TV Eye

TV's Sexy Beast

Where's the beef?  Check under Simon's sweater.
Where's the beef? Check under Simon's sweater. (Photo By Gary Miller)

Sunday, Nov. 10: I don't know what was more exciting -- the news that Dana Clark, the Austin American Idol auditions winner from the Hard Rock Cafe competition (see "Idol Chatter," p.49), was going to Hollywood or the fact that Simon Cowell hugged me after a Sunday afternoon press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, murmuring, "Hello, troublemaker." You have no idea how incredibly sexy "Hello, troublemaker" sounds when said with a British accent. I'm not a person prone to swooning, but Simon -- grrrrl, what a sexy beast!

Oh yes, the other judges were there, too. The charming and affable Randy Jackson was there, as was Paula Abdul, who easily weighs as much as my left leg. She was fabulously coifed, lovely, and fresh, in spite of the stuffy press conference room at the top of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where about 15 newspaper and television reporters from across the state had gathered, and where the third round of American Idol callbacks were being held. The big three judges saw 120 finalists on Sunday and Monday, culled from thousands of hopefuls who made the American Idol pilgrimage to Austin last week.

But let's go back. Me, a "troublemaker"? I only asked three measly questions. You be the judge:

"What's the story with the fourth judge? Will there be one?" The answer was a clipped "No." Considering the breezy way other questions were answered, this one was obviously one of those, "Yes or no, let's move on" subjects, to which we will-work-for-quotes journalists obliged.

My second question: "Will the format of the show be shaken up next season? The USA Networks' reality show in development, Nashville Star, will feature contestants who write their own music." I barely got the question out when Randy bemoaned that copycats are not as good as the original, while Simon patted his mouth in a mock yawn. "Oh yes, Nashville Staaaaaaaar."

Hmmmm, those weren't really answers. When Simon offered to give a serious response, he talked about how strong American Idol would be in its second season (the first three episodes in particular) and that the show lives by the talent that shows up and the audience that votes online and by phone. "They're the ones who choose the American Idol, not us." That wasn't a direct answer either, but I don't think I was supposed to notice.

My last question was one of those cushy Barbara Walters questions: "How do you want American Idol to be remembered in pop cultural history?"

"That people had fun, and we helped discover some talent and launch some careers," said Randy. "The show is about the kids, rising above adversity week in and week out and succeeding," offered Paula, who still wasn't breaking a sweat. Then there was Simon. "That the show made me a lot of money." But he didn't leave it at that.

"At the end of the day, working in the music business should be fun," he said. And you know, I went ahead and believed him. If you're going to camp out, drive from all parts of the nation, leave your laboring wife behind (as one determined contestant did), and give up time and money you may never see a return for, all to be on a TV show, you better think it's fun. That, or you just want to be near Simon. Did I tell you how beefy his chest is?


On Cable

Foodie alert: Fans of food critic and Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl's memoirs on life and cooking can now see the writer in a Food Network special called Eating Out Loud. Cameras follow Reichl as she shops for ingredients to prepare an evening meal and capture her culinary tangents along the way. Eating Out Loud airs Nov. 16, 4pm, and Nov. 17, 9pm, on the Food Network.

Telling tales: New York's storytelling phenomenon known as The Moth comes to the small screen. Based on a project launched in 1997, The Moth seeks to capture the "lazy Southern nights of storytelling ... when moths would gather around the lamp." The theme of the premiere episode, airing Nov. 18, is "Relationship Wars." Storytellers include The New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, film director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), matrimonial attorney Jacalyn Barnett, and others. Future themes are: "Rock n' Roll Saved My Life" (Nov. 19), "Baseball Stories" (Nov. 20), "Carpe Diem" (Nov. 21), "First Time Experiences" (Nov. 22), "Stories From the Underworld" (Nov. 25), "Hitting Bottom" (Nov. 26), and "Food and Love" (Nov. 27). The Moth airs on the above dates at 8pm on Trio Popular Arts Television.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, American Idol, Nashville Star, Ruth Reichl, Eating Out Loud, The Moth, Adam Gopnik, Doug Liman, Jacalyn Barnett, Dana Clark

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