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The TINY SCREEN: Just About Glaad:

Recently, Fox’s highly rated “American Idol” came under fire for its comments regarding certain contestants, “specifically, the producers’ decision to turn a contestant’s gender expression into the butt of a joke. We’ve spoken with FOX and have entered into what we hope will be a productive, ongoing conversation about the show’s representation and discussion of sexual orientation and gender expression,”said Damon Romine, Entertainment Media Director of Glaad. While it’s important to remember that no one group likes to be picked on, but, lest we forget, it’s “American Idol,” the silliest, lamest form of cheap entertainment television has to offer. There is no requirement for judges Randy, Simon and Paula to “play fair.” And if you think these three are bad, wait until they take on the entertainment industry and the fickle American public.For better or worse, the “Idol” judges mostly know what they’re doing. They know what audiences will buy and Simon, in particular, has a keen instinct for the kind of drama that ups the show’s ratings. What sells isn’t fair play, but the opposite: humiliation, and degradation peppered with the occasional victory. Simon and to a degree, Randy, are like wolves who smell blood. They attack the weakest of the litter not those destined for fame. Look at Clay Aiken – an obviously effeminate contestant who made it all the way to the final two; “Idol” doesn’t have a problem with effeminate people as long as they can belt it like the bejesus. They aren’t getting paid the big bucks to be nice or compassionate or fair; they are where they are, because they are the judges we love to hate. In fact, the media coverage of “Idol” last week focused on the “controversy,” but ignored the best moment of the week, when the judges let through the naïve cowboy who had never flown in a plane and had only ever sung to his turkey. Clearly, that contestant wasn’t ready for prime time but Simon and Randy pushed him through because they couldn’t help but feel for the guy. It’s either that, or they sensed it would make for dramatic TV – either way, that was the money shot of the Idol auditions. To make it in Hollywood or “Idol,” contestants have to eat judges like Simon for lunch. They can’t be held back by a few mean comments; the world is mean, audiences are mean. That’s just show business. But look at what is waiting on the other side. And, let’s face it, people will continue to tune in just to hear what Simon has to say. “American Idol” is as much about the losers as it is about the winners. When people get up there and say they want to “be the next American Idol” we’re thinking: “who the hell do they think they are?” A part of us wants to see Simon put them in their place. In the end, no one need take “American Idol” that seriously. It’s a show to entertain bored Americans, a show that delivers onto the world yet another temporary pop star, and it’s just not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, two networks – UPN and the WB —that represented a time in television history when ABC, NBC and CBS were being challenged by rogue networks with their own original programming have merged While UPN tended to cater to minorities, WB focused on aattracting the 20-something set. In joining forces, the two networks will continue to cater to both minorities and the target demo. But how independent is it really? The new network, CW, will debut in September 2006 as a 50/50 joint venture of UPN parent company, CBS and WB parent company, Time Warner. Won’t it all be one big network soon? So much for diversity of programming. Notable TV This Week Thursday, January 19 Mulan (***), 8 p.m., DISNEY.Smoky and the Bandit (**), 8 p.m., AMC.Japanland, 9 p.m., KCET.The Haunting (***), 10 p.m., TBS.

Friday, January 20

From Justin to Kelly (*), has there ever been anything so delightfully bad? 8 p.m., FAMILY.

Gia (***), Angelina Jolie’s breakout film, 8 p.m., OXYGEN.

The Silence of the Lambs (****), 8 p.m., BRAVO.

Frontline/World, 9:15 p.m., KCET.

Saturday, January 21

Road to Perdition (**), 8 p.m., ABC.

Saturday Night Fever (****), 8 p.m., FAMILY.

The Truman Show (***), 8 p.m., TBS.

The Shop Around the Corner (***), 8:30 p.m., TCM.

Sunday, January 22

Born on the Fourth of July (***), 8 p.m., AMC.

Toy Story (****), 8 p.m., DISNEY.

The Water is Wide, with Alfre Woodard, 9 p.m., CBS.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (****), 9:15 p.m., TCM.

Monday, January 23

Myra Breckinridge (***), 7:30 p.m., FMC.

Animal House (***), 8 p.m., AMC.

Ararat (***), 8 p.m., IFC.

There’s Something About Mary (***), 8 p.m., FX.

Tuesday, January 24

Born Yesterday (***), 7:30 p.m., TCM.

American Idol, 8 p.m., FOX.

Frontline, 9 p.m., KCET.

My Fair Lady (***), 9 p.m., TCM.

Wednesday, January 25

Casablanca (****), 7:30 p.m., TCM.

Ice Age (***), 8 p.m., FX.

Babe (****), 9 p.m., GOLF.

African American Lives, 9 p.m., KCET.

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