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Here Come de Judges! Here Come de Judges!
January 4, 2011  | By David Bianculli

It's still a couple of weeks before new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez show up on Fox's American Idol, and before Piers Morgan, familiar as both a judge on NBC's America's Got Talent and a winner of the same network's Celebrity Apprentice, fills Larry King's interview chair on CNN. But another familiar TV judge can be judged tonight at 8 ET on CBS, when the new Live to Dance series showcases, yes, Paula Abdul...

On Fox's American Idol, Abdul unquestionably was part of the show's initial success -- and, playing and flirting with caustic fellow judge Simon Cowell, part of the show's undeniable, and definitely unpredictable, chemistry. But now, on Idol, not only are they both gone, but so are the two new judges introduced in recent seasons. The only holdover is Randy Jackson, who will have to step up his game considerably, and widen his vocabulary, if he's not to be trampled by the new folks.


As for Morgan, who knows? He won Celebrity Apprentice precisely because everyone underestimated him, and he was more cunning and intelligent than most people thought, so I don't count him out. Besides, replacing Larry King may be replacing an icon in a popularity and celebrity sense -- but in terms of stepping in as an interviewer, it's almost impossible not to outdo King's infamous "What, me prepare?" approach.

But for now, we have the return of Paul Abdul. The latest return, actually, because she's already added to her far-from-Idol resume by starring in Hey Paula (her own widely, and wisely, ignored reality series), being a recurring guest judge on Drop Dead Diva, and serving as a correspondent on Entertainment Tonight. ('But enough about you, let's talk about me...')

In CBS's Live to Dance, she serves as both mentor and head judge. Other judges are Travis Payne and Kimberly Wyatt, and the host is Andrew Gunsberg. (Me, either. Not a single one.) Her enthusiasm for dance, and empathy for the contestants, is a given -- but will her Gracie Allen act work without Simon Cowell's sour George Burns?

And with a show televised on the same night as Fox's Glee, will there be enough song-and-dance lovers to go around? Even though American Idol no longer airs on Tuesdays, Glee does -- as does NBC's Biggest Loser, which, astoundingly, starts its 11th cycle tonight. After the initial curiosity tune-in factor is over, Paula Abdul could end up as the night's biggest loser herself.

What do YOU think? Does the return of Judge Abdul interest you at all? And, if you decide to watch the show, what's your opinion afterward?




Neil said:

You overlook a factor in the ratings of shows like this: satellite-delivered TV. (No, I'm not nuts...hear me out.)

A significant percentage of the national audience now gets their TV from DirecTV or Dish Network, as opposed to the old (Comcast, TimeWarner, et al) or new (FIOS, U-verse) cable companies. And while the satellite providers carry local channels at local times around the country, they also carry the national channels at a unified time, delivering the Eastern time zone feeds.

So someone like me, who lives in the quite-well-populated West Coast, can not only choose traditional 8:00 pm offerings like Glee or Paula's new Live to Dance program, we can also choose the first (quasi-live) feeds of The Daily Show or Conan at the same time. Or a bunch of other programs that you folks in the Eastern or Central zones will need to wait for until 11pm (10 Central, as they say).

And anyone who buys a premium tier like HBO or Showtime also gets both east and west coast feeds of many of those channels, which adds even greater choice and competition for those 8pm eyeballs.

This fragments the prime time audience even more than the networks have ever admitted (or at least that I've ever heard them cop to). And explains why it's so hard for second tier shows like Paula's, or for that matter CNN's new offerings like Parker/Spitzer or Piers Morgan, to find enough viewers to make their new shows succeed. In effect, the playing field isn't even level across the time zones.

Comment posted on January 4, 2011 1:10 PM

Linda said:

To quote Barney Stinson...Challenge accepted!

I recorded "Live to Dance" and, granted, I've only watched about 45 minutes so far but I'm very encouraged by the program. Being a huge fan of dance (and Paula Abdul's dancing talent, as well, rather than her "American Idol" days), I'm a bit more inclined to enjoy the show to begin with, of course. But the thing I like most about it is the positive attitude. The panel is a panel of "experts" and not a panel of "judges." A semantic distinction perhaps but worth noting. And instead of highlighting the William Hung type of contestants, they've decided to show the positive side. Do they show the less than talented contestants? Of course. But they don't make fun of them -- so far.

Don't get me wrong...I can't take my eyes off the TV equivalent of an accident scene just like anyone else. And pratfalls? Please! I can barely breathe from laughing so hard. But with all the lack of civility anymore -- especially on TV and especially on, of all things, the news -- it's a welcome change. And to point to your blog entry on Wednesday, it's nice to have the spotlight on someone for what they do well (or believe they do well) instead of how stupid or drunk or obnoxious they can be.

Let's hope "Live to Dance" can keep it up.

Comment posted on January 5, 2011 11:12 AM
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