volumes.

Props to Clay, but I'm so glad that Ruben won. We need a voice like his out in the mix ... I just hope he records good original songs!

Lisa de Moraes: I'm with you on online and on outcome ...

Woodstock, Conn.: Dear Lisa,

Just a note to say I loved your article today. It's great to see someone actually writing about what has been going on with "American Idol." The obvious spoon feeding of Ruben to the masses has been sickening and has totally turned many people off to the show (and many of us love Ruben). Seeing Simon put down Clay every week has only made Clay more fans and made Simon look like more of the ass that he is. Keep up the good work!

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks. So glad you get it....

Gotta go. Thank for participating and apologies to all those whose questions I did not have time to get to ...


That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

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