Idol:The little girls went too far this time

We all knew that little girls are dangerous to "American Idol." They know how to text, know how to phone, have endless of time to vote.

Often, they behave themselves; the cutest guy rarely wins. But tonight, they went way too far.

Clearly, the worst prformances Wednesday were by DeAndre Brackensick and Heejun Han. But DeAndre is cute and Heejun has humor and offbeat charm; both escaped the bottom.

Instead, Shannon Magrane was sent home -- missing the top-10 tour by a smidgen -- with Erika Van Pelt second-lowest and Sharon Magrane third. Life is not fair; if this continues, we'll have to confiscate the kids' phones. 



Idol: Some dizzying highs and lows

This was a dizzying night of "American Idol," with wild highs and lows. A few comments and then a prediction:

1) A high: Randy Jackson used to tell people not to sing Whitney Houston, Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. Now Hollie Cavanagh has conquered two of them on consecutive weeks -- first Houston (she had no choice) and now Dion.

2) Higher: Still, in raw difficulty, nothing matches "When a Man Loves a Woman." Joshua Ledet conquered it beautifully.

3) A low: Jermaine Jones seems to have a problem with the truth. He apparently deceived producer when he filled out the forms, failing to mention four criminal warrants. He also reportedly lied to viewers, telling a sad story (about being abandoned by his dad) that simply wasn't true.

4) Lower: What makes it sadder is the fact that Jones sang so powerfully. The rehearsal footage that "Idol" showed (a classy touch) was terrific. It reminded us of Michael Lynche (who finished fourth in 2009) or of the great Paul Robeson.

5) A tip: Singers have the best chance of impressing viewers if they do songs with lyrics that are spare and simple. Two singers did the opposite, with songs that spit out machine-gun lyrics. Phillip Phillips manage to conquer them; Jessica Sanchez didn't.

6) Another tip: Sometimes, just ignore the mentor's song-choice advice. Colton Dixon did that and did fine; some others didn't and failed.

7) One thing more: I like everythig about Skylar Laine, including her voice, her buoyant personality and the country-pop outfit she wore tonight.

8) Now my picks and predictions: Should go home (based just on tonight's performances): DeAndre Brackensick, with Heejun Han, Jessica Sanchez and Shannon Magrane close. Will go home: Heejun Han.



This week, Fridays are fun again

For the USA Network, this is a big shift -- its first attempt to put new, scripted shows on Friday.

And for viewers, it's good news. Fridays are a semi-wasteland, when CBS is virtually the only place interested in scripted shows. And with the basketball tournament, even CBS will skip the next two Fridays (March 16 and 23).

That makes this the perfect time to open the seasons for "Fairly Legal" and "In Plain Sight," at 9 and 10 p.m. this Friday. Both are smart shows with likable heroines. Here are the two stories I sent to papers:



The contrary life always looked good on
Kate Reed.

She was a lawyer who hated the law, a
rich kid who distrusted wealth. As the lead character in “Fairly
Legal,” she had beauty, a boat, a hunky husband and a dad who owned
a law firm.

And now, as the second season starts,
much of that has changed.

“The idea was to take Kate out of her
comfort zones – Justin and her boat,” said Sarah Shahi,who stars.

In th season-opener, she's divorcing
Justin Patrick (Michael Trucco), the assistant district attorney. By
the end of the hour, the boat may be gone, too.

And there are more problems at work:
Her dad is dead and the law firm has dueling co-owners – Kate (a
mediator and ex-lawyer) … Lauren (her dad's glamorous young widow)
… and a cocky newcomer.

They battle amid wobbly finances. “It
forces her to grow up a little,” Shahi said.

Kate is the heroine – idealistic and
uncensored. Does that make Lauren the villain?

Not according to Virginia Williams, who
plays her. “I worked so hard as an actress to give her some depth
…. The only reason (to consider her a villain) is because the
protagonist doesn't like her.”

Well, Lauren fits all the stereotypes
for a TV villain. She's well-dressed and well-spoken; she towers over
Kate – which is not that difficult.

“I'm what they call 'fun size,'”
said Shahi,who puts her height at just under 5-foot-4. “She isn't
that much taller, but she gets to wear bigger heels.”

Both women grew up around the
pageant/cheerleader world of the South, but their roots are opposite.

Shahi's dad – descended from a
Persian shah – was able to get out of Iran before the 1979
revolution. He settled in Texas, for reasons Shahi doesn't know;
“maybe it was the barbecues,” she jokes.

She was born there, grew up in suburban
Dallas and soon shed her first name (Aahoo) for Sarah. “When I was
young, I couldn't wait to get out of Texas,” said Shahi, 32. “But
now I look at it fondly.”

Spanish on her mother's size, she was a
natural for that world. She won beauty pageants, was a Dallas Cowboy
cheerleader, then became an actress; she's married to fellow Texan
Steve Howey (the “Reba” son-in-law) and they have a 2-year-old
son .

So far, Shahi's best TV roles have been
Latina (“Life,” “The L Word”) and now WASP. “I wish
Hollywood would just become color-blind,” she said. “I've lost
jobs because I was too ethnic and because I wasn't ethnic enough.”

That doesn't come up for Williams, 33,
who fits all the requirements for a blonde belle. She grew up in
Memphis, savored the music (“that's always been my first love”)
and managed, at 17, to land a role on “One Life to Live,” playing
a teen villain. “I was very blessed; soaps are a fantastic way to

This required constant commuting to New
York, while staying in high school in Memphis. “Some girls thought
it was cool and some were mean and jealous.”

She's been busy ever since, ranging
from starring in the Australian telenovela “Monarch Cove” to four
episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” as Claudia, whose wedding
caused complications.

And now she's busy towering (thanks to
helpful heels) over a heroine who's out of her comfort zone.

– “Fairly Legal,” 9 p.m. Fridays,
USA, rerunning at midnight

– Season-opener debuts March 16;
reruns at 9 a.m. Sunday, 11 p.m. Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. March 23



At times, the whole
heredity-and-environment thing seems to take a detour.

One sibling goes academic; the other
becomes an actress. Sally Field's brother is a physicist; Isabella
Rossellini's twin sister is a literature professor who has taught at
Princeton and Harvard.

Then there's Mary McCormack, whose “In
Plain Sight” is starting its final season. Her sister is a law
professor, an associate dean and a candidate for Michigan's Supreme

Could McCormack have gone that route,
being an academic star? “Not really,” she said with a laugh. “I
did OK (in school), but I was much better at making friends.”

That's an actor-ly skill; fortunately,
she was on stage early.

McCormack, 43, grew up in New Jersey,
where theater is a big lure. “On my birthday, we would always go to
a Broadway show,” she said. “'Oklahoma,' 'Barnum,' 'Annie.' I
loved them.”

Friends sometimes went into New York to
audition for commercials. Her parents – a mom who's a therapist, a
dad who had a car dealership and then an ice cream parlor – said

She could do community shows, but
nothing professional. That was good for her soul and her career,
McCormack said. “You can learn a lot more doing 'Amahl' than doing
a Burger King commercial.”

Yes, at 12 she played a boy in the
title role of the “Amahl and the Night Visitors” opera. She went
to Trinity College (the same place where her sister Bridget went
before law school), doing lots of plays. Then came theater, movies
and TV, including political roles (“K Street,” “West Wing”)
and the “In Plain Sight” pilot. “I just really liked the script
and and laughed out loud.”

She liked the notion of playing a
witness-protection program agent, tough, lustful and abrasive. “In
some ways, it's a character who, a few years ago, would have been a

The role required McCormack –
married, with two then-preschool daughters – to spend half of each
year in New Mexico. “I'd never been there before,” she said.

It's a fine place to raise kids, she
said, and to do TV. “We get some beautiful physical locations.”

While working on the fourth season,
McCormack learned she was pregnant. The producer saw a neat plot
twist, she said: A baby jostles everything for a cynic who dislikes
children, a control freak whose life is already overcrowd. “She's
going to be sleep-deprived and frustrated.”

So will the actress who plays her. When
her third daughter was three months old, McCormack was back in
action, doing long days (often) in the searing heat (sometimes). Her
work load is demanding; maybe she should have tried academia,

– “In Plain Sight,” 10 p.m. ET
Fridays, USA Network

– Season-opener is March 16,
rerunning at 1 a.m.; also repeats at 10 a.m. Sunday, 11 p.m. March
22, 7:30 a.m. March 23







"Idol" almost got it right

OK, we almost got "American Idol" right. (Or "Idol" almost got it right.)

A few blogs ago, we said Elise Testone and Sharon Mangrane would and should be the bottom two women; one of them would stand alongside Jeremy Rosado, before she was sent home.

All of that went fine tonight -- except the judges sent Rosado home, instead. Oh well, at least that evens it  up at six women apiece; also, Testone and Mangrane have the talent to bounce back. We'll see. 

Golden California -- from a Persian perspective

(A while back, I sent papers a story on the new
“Shahs of Sunset” series and its most interesting person, Asa Soltan Rahmati. Since then, one person has said his name should not be in the story; he is not married to Rahmati, he said, and he's not involved with her.

(The original confusion may have started with a Los Angeles Times article I mentioned in the story. Let's err on the side of making sure everything is accurate; here's the story, now with that that paragraph omitted.)


Tucked into Los Angeles' sprawl are
endless sub-cultures.

Some – black, Chicano, Asian –
have had TV time. Now the Persians get their turn.

These are people with roots in Iran. In
Bravo's new “Shahs of Sunset,” you'll hear young adults rave
about the Persian culture; you'll also hear Asa Soltan Rahmati say
she has mixed feelings.

What's good about the culture? What's
bad? “I probably have the same answer to both,” Rahmati said by
phone. “It's passion.”

The passionate life can glow. “We're
old-school,” she said. “There's the love of friends and family.”
And it can reach excess. “We can be obsessive about some things,”
she said.

Viewers got an example in Sunday's
opener, which reruns every day this week: A trendy-dressed beauty
says Rahmati (who has a self-described “modern Persian gypsy
Bohemian” life and look) is “ghetto”; then they scream a lot.

We expect that, because this is a
reality show. It's produced by Ryan Seacrest (the “American Idol”
host), who wrote that the six main people are compelling: “They are
confident, combative and outrageous. But they are also colorful,
caring and funny.”

And they are attractive, diverse (one
is gay, one is Jewish, Rahmati is rebellious) and wealthy. Their
families left Iran after the 1979 revolution, but most had sent money

Rahmati said her family had a bumpier
ride. “My father was a very high officer in the Navy. We had a lot
of respect and wealth.”

He stayed in Iran after the revolution;
that changed about five years later. “We escaped as political
refugees,” Rahmati said. “We left with one suitcase each.”

She was 8 then, adjusting to Hamburg,
Germany. Later, the family moved to the U.S., finding an apartment
that could get the kids into Beverly Hills High School.

“It was an incredible culture shock,”
Rahmati said, but not necessarily a bad one. She was 15 and already
had an arty image; that gave her an identity on “90210” turf.

In some ways, Rahmati has become a
classic Californian. “I was always a cultural observer … Living
here, with the palm trees and the ocean is definitely a good thing.”

There, Rahmati can follow her ideas.
“I'm multi-media, all over the place,” she said.

She writes and records music, designs
art, even poses on a bicycle in a bikini, holding a machine gun.

The bikini, of course, is gold. “I
love gold,” Rahmati said. Sometimes, obsession looks good on

– “Shahs of Sunrise,” 10 p.m.
Sundays, Bravo.

– The opener debuted March 11 and
reruns daily.