- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

‘Idol’ charm fails Kat

Norah Jones is putting the smack-down on “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee on the latest Billboard album charts.

Miss Jones’ “Not Too Late” claimed the top spot with 405,000 in first-week sales, easily outdistancing the second-place debut of Miss McPhee’s self-titled album, reports Zap2it.com. Miss McPhee, who lost to Taylor Hicks in May’s fifth-season finale of the Fox reality hit, moved fewer than 116,000 units.

Though the label wants to emphasize that Miss McPhee had the best chart debut for a solo female artist since July, those figures put her right in the middle of the first-week sales pack for “Idol” runners-up.

If you wanted to take the positive point of view, you could say that Miss McPhee crushed season one loser Justin Guarini (57,000 in first-week sales) and season three loser Diana DeGarmo (47,000 in first week sales). However, the most recent “Idol” runner-up, Bo Bice, sold 225,000 copies of “The Real Thing” when it debuted in December 2005. That’s not even getting into the 613,000 in first-week sales for Clay Aiken’s 2003 debut, “Measure of a Man.”

Mr. Hicks also had to settle for the No. 2 spot when his first release dropped in December, though he sold nearly 300,000 copies, Zap2it.com notes.

Meanwhile, both of the season five favorites have taken the back seat to fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry, whose self-titled debut sold 304,000 in its first week and made a late charge to No. 1 in January. Miss McPhee, in fact, only edged Mr. Daughtry this week, as the rocker is sticking around at No. 3 after more than two months in release, selling 77,000 copies last week.

Smiley expands role

Tavis Smiley will moderate two live presidential forums later this year, the Public Broadcasting Service announced Thursday.

The network says the TV and radio host will moderate a Democratic forum on June 28 at Howard University and a Republican forum Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Mr. Smiley hosts the PBS show that carries his name and Public Radio International’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” and is the author of 11 books.

Also Thursday, Mr. Smiley announced a partnership with AEG, the sports and entertainment conglomerate, to produce a museum exhibit, a day of national discourse and an awards show honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King.

The exhibit will feature art, music, books and memorabilia reflecting blacks’ contributions to the nation. It will start in 2008 and tour for five years in museums throughout the United States.

Later this year, Mr. Smiley’s communications firm will organize “Table of Free Voices USA,” in which 113 prominent participants will spend the day answering questions posed by the public.

The awards program, called “Living The Dream,” will be broadcast live next year from the Apollo Theater in New York.

Survivor’ losing steam

Thursday night’s ratings showed how sometimes a series can win and lose at the same time.

CBS’ “Survivor” won its 8 p.m. time period over ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” yet it was the lowest-rated premiere ever for the veteran reality show, down 19 percent from its premiere a year ago, TVWeek.com reports, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

“Betty” came in second place but matched its week-earlier performance, the show’s second-best delivery to date.

Final figures are expected to be released later today.

Head of the class

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy will host Fox’s upcoming quiz show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” the network announced yesterday.

Classes commence with half-hour preview premieres set to air after “American Idol” (9:30 to 10 p.m.) Feb. 27 and 28 and full one-hour episodes airing after “Idol” on March 1 and 8 (9 to 10 p.m.).

Mr. Foxworthy, known for his “You Must Be a Redneck” routines, will be at the head of the class of this atypical game show, which measures adults’ lack of knowledge — as revealed by how much they have forgotten since grammar school. The grown-ups will again find themselves in a classroom setting, revisiting their youth, as they tackle subjects they already have been taught, ranging from art to geography and math to social studies. They’ll have the chance to get some help — from real grade-schoolers who have hit the books.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Kelly Jane Torrance from Web and wire reports

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