Retraction concerning "Shahs of Sunset" story

This is a retraction
concerning a story I wrote on the “Shahs of Sunset” reality show.

It was a good story, but it referred to
the person being interviewed (Asa Rahmati) as being married to
Shaahin Cheyene. Since then, Cheyene has said – quite definitely –
that he isn't and never has been married to her.

I apologize for that. I made the
mistake of adding a piece of information from a Los Angeles Times
story on the Web, without double-checking it first. (I hadn't done
that sort of thing before and, quite obviously, won't do it again.)

I'm sorry and this won't happen again.

Idol: The easy part is done now

OK, the astute observor will notice I missed a week of "American Idol." (I have excuses, which I won't get into now.)

The show did carry out my previous instructions, though, ousting DeAndre Brackensick. He's a cute and likable guy with the best "Idol" hair since Brooke White or Haley Scarnato, but his range is limited.

That leaves the final seven for Wednesday, with few flaws and much strength. Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez have had moments of sheer perfection, but Colton Dixon is a strong dark-horse possibility, sort of in the style of James Durbin last year.

As it happens, Durbin will be singing Thursday, on results night. So will Jennifer Hudson -- the greatest No. 7 finisher in the history of any competition. She'll perform with Ne-Yo and Rick Ross; I promise to catch it and comment this time, with no excuses.

Hey, the "Idol" voters are making sense. Really.

"American Idol" viewers ofte get way too random, serving up some nasty surprises. Not this time, though.

After Wednesday's show (see two blogs back), I predicted that Hollie Cavanagh and Heejun Han  would be in th bottom two, with Hollie sent home. That would be fair, I said -- but the one who really should be sent is Skyler Laine.

And on Thursday's results show? Heejun and Hollie were, indeed, in  the final two; Heejun, however, was sent home. As a bonus, Skyler was in the bottom three.

In short, the viewers seem kind of sensible this week; I find myself grumble-free, which is unfamiliar turf. I'll add only a couple comments:

1) Scotty McCreery's new "Water Tower Town" is a good one. (It's kind of a close clone to Montgomery Gentry's "My Town," but that's a worthy song to copy.) This live performance didn't neccesarily do it justice, though. The lyrics -- good ones -- ere sometimes overwhelmed by the instruments.

2) Let's be glad Jimmy Iovine is there for some token frankness. The judges' comments seem even more overwrought when rerun close together. Suddenly, everything is great-groovy-wonderful; it turns out to be too much (way too much) of a good thing. 


"Masterpiece" is back, amid high expectations

It's always good news when "Masterpiece" returns, with its richly crafted dramas. Now -- after another long pledge-drive pause -- three minisries will air on Sundays, starting with "Great Expectations" and Gillian Anderson's wondrfully offbeat performance. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Sprawling from the marshes of Kent to
the ballrooms of London, Charles Dickens'“Great Expectations” is
a key part of some British educations.

“Everyone is made to read it,” said
Douglas Booth, who stars in the new PBS production.

He was about 13 when he tackled it.
Vanessa Kirby, his co-star, was younger when her dad read it to her.
“It's very much a part of my childhood,” she said, “as, I'm
sure, everybody's.”

Well, not everybody. Gillian Anderson –
who does spectacular duty as Miss Havisham – didn't read it until
she got the role. But she has an excuse: She's American.

Or, semi-American. Anderson was born in
Chicago, but moved to London as a toddler. She was 11 when her family
moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., where her dad made industrial films.

“The fact that I grew up in the UK
(United Kingdom) had sort of an organic effect on me,” she said.

It was partly a good thing, fueling her
British portrayals – including Emmy-nominated work in Charles
Dickens' “Bleak House” and now Emmy-worthy work in his “Great

And it brought problems, as she tried
to blend into Middle-American middle school. “I didn't really fit
in …. I don't think I lost my British accent right away.”

School never really caught on with her;
in retrospect, she figures she may have had attention-deficit
problems. Fortunately, Grand Rapids also has a strong theater scene.

Anderson did community and school plays
as a teen-ager, studied acting in Chicago, then launched a theater
career in New York. “I remember being extremely busy – waiting
tables, hopping on the subway (to auditions), changing clothes in the
rest room.”

She moved to Los Angeles, landing
“X-Files” and fame. Since then, she's spent much of her time in
England, peaking with double Dickens. Rebecca Eaton, producer of PBS'
“Masterpiece,” calls Anderson's “Bleak House” work “one of
the best performances we have ever had,” but calls this latest one
“the performance of a lifetime.”

Booth echoes that. “She made some
really creative choices,” he said. “She is such a brilliant

Like Anderson, he didn't thrive at
school; eventually, he was diagnosed as being dyslexic, requiring new
career plans. “The first thing I thought was, 'OK, I'm going to be
a brilliant musician.'”

He did play the trumpet well, but
eventually discovered modeling and acting. He drew praise playing Boy
George in a British TV film, then landed two mega-roles: Before
turning 20, he had filmed starring roles in “Great Expectations”
and (opposite Hailee Steinfeld) the upcoming “Romeo and Juliet.”

Yes, he had read and admired them, even
with dyslexia. “Great Expectations” is “such a great
roller-coaster ride,” he said.

That ride takes Pip from the marshes to
society, but keeps Miss Havisham in her crumbling gown and crumbling

There were actually three versions of
the gown, Anderson said, reflecting different points of decay. “One
day, I had all three on at different points.”

And there was the giant building that
was used as her mansion. “Over the years, it had been a boys'
school, a girls' school, a sanitarium,” Anderson said.

During the three weeks of filming
there, she said, British crews kept adjusting it.”You would see the
mold, the cobwebs …. You could observe it deteriorate.”

A life was deteriorating, too, ending
in a burst of flames. It was one stop in the Dickens roller-coaster.

– “Masterpiece Classic,” 9 p.m.
Sundays, PBS (check local listings)

– Charles Dickens “Great
Expectations,” April 1 and 8, and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,”
April 15; then Sebastian Faulk's “Birdsong,”April 22 and 29.
“Masterpiece Mystery” returns in May.


Colton -- much more than a dark horse

Some comments after tonight's "American Idol":

1) What's this talk about Colton Dixon being a dark horse? To me, he's always been a front-runner, mixing musical skill with looks and emotional intensity. His performance tonight proved that again.

2) Most years, people have shied away from anything remotely connected to religion. Even when the category was "inspirational songs," all the contestants -- even those with gospel roots -- ducked. Not this week; Colton opened with a contemporary Christian song and Hollie Cavanagh sang "Jesus Take the Wheel."

3) That was admirable, but Hollie's performance was only OK. The same was true of Skylar Laine, who gave us lots of firepower, but not much vocal variety.

4) Remember how judges used to warn everyone (wisely) to avoid big songs by big singers? Now Joshua Ledet has conquered two of them -- first Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" and now Mariah Carey's "Without You." What's more, Elise Testone somehow conquered Led Zeppelen.

5) My own favorites, overall, are Dixon, Ledet and Jessica Sanchez. But what aout tonight? I would send Skyler Laine home, with Hollie Cavanagh in the bottom two; my prediction, however, is that Hollie goes, with Heejun Han in the bottom two. We'll see.