on the tube

By Dean Robbins

‘American Idol’ survives cast changes

Before the new season began, I despaired over cast changes to “American Idol” (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Fox). Paul Abdul left, and Simon Cowell announced he would leave after this year. The chemistry among the judges is at least half the fun on this beloved singing competition, and I thought significant departures would spell disaster.

I don’t think that anymore. With the exception of the gum-chomping airhead Avril Lavigne, the guest judges worked well during the audition phase. Victoria Beckham shone in the supportive Paula role, as did Neil Patrick Harris and Katy Perry as sharp-tongued Simon types. When permanent Paula replacement Ellen DeGeneres showed up during Hollywood Week, she added her own brand of wit and charm.

No matter what cast changes occur down the road, I now believe the “American Idol” franchise will be just fine. At this point, the only thing that could bring it down is Avril Lavigne and a pack of gum.


Thursday, 8:30 p.m. (HBO)

“Reporter” is a documentary that lionizes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. I’ve often dreamed of having such a documentary made about me (working title: “TV Blurb Writer”), but I don’t have the luxury of flying around the world to find juicy material for my columns.

OK, it’s actually not much of a luxury for Kristof. As we see, he plunges into strife-ridden areas and dodges suicide bombings to get the lowdown on humanitarian crises. He became an international hero for focusing attention on Darfur -— “one of the great journalistic achievements of our time,” a commentator says. Mia Farrow testifies that Kristof’s reporting spurred her to action, along with completely blowing her mind. “His columns tore me apart and rearranged me,” she says.

Wait till she sees “TV Blurb Writer.” CV



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