"American Idol" contestants will have Simon Cowell to be kicked around by for years to come.
Acid-tongued Cowell and his T-shirted man-breasts will stay with the show for the rest of the decade, Fox announced yesterday, putting to rest rumors that Cowell was on his way out after being slapped with a lawsuit by "Idol" creator Simon Fuller.
The glad tidings coincide with an out-of-court settlement between the two Brits over what Variety reported was a $170 million copyright infringement suit. Fuller claimed that Cowell's hit British reality series "X Factor" was just another way of saying " 'Idol' Ripoff."
Simultaneously, Fox signed a new deal with the companies behind "Idol" -- 19 Entertainment Ltd. and FremantleMedia North America -- giving them a "significantly increased" license fee for the coming seasons, 19 Entertainment's parent company told Reuters.
Fox also agreed to pick up at least two original shows created by the two production companies over the next five years.
Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori officially pronounced himself "thrilled" to continue the partnership, while Cowell declared himself "thrilled" to play a role in giving young singers in America a shot at realizing their dreams and to be "working with my good friend Simon Fuller for the foreseeable future."
Cowell's previous deal on the U.S. version of "Idol" was set to end after the coming edition of the twice-weekly show, which last season averaged 27 million viewers on Tuesday nights -- the No. 1 program on television -- and more than 26 million viewers on Wednesday nights. Collectively the two broadcasts catapulted Fox from fourth place to first among the 18-to-49-year-olds the networks target.
Now, hopefully, Fox can settle down and announce today whether it's going to move "Idol" to Thursday night in January, after which NBC can announce whether it's moving "My Name Is Earl" to Thursday night.
Speaking of NBC and Thursday night, that network announced yesterday that The Donald will be back for a sixth edition of "The Apprentice" next season -- and he'll shoot it in Southern California.
The competition -- along with new challenges, twists and surprises -- also will feature tasks "indigenous to and emblematic of" the new locale, NBC said in its announcement.
The mind reels. Kabbalah center launches? Drive-through colonics?
NBC and creator Mark Burnett clearly are looking for a way to refresh the reality series. While remaining television's most upscale nonscripted program, it has been steadily losing viewers and is down to about 10.5 million now; it finished its first season with an average of nearly 21 million.
In yesterday's announcement, NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said the California backdrop and The Donald's West Coast business interests and relationships will provide "an exciting new flavor for the series next season."
Trump, with his usual flair, added in a statement, "I could never have imagined that firing sixty-seven people on national television would actually make me more popular, especially with the younger generation."
And suddenly, the Men of Katie Couric are all officially lined up.
First there's Steve Capus, who, NBC News announced yesterday, has been named permanent president of the division -- he's the man in charge of Keeping Katie Happy.
Capus, who became acting news president when Neal Shapiro left in September, had been senior VP since June and before that executive producer of "NBC Nightly News," starting in May 2001 and working with both Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams as anchors. That after a turn as exec producer of MSNBC's evening newscast with Williams.
Then over at CBS, there's Sean McManus, the recently named president of that network's news division -- a consummate dealmaker who will try to lure Couric to the network to anchor its evening newscast.
And now there's Rome Hartman, whom McManus yesterday named executive producer of the aforementioned newscast, which would become Katie's new kingdom.
But Hartman, who graduated from Duke in 1977, exactly like McManus -- I mean, what are the odds, really? -- will get to do so much more than just executive-produce the newscast that has been mired in third place for years and is in a state of controlled disarray, with Bob Schieffer filling in for the deposed Dan Rather in a stretch that soon will redefine the meaning of "temporary."
Specifically, reporting directly to McManus, Hartman will "serve as an advisor to him on other elements of organization and news gathering, including evaluation and deployment of correspondents and producers and talent recruitment," according to CBS News's announcement.
Hartman succeeds Jim Murphy, who executive-produced the evening newscast for six years, which, believe it or not, is longer than any other executive producer in the CBS evening newscast's 50-year history. McManus said in a statement that he and Murphy "will continue to discuss his future role at CBS News."
Hartman has been a producer at "60 Minutes" since 1991 and produced more than 100 reports for the show -- a feat accomplished by only four others in the show's 37-year history.
Before joining "60 Minutes," Hartman was the senior producer for the "CBS Evening News" here after a stint as CBS News's White House producer, covering Ronald Reagan's second term and the first year of the George H.W. Bush presidency.