- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Our next ‘Idol’

Tonight, viewers will decide who will be their next “American Idol,” Fantasia Barrino or Diana DeGarmo.

Fox’s ratings powerhouse airs its two-hour season finale at 8 p.m., pitting the two amateur singers against each other for the last time.

Last season, Ruben Studdard narrowly beat Clay Aiken, although both emerged with recording contracts and successful careers.

Not bad for an overblown karaoke contest.

Bandstand’ redux

Turns out “American Bandstand” is as ageless as its most well-known host and producer, Dick Clark.

“American Bandstand” is coming back with a new twist, courtesy of the producer behind “American Idol,” Associated Press reports.

A revamped version, from Mr. Clark and “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller, will turn the show’s trademark dancing into a regular competition.

During the original ‘50s-era program, audience members who did the twist, the swim and other groovy dances were aiming to impress the audience, Mr. Fuller told AP.

“We’re going to have a lot more fun in that area. The public will be involved in choosing which of the kids is the coolest, the most gorgeous, the best dancer,” he said.

Mr. Clark said he’s eager to see “Bandstand” return, even if it doesn’t become the pop-culture force it once was.

“I wanted, ever since the show left the air, to find a way and a time and a place to bring it back,” Mr. Clark said.

Can the resurrected show work today?

“If you think about it, ‘American Bandstand’ was probably the original reality show. And to bring it back in the throes of excitement about reality isn’t a bad idea,” said Mr. Clark, the king of “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”

The original show had occasional dance contests, he noted, with the prizes gradually increasing in value from records to juke boxes to cars.

On the new “Bandstand,” performances by pop stars and the old show’s “rate-a-record” segments will remain in the mix, Mr. Fuller said.

“American Bandstand” ran from 1957 to 1987. It later ran for a year in syndication and briefly on the USA Network with another host. Throughout the run pop singers would visit to perform or lip-sync their latest record and chat with Mr. Clark.

Mr. Clark will still be involved as a producer but won’t return as the host of the show, which is scheduled to debut in summer 2005.

A search for a replacement host is under way.

Show squashed

Jessica Simpson may not know whether Chicken of the Sea is fish or fowl, but she’s getting a crash course in rejection, pilot style.

A sitcom starring the 23-year-old pop star failed to make the cut when ABC announced its fall schedule, Associated Press reports.

Miss Simpson, known for her scatterbrained moments on her MTV reality show, had filmed a pilot which featured her as a ditsy reporter on a TV news magazine.

She wasn’t the only star missing when ABC announced its lineup last week: Sitcoms featuring Jennifer Love Hewitt and John Stamos also were no-shows.

Miss Simpson and her husband, pop singer Nick Lachey, gained a measure of fame on the MTV reality show “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica.” She became known for her unintentional humor, including confusing Chicken of the Sea tuna with poultry and not knowing what buffalo wings are made of.

Cable adds two

The already crowded television dial will expand by two this week.

MTV Networks will begin airing its long-awaited homosexual-themed cable channel as early as Tuesday, while Fox Sports Digital broadcasts a channel dedicated to college sports, Reuters News Agency reports.

Development of the homosexual-themed channel has been on again and off again at parent company Viacom, which reversed an earlier determination to scuttle the project last year.

Few details were available on what the channel will look like, but its widely reported brand name — Outlet — is said to have been scrapped. MTV Networks chairman and chief executive Tom Freston and the group’s president, Judy McGrath, will oversee the channel.

Over at Fox Cable Networks Group, a trio of Fox Sports Digital channels will all be re-branded and re-introduced to focus exclusively on college sports, according to sources.

Each channel will retain its regional focus — East, Central and West — but all professional sports coverage will be dropped. Fox also will look to sell advertising on the channels, which don’t currently carry commercials and haven’t been gaining much traction with viewers since they began broadcasting in 2001, according to Reuters.

The channels will remain on digital sports tiers available in about 20 million homes through most major cable providers.

Both MTV and Fox declined comment to Reuters on their new ventures.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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