Monday, December 15, 2008

‘Idol’ event in doubt

For two years, “American Idol” gave back. Now it may be taking back.

The Fox network’s Jill Hudson isn’t commenting on a report from an “Idol” fan Web site that the annual “Idol Gives Back” charity event has been canceled, Associated Press reports.

Last week, quoted from what it said was an internal Fox memo declaring there “will be no Idol Gives Back.”

The star-studded special has aired for two years, soliciting donations to benefit impoverished children in the United States and Africa. April’s broadcast raised more than $64 million and boasted a lineup including Bono, Brad Pitt, Miley Cyrus, Fergie, Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood.

Meanwhile, the “Idol” singing-competition series returns for a new round Jan. 20. on Sunday added more news to what’s happening to “Idol”:

- Fewer audition episodes and more Hollywood-round episodes. The shift increases the show’s emphasis on talented performers and shies further away from the crash-and-burn spectacle of less-talented attention-seekers.

- To further emphasize the focus on the most talented singers, the semifinal rounds will feature the top 36 contestants instead of 24.

- Adding some unpredictability, the “wild card” round will return, giving eliminated contestants a chance to come back into the competition for one of the top finalist spots.

Finding ‘Lost’

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, “Lost” fans will find themselves watching the upcoming fifth season without interruption, reports.

Going interruption-free has always been the plan for the series’ final three seasons. Season four, however, was compromised by last winter’s Writers Guild of America strike. Looking ahead to this season, ABC has yet to confirm any scheduling plans, although one insider speculates that the network may decide to maximize its May sweeps payoff by stretching out season five with a week or two off rather than have the finale air midmonth.

Says “But as original cast member Jorge Garcia [who plays Hurley] shared with us in a Friday interview, ‘This season, I think, is going to run straight through. Last season, they skipped a week before the finale and had a clip show, so we might do that. But for the most part, it should run straight through.’”

In May 2007, “Lost” producers revealed their plan to wrap up the supernatural saga with three more seasons, totaling 48 episodes, each airing without interruption. That scenario was scrapped when the winter 2007-08 WGA strike forced a five-week midseason break upon season four. Even with that, the episode total came up two hours shorter than hoped.

A strike by the Screen Actors Guild - to be voted on in early January - could doom an intact season five.

To make up for last season’s shortfall, the next two runs will contain 17 episodes each, with season five kicking off Jan. 21. The three-hour return event will feature a one-hour catch-up special followed by the season’s first two new episodes, “Because You Left” and “The Lie.”

Farewell, again

Amy Poehler is officially exiting “Saturday Night Live” this time.

Less than two months after giving birth to son Archie, she made a surprise return last week to the late-night comedy show, where she has been a regular for eight seasons.

Then, Saturday, she surprised viewers again by telling them goodbye.

“This is my last show,” Miss Poehler announced from her “Weekend Update” anchor desk. “Being able to do over 140 shows with my friends and my family has been a dream come true.”

“I love you,” she told the audience, “and I will miss all of you very much.”

Viewers won’t have to miss her too long. Later this season, Miss Poehler is expected back on NBC in her own weekly sitcom.

Her husband (and Archie’s dad) is comedian-actor Will Arnett.

cCompiled by Richard Slusser from wire and Web reports

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