- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cowell’s latest search

He may be British, but Simon Cowell loves exploring America’s untapped resources.

The acerbic judge on “American Idol” is once again combing our coasts for talent in his new reality show “America’s Got Talent,” set to air this summer, Associated Press reports.

Singers, comedians, jugglers, animal acts and anyone else hungry for stardom will be welcome on the summertime series, which Mr. Cowell is producing for NBC. The new show will mark Mr. Cowell’s third foray into prime-time TV; his “American Inventor” debuted earlier this month on ABC.

Group acts or singles, old or young all are eligible to try for the “America’s Got Talent” $1 million prize, he said Monday during a telephone news conference.

“You can be 2 years old, 100 years old. You can be the next Destiny’s Child, you can be the next Jackson 5, or you can be the next David Copperfield,” Mr. Cowell said. “This is a show literally open to anybody.”

Auditions and dates, announced Monday,will take place April 6 through 8 in Los Angeles, April 12 and 13 in Chicago, April 17 in New York City, April 19 in East Elmhurst, N.Y., and April 22 through 23 in Atlanta.

Would-be contestants also may apply online, and additional details may be obtained by logging onto NBC.com. An airdate for the series has yet to be set, the network said.

Mr. Cowell, an English record-company executive who became a celebrity on “American Idol” and was part of its British precursor, “Pop Idol,” said he’s a longtime fan of American shows featuring a variety of performers.

The “time is right” for a contest open to performers of every stripe, he said. He won’t be a judge on the show, but he said some very qualified A-list celebrities have expressed interest in that role.

For such shows to work, Mr. Cowell said, it’s crucial to include the audition process. With “America’s Got Talent,” viewers will learn who makes the cut in the five city auditions and then see more dismissals as the semifinals unfold in a Los Angeles studio. The exits will be “very brutal,” Mr. Cowell said. He declined, however, to elaborate.

Promising start

Nobody’s laughing at Billy Ray Cyrus’ mullet anymore, least of all executives at the Disney Channel.

Disney’s new series starring Mr. Cyrus and his real-life daughter Miley scored the network’s best numbers for series programming in households and among children 6 to 11 and tweens 9 to 14 in its 9:30 p.m. debut Friday, Reuters news agency reports.

“Hannah Montana” follows a regular 14-year-old girl who lives a fabulous nocturnal existence as a famous pop star. The series drew 5.4 million viewers.

“This is an unbelievable response — beyond our wildest expectations,” Gary Marsh, president of entertainment at Disney Channel Worldwide, told Reuters. “‘Hannah Montana’ has broken out like no other Disney Channel series ever.”

The series’ premiere was helped by an original movie premiere at 8 p.m., “Cow Belles,” which corralled 5.8 million viewers.

“Hannah Montana” is the second series for Mr. Cyrus, who exploded onto the music charts with his 1992 ditty “Achy, Breaky Heart.” The other was “Doc” on Pax TV.

Tiger talk aids CBS

Long-suffering CBS News has something to brag about — and it hasn’t even heard from Katie Couric.

The venerable “60 Minutes” landed among Nielsen Media Research’s top-10 shows with its most-watched episode since January, AP reports. Nielsen’s top 10 was long a familiar home for “60 Minutes,” but not in the past few years as its ratings have faded.

Ed Bradley’s profile of Tiger Woods undoubtedly lured a sports-minded audience that had been watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Sunday.

For the week, CBS averaged 12 million viewers, Fox averaged 11.9 million and won handily among viewers age 18 to 49 years old. ABC had 9.7 million viewers, and NBC had 9.5 million. Following were UPN with 3.2 million, the WB with 2.5 million and Pax TV with 460,000. Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision averaged 3.9 million viewers, Telemundo had 920,000 and TeleFutura had 570,000.

For the week of March 20 through 26, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 33.36 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 27.68 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 21.41 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 19.86 million; and “60 Minutes,” CBS, 17.09 million.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff, Web and wire reports.

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