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'Idol' producers should end show on time

Mary J. Blige performs with Randy Jackson on Idol Gives Back. The April 21 blockbuster fundraiser ran 24 minutes long, cutting off on the DVR.

Fox

Mary J. Blige performs with Randy Jackson on Idol Gives Back. The April 21 blockbuster fundraiser ran 24 minutes long, cutting off on the DVR.

The Feed

The Feed

Aside from all the talk about a lackluster crop of singers and tired formatting, I've got one quick recommendation for producers on how to improve this year's edition of American Idol.

End the episodes on time.

Over the last two weeks, viewers have seen just one edition of the popular unscripted singing competition end when it was supposed to — with this past Tuesday's episode running a couple of minutes over and April 21's blockbuster Idol Gives Back fundraiser landing a whopping 24 minutes long.

Why should anyone care when Idol's messy, seat-of-the-pants shows conclude? Three letters: DVR.

As a time-challenged TV critic, I notice this immediately. There is a serious logjam of popular shows on Tuesdays — from NBC's Biggest Loser and CBS's two NCIS shows to ABC's Dancing with the Stars and Lost and Fox's Idol.

Saving some shows with a digital video recorder becomes the only way to keep up — something Idol turns into a nightmare with its disregard for watching the clock.

Never mind missing important Idol moments; overruns also back up the network's overall schedule, pushing back fan favorite Glee just far enough that DVRed episodes may be missing the last (and, often the best!) musical number.

On Tuesday, gleeks saw Kristin Chenoweth's soaring take on Home from The Wiz clipped; the week before, the big closing number for the show's Madonna homage, Like a Prayer, was cut off badly enough that the network re-aired the entire episode the following Friday.

Rumors blame the arrogance of Idol producers, accused of refusing to rein in the show. Fox publicists e-mailed this statement: "While the producers always aim to end the show on time, American Idol is a live performance show and as with all live programming, there are unpredictable elements that affect running time."

Given the punctuality of other live shows — notably Dancing with the Stars — some fans fear it is a deliberate effort to discourage people from recording the program at all. After all, one benefit of watching a recording is skipping the endless commercials and product placement stuff.

This isn't new for TV networks. Already, some shows have staggered start times, beginning one or two minutes after the hour, to make it tough for fans to record shows on other networks. And some cable networks even vary the lengths and placement of breaks to prod viewers into paying a little more attention as they fast forward through recorded shows.

But a report released last week by the Nielsen Co. indicates 34 percent of TV homes now have DVRs. Which means Idol, already losing popular judge Simon Cowell and its razor-sharp band after this season ends, might not want to tick off fans anymore than they must.

I have a feeling, sometime soon, they're going to need a little audience goodwill.

The quotable Betty White

Showbiz icon Betty White will satisfy thousands of Facebooking fans Saturday when she debuts as a guest host on Saturday Night Live's Mother's Day episode — a job she got only after an intense Internet campaign prodded the show to offer the gig and her own manager pushed her into taking it. White, 88, let those facts slip — along with bewilderment over her late-career burst of fans and love for the musical guest, rapper Jay-Z — during a spirited conference call with reporters Wednesday. Here are highlights:

• "All I know (about Saturday Night Live) is I have veto power if it's something I really don't want to do. And they promised me I wouldn't have to do any nudity."

• "I'm an old broad. At my age to be invited to do a show as current and choice as Saturday Night Live, (my agent) thought would be a wonderful opportunity. … And I said I'd rather watch it than do it."

• "What's changed the most (over her 62-year career) is the audience, not the comedy. … They have heard every joke. They know every story line. … That's a tough audience to surprise."

• "I won't do any dope jokes. I don't like dope jokes. I don't think dope is a joke. And that's about the only (thing) I would say let's resist doing."

• "I keep getting young actresses who ask how (to make it). Bette Davis did an answer that just cracked me up. They said, 'What advice would you give young actresses trying to get into Hollywood?' She said, 'Take Fountain (Street).' "

'Idol' producers should end show on time 05/01/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 6:02pm]

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