Crystal and Lee: Two Northern kids collide

Crystal Bowersox wasn't exaggerating tonight when she told "American Idol" viewers: "Northwestern Ohio has been in a bit of a slump lately."

A big bit. Ohio, Michigan and Illinois have struggled. So it's a pleasure to see a couple of ordinary kids from the North, fighting for the "American Idol" championship.

Crystal is from little towns near Toledo; Lee DeWyze is from Mount Prospect, near Chicago. They are sort of like the people I meet every day in Michigan ... except, of course, that they have more talent.

"Idol" has always been dominatd by Southernors, from that first Kelly Clarkson win to the recent ones by Kris Allen, David Cook (well, Missouri is semi-South), Jordin Sparks and Taylor Hicks. So it's fun to see these everyday-sort-of Northerners get a shot.

And it was important to see Casey James be ousted. Sure, he's tall, handsome and likable, with a good voice and great guitar licks. But he kept himself bottled in a middlin' range of in-between songs with cheery themes. He became, as I said previously, Casey and the Sunshine Bland.

Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) Don't look too soon for my interview with Casey. Usually, the person ousted talks to reporters Thursday afternoon; this week, however, that's been nudged back to late Friday morning.

2) Like most of the contestants, Casey became more appealing after he was ousted. That's when he relaxed and repeated Tuesday's song (John Mayer's "Daughters") to, apparently, his niece. It was filled with emotion -- something that's been too scarce with Casey.

3) The show loves to talk about "Cool, Texas," even if it doesn't really go there. I got suspicious when I saw bleachers; Cool, population 160, doesn't really need them. Actually, this was in Millsap, a nearby town with triple the population (485), where Casey went to school. Both are about 30 miles from Fort Worth.

4) Surveying the massive greeting, Casey said: "I was not expecting this at all." Hint: He would if he had had a TV set. Casey reportedly had never seen the show and hadn't had a TV since his family home was hit by lightning when he was 7.

5) Note about the Ford video and another ad: I don't care how cool the car is, you're not doing yourself any favors by showing one that's pea green.

6) The TV world is getting overJerseyed. There's "Jersey Shores" and "Jerseylicious" and "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," plus "Sopranos" reruns and more. And there was Ryan Seacrest, telling us that one of the upcoming audition spots will be Jersey City. Let's just hope that doesn't include the beach guys and the girl with the orange tan.

7) There was a lot of commotion onstage and Travis Garland also sang a little. I can't tell from that if he's good.

8) The Justin Bieber numbers were fine -- and may have been cleverly packaged. There was no proof that they actually happened tonight. Bieber had previously taped something that was going to be used for "Idol Gives Back," but the show ran over. This might have been that tape.

9) Please, no more extended interviews with the singers. Too often, they just say "it feels surreal." This time, even worse, Ryan asked: "Is it surreal?"

10) Now for my preference and prediction: Preference: Crystal Bowersox wins; she's been my favorite all year (with Michael Lynche, alas, as my second favorite). Prediction: Lee DeWyze wins. Either way, it will be a nice kid from the North, which has been in a bit of a slump.




A big-bang moment from CBS

My basic life habits will have to change this fall.

For now, Monday's are my TV feast. The two best shows on TV -- "House" and "The Big Bang Theory" are there, separated by the fun "Two and a Half Men."

Now -- in a surprising move -- CBS will move "Big Bang" to Thursdays and "Survivor" to Wednesdays. It announced the move this morning; here's the story I sent to papers:


NBC's once-potent comedy turf faces a
huge challenge next fall: CBS is moving “The Big Bang Theory” to

“Big Bang” – in some weeks, the
most-watched scripted show on TV – goes to the 8 p.m. Thursday
slot. It will be followed by a new comedy – “$#*! My Dad Says”
– in a direct assault on NBC's struggling “Community” and “30

The move nudges “Survivor” to
Wednesdays, after it thrived for nine years on Thursdays. It lets CBS
add one new comedy on Mondays, while keeping the others – “How I
Met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement” and “Two and a Half
Men” – in their places.

The network announced its schedule this
morning and will present it to advertisers late this afternoon. Key
changes include:

– Shaking up the Friday line-up,
which had been winning the night. “Medium” returns (moving to 8
p.m.), but “Ghost Whisperer” and “Miami Medical” are gone.
Those shows – both strong with female audiences – will be
replaced by male-leaning shows. “CSI:NY” moves to 9 p.m. Fridays;
“Blue Bloods” – with Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg in a
family of top New York cops – is at 10.

– Remaking “Hawaii Five-O,” which
was big on CBS from 1968-80. The new stars are Alex O'Loughlin
(“Moonlight”), Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”) and Scott Caan, James'

– Using another old CBS title, but
not the show. The original “The Defenders” was the dead-serious
story of father-son lawyers; the new one is described as a comedic
drama with Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell as eccentric Las Vegas

– Moving two of the three “CSI”
editions – “Miami” to 10 p.m. Sundays, “NY” at 9 p.m.

– And no mercy for shows with
borderline ratings. The schedule doesn't include “Cold Case,”
“Accidentally on Purpose,” “Gary Unmarried,” “The New
Adventures of Old Christine,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Numb3rs”
or “Miami Medical”; no mid-season shows are listed, except for a
“Criminal Minds” spin-off starring Forest Whitaker.

The new line-up:

– Mondays: 8-9:30 p.m. unchanged,
with “How I Met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement” and “Two
and a Half Men”; then “Mike & Molly” comedy at 9:30,
“Hawaii Five-O” at 10.

– Tuesdays: Unchanged, with “NCIS,”
“NCIS: Los Angeles” and “The Good Wife.”

– Wednesdays: 8, “Survivor”; 9,
“Criminal Minds”; 10, “The Defenders.”

– Thursdays: 8, “The Big Bang
Theory”; 8:30, “$#*! My Dad Says”; 9, “CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation”; 10, “The Mentalist.”

– Fridays: 8, “Medium”; 9,
“CSI:NY”; 10, “Blue Bloods.”

– Saturdays: Reruns and “48 Hours

– Sundays: 7, “60 Minutes”; 8,
“Amazing Race”; 9, “Undercover Boss”; 10, CSI: Miami.”




Farewell (finally) to Casey

So it looks like the end of the line -- at last -- for Casey and the Sunshine Bland.

Most weeks on "American Idol," Casey James has chosen some vaguely upbeat tune that goes nowhere and does nothing. In Sinatra week he did "Blue Skies"; in inspiration week he did "Don't Stop."

Judges kept warning him -- sometimes gently, sometimes not -- that he has to impress the voters. You don't do that by seeming like you're in the corner of a coffeehouse, being pleasant and easy to ignore. Still, he never changed. Tonight -- given virtually any song to choose from -- he went with something like "OK, It's Alright."

It was a shrug of a song, done with a shrug of a performance. Next week, we'll get Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze in the finals.

Here are a few of my other comments; please add yours:

1) Crystal chose a much better song, Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window," and sang it well. Lee also did a good job on a good choice, ZZ Top's "Simple Man."

2) The judges gave Casey a fairly good song, John Mayer's "Daughters." He found a way to make it bland.

3) Ellen DeGeneres threw Crystal a bigger challenge, Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." Among other things, this seemed to require her to sing (quite inaccurately) "I'm a Man" several times. It also required some high-octave blasting. When someone said this showed "parts of your voice I've never heard before," Crystal simply replied: "Me either."

4) Lee got a much bigger break when Simon Cowell assigned him to sing "Hallelujah." He nailed it.

5) Maybe that's why Simon is a successful record producer. He understands that the most effective songs are usually straightforward, melodic, emotional and accessible.

6) Some years, it's fun to see the finalists go to their home towns. This time, we just saw Crystal and Casey standing in front of small crowds at AT&T stores. (Gee, thanks for the home-town flavor.) For Lee, we didn't even get that; he was sitting in an airplane.

7) I stayed in front of a TV set for another hour, in order to see the second-to-last episode of "Lost." That was helpful; it expanded the quantity of things I don't understand.






The new season: ABC stays safe

For a little spurt there, ABC was he most ambitious spot on TV. It went from "Lost" to "FlashForward" to "V"; it experimented with "Ugly Betty" and tried fresh comedies. It was fun  while it lasted.

The ABC fall line-up, announced today, plays it a bit safer. Here's the story I sent to papers:


This fall, ABC will be back to what TV
knows best – doctors and crime-solvers.

It will even combine the two for one
show. In “Body of Proof,” Dana Delany plays a doctor whose
surgery career is ended by an accident; she becomes a medical

Meanwhile, the network is going slow on
some of its riskier ventures in the current season:

– Fantasy and science fiction?
“FlashForward” is being canceled; “V” has been renewed, but
isn't on the fall schedule. There is one new show, however: “No
Ordinary Family” has a Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz crash-landing
in the Amazon with their children; all four soon have superpowers.

– Comedies? Only one is being added,
to fill a Wednesday hole. However, two are ready for mid-season, one
starring Matthew Perry.

Mostly, ABC will stick to the
standards. It even has two shows – the “Detroit 1-8-7” cop show
and a “My Generation” drama – that pretend to be done by a
documentary crew. It has also adds a reality show (“Secret
Millionaire”), from the “Undercover Boss” producers, which had
a brief run on Fox.

The network announced its line-up today
and introduces it to advertisers late this afternoon. It includes:

– Mondays: Unchanged, with “Dancing
With the Stars” at 8 p.m. and “Castle” at 10.

– Tuesdays: 8 p.m., “No Ordinary
Family”; 9, “Dancing With the Stars” results show; 10, “Detroit
1-8-7,” starring Michael Imperioli, formerly of “The Sopranos.”

– Wednesdays: “The Middle,”
“Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” return at 8, 9 and 9:30.
The new comedy, “Better Together,” is at 8:30; it pairs one
couple that's dated comfortably for nine years and another that is
marrying and pregnant after seven weeks. At 10 p.m., “The Whole
Truth” stars Joely Richardson and Rob Morrow as friends working
opposite sides – as a prosecutor and defense attorney.

– Thursdays: 8, “My Generation,”
in which Austin, Texas, youths are re-visited by a documentary crew
that profiled them 10 years ago as teens. 9 and 10, “Grey's
Anatomy” and “Private Practice” return.

– Fridays: 8, “Secret Millionaire”
(rich people go undercover); 9, “Body of Proof”; 10, “20/20.”

– Saturdays: Football.

– Sundays: Unchanged, with “America's
Funniest Home Videos” at 7, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” at
8, “Grey's Anatomy” at 9 and “Private Practice” at 10.

– Mid-season: “Off the Map,” from
the “Grey's Anatomy” producers, has American doctors in a clinic
in the South American jungle. “Mr. Sunshine” is a Matthew Perry
comedy. “Happy Endings” is a youth comedy that includes Elisha
Cuthbert, Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans, Jr. Current shows waiting
for mid-season slots are “V” and “Supernanny.”



The new season: Fox and NBC are ready

By the end of today's presentation for advertisers, Fox had filled the stage with a golden-robed choir and the cast of "Glee."

That makes sense I guess. The network has good reasons to be gleeful and sing a few hallelujahs. It's No. 1, again, with solid-enough plans for the year ahead -- and a Steven Spielberg mega-show ("TerraNova") somewhere in the future.

The network talked with reporters this morning, then gave its pitch to advertisers this afternoon. Sure, there were a few shaky parts, including network chief Kevin Reilly discussing the "discovery" of actor Jimmy Wolk. He was "discovered" if you overlook the fact that he had already done a sensational, starring performance in a CBS movie, "Front of the Class."

Still, it's fun to see that Wolk -- just three years out of the University of Michigan -- has a dandy role as a con man who has made the mistake of falling in love. That's in "Lonestar," one of the more promising series. There's also "Raising Hope," in which a slacker tries to raise a baby, with the help of his family -- which has never been good at that sort of thing. I laughed out loud several times, during the clips.

Here's the story I sent to papers, about the Fox and NBC line-ups, along with their schedules. I'll send more after seeing the ABC and CBS presentations, late Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons:


TV viewers will need some big
adjustments – well, semi-big ones – this fall. For instance:

– “Law & Order” will be gone,
ending a record-tying 20-year run. However, “Law & Order: Los
Angeles,” not yet cast, will debut.

– Amy Poehler's comedy, “Parks and
Recreation,” is being dropped by NBC. Her husband Will Arnett,
however, has a new comedy on Fox.

– “Heroes” is gone from NBC's
Monday line-up, but “Chuck” is back.

– That 9 p.m. Monday slot –
previously home of “Heroes” on NBC and “24” on Fox – has
two ambitious dramas with young stars. NBC's “The Event” may aim
for the “24” audience, with Jason Ritter caught up in a national
conspiracy; Fox has Jimmy Wolk as a slick schemer in “Lonestar,”
a serialized show that programming chief Kevin Reilly says “has a
little bit of 'Dallas' to it.”

– And comedies are making a mild
comeback. Fox had two new ones after “Glee” on Tuesdays; NBC will
wrap up its Thursdays with “Love Bites,” an anthology that has
short bits in the form once used by “Love American Style.”

NBC announced its schedule Sunday and
Fox talked to reporters Monday. They represent opposite ends of TV–
Fox No. 1 in key categories, NBC No. 4 after failing to move Jay Leno
to prime time.

Both networks feel situation comedies
are coming back, after crashing in recent years.

For Fox, that means having “Glee” –
a mix of music, comedy and drama – lead into two sitcoms. “Raising
Hope,” from “My Name is Earl” producer Greg Garcia, has a
slacker living with his parents, when he finds he has a baby to
raise; Reilly says it has “really smart silliness with regular,
working-class people.” The other is “Running Wilde,” which
Arnett produces with his former “Arrested Development” boss,
Mitch Hurwitz; it links a playboy (Arnett) and a do-gooder (Keri

NBC's only new fall sitcom is
“Outsourced,” in which an American runs a novelty company's call
center in India. However, the network also has the “Love Bites”
anthology, with three more comedies – one from former “Mad About
You” star Paul Reiser – for mid-season.

Fox has often diverted from network
patterns. New examples include:

– “The Good Guys” – a cop show
about a mismatched duo – will debut this Wednesday, in front of
“American Idol.” It will become a summer show, then will zip
directly onto the fall line-up, behind “The Human Target” on

– “Glee” airs on Tuesdays this
fall, rests in January, then has what Reilly calls a “supersized
episode” after the Super Bowl. Then it moves to 9 p.m. Wednesdays,
after the “American Idol” results show.

– When “Idol” returns in January,
it will have “more performances and a shorter results show,” said
Peter Rice, the Fox president. The Tuesday shows will be 90 minutes;
the Wednesday ones will be 30.

Prior to that, of course, the network
must choose a replacement for Simon Cowell as judge. “There's no
bigger decision we have this summer,” Rice said.

Here are the line-ups, with capsules of the new shows:

Mondays, Fox

– 8 p.m., “House”

– 9 p.m., “Lonestar.” Jimmy Wolk
is a young schemer, with families in Amaraillo and Houston.

Mondays, NBC

– 8 p.m., “Chuck”

– 9 p.m., “The Event.” Jason
Ritter is entangled in a conspiracy of national impact.

– 10 p.m., “Chase.” Producer
Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI”) has an action drama about U.S marshals.

Tuesdays, Fox

– 8 p.m., Glee

– 9 p.m., “Raising Hope.” A pool
boy, 23 and living with his parents, must raise a baby born in

– 9:30: “Running Wilde.” It's a
romance of opposites, played by Will Arnett and Keri Russell.

Tuesdays, NBC

– Unchanged, with “Biggest Loser”
at 8 p.m., “Parenthood” at 10.

Wednesdays, Fox

– 8, “Lie to Me”; 9, “Hell's

Wednesdays, NBC

– 8, “Undercovers.” J.J. Abrams,
the “Alias” and “Lost” producer, heads this story about two
former spies – now married and running a catering company – who
are pressed back into service.

– 9, “Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit.”; 10, “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” not yet

Thursdays, Fox

– No change, with “Bones” at 8
and “Fringe” at 9.

Thursdays, NBC

– 8-9:30, “Community,” “30
Rock” and “The Office”

– 9:30, “Outsourced.” Ben
Rappaport plays an American, running a call center in India.

– 10: “Love Bites,” an anthology.
Each hour has three short stories, plus vignettes.

Fridays, Fox

– 8, “Human Target”; 9, “The
Good Guys”

Fridays, NBC

– 8, “Who Do You Think You Are”;
9, “Dateline”

– 10: “Outlaw,” with Jimmy Smits
as a Supreme Court who resigns and defends the common man.


– Fox continues to have “Cops”
and “America's Most Wanted”; NBC has reruns.


– Fox continues its cartoons; NBC
continues football.

Mid-season, Fox

– “Ride-Along,” a Chicago cop
show from “Shield” producer Shawn Ryan, will be 9 p.m. Mondays.

– “American Idol” will be 8-9:30
p.m. Tuesdays, followed by “Runing Wilde.” “Raising Hope” and
“Glee” move to Wednesdays, sandwiched around a half-hour “Idol.”

– Also: A comedy (“Mixed Signals”)
a Sunday cartoon (“Bob's Burgers”) and a fantasy epic (“TerraNova”) from Steven Spielberg, with people from the future going through a time hole to live in the days of dinosaurs.

Mid-season, NBC

– After football season, Sundays have
“Dateline,” “Minute to Win It” and “Celebrity Apprentice.”

–“School Pride,” a reality show
about reviving schools, will take the 8 p.m. Friday spot.

– Waiting are three sitcoms and two
dramas, one a law show from David E. Kelley (“Boston Public”).