Kate Ward
Kate Ward is the current Executive Editor for, a former editor and writer for Entertainment Weekly and, and a forever fan of pop culture. A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Ward — whose work has also appeared in Glamour magazine — loves talking about nutgrafs and hates exclamation points, despite using them on a regular basis. Specializing in reality TV, ’90s nostalgia, and bad movies, Ward is likely the oldest person to attend "American Idols LIVE!" every year with her mom.
  • Mark Zuckerberg Is a Filthy Rich, Married Man
    By: Kate Ward May 19, 2012
    You know what's cooler than a million dollars? A whole $19.1 billion dollars... and a white wedding. Continuing a week so busy, no timeline could contain it, Mark Zuckerberg has wed girlfriend Priscilla Chan. Insert "relationship status" joke here.  Just one day after Facebook went public, the billionaire married Chan in their backyard in Palo Alto, Calif. The 100 guests, however, didn't receive a Facebook wedding invite — the ceremony was a surprise, held under the guise of celebrating Chan's UCSF medical school graduation.  Zuckerberg and Chan have been together for nine years; they met while both were attending Harvard undergrad. Good to see he ditched the GAP hoodie for the occasion. [Image Credit: Facebook]   More: How the Facebook IPO Is Just Like Empire Strikes Back Facebook IPO to Make Bono Really, Really Rich: Could Earn $1.5 Billion Today Eisenberg 'thrilled' by Zuckerberg meeting
  • Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy Join Cop Comedy. Pop Culture Christmas!
    By: Kate Ward May 19, 2012
    Is it possible to have a girl crush on an inanimate object? Because it's hard not to want to write about the following project all over your Lisa Frank notebook: According to Variety, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are set to star in a buddy cop comedy. But wait — it gets better: The project will be directed by Paul Feig, the man who brought us the 2011 blockbuster Bridesmaids.  Variety reports the film will focus on a "high-strung FBI agent" (played by Bullock), who will no doubt eat piles of junk food but inexplicably remain gorgeous and a Boston-bred officer (played by McCarthy), who will no doubt make us laugh until we have Hidden Valley Ranch dressing streaming from our eyes. The surely unconventional duo will be forced to combine quirky forces to battle a Russian mobster. (Is it too soon to petition that Air Marshall Jon makes a cameo?) Has anyone else written a daily reminder in gelly roll pens to themselves to research the film's release date? More: Be Strong: We Won't See Sandra Bullock/George Clooney's Sci-Fi Thriller Gravity Until 2013 Bridesmaids Tops MTV Movie Award Nominations Idol Contestant Scores Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman Movie
  • Nick Stahl Enters Rehab -- UPDATE
    By: Kate Ward May 19, 2012
    UPDATE: Nick Stahl's wife, Rose, confirmed to People that the actor has decided to enter treatment. "I'm elated," she told the magazine.  EARLIER: He'll be back. Terminator 3 star Nick Stahl has resurfaced after being reported missing Monday. According to People, the actor has reached out to friends and informed them he's fine, despite an LAPD search for Stahl. Also, the actor told friends he was entering a 30-day rehab program.  In an email to friends sent Friday, Stahl did not explain why he had gone MIA. The actor also still has not made contact with his wife, Rose Stahl, who logged into the actor's email to see the note to friends. "I'm relieved," Rose told People. "But I'm aso skeptical that he's really in rehab." Rose had previously told reporters he worried the actor might die following an overdose.  More: Terminator 3 Star Nick Stahl Missing Missing Terminator Star Nick Stahl: The John Connor Curse?
  • Cannes Chatter: Kanye West to Debut 'Cruel' Short Film
    By: Kate Ward May 19, 2012
    The 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival is officially in full swing, with nearly everyone in Hollywood transported to the prestigious French fest for a week and a half of wheeling and dealing. Catch up on all the goings-on with Cannes Chatter. Let's have a toast for the douchebag! Kanye West, who previously showed off his behind the camera talents via short film "Runaway" in 2010, will debut a new film, Cruel Summer. Sorry, 1990s fans — don't expect an adaptation of the Ace of Base hit. West's film, which will be screened out of competition, will be "a fusion of short film and art installation" and also include an "immersive seven-screen experience for the eyes and ears unlike anything West has attempted before," according to DONDA, West's creative company. Cruel Summer's cast is quite hot: Aziz Ansari and Kid Cudi are among those involved with the project. Imma let you finish enjoying that fact before pointing out that this means Cannes will inevitably have to keep up with at least one Kardashian. [MTV] A Cannes story that could be a film itself: Italian actor Aniello Arena, celebrated for his performance as a Naples-set fishmonger who's obsessed with starring on a reality show in Reality, is currently serving 20 years in prison for double murder. Arena was reportedly incarcerated for the crime prior to filming — he was excused during the day in order to star in the film, directed by Matteo Garrone. How did Garrone manage to choose the actor? Arena toured Italy performing with a prison theater troupe. Truth sometimes really is stranger than fiction. [Forbes] Thanks to Sean Penn's best efforts — the actor chided Hollywood and the "whole f**king world" Friday for their lack of support in the earthquake-ravaged Haiti — guests at the film festival have donated over $250,000 to the cause at a charity auction headed by Penn, Paul Haggis, and Petra Nemcova. [Associated Press] More: Cannes 2012 in the Can: How to See the Fest's Biggest Movies Cannes Chatter: Marion Cotillard Already Building Oscar Buzz Cannes Chatter: The Fight Over Sexism Rages On
  • 'Community' Hires New Showrunners; Dan Harmon Blindsided — UPDATE
    By: Kate Ward May 18, 2012
    UPDATE: Former showrunner Dan Harmon has taken to his blog to talk to friends about the change, claiming he was fired from his post. Harmon writes, "Why'd Sony want me gone? I can't answer that because I've been in as much contact with them as you have. They literally haven't called me since the season four pickup, so their reasons for replacing me are clearly none of my business. Community is their property, I only own ten percent of it, and I kind of don't want to hear what their complaints are because I'm sure it would hurt my feelings even more now that I'd be listening for free." And perhaps Community fans should worry about his role as "consulting producer" on the series. Harmon says in his blog that he has yet to be contacted about continuing work on the series. "You may have read that I am technically 'signed on,' by default, to be an executive consulting something or other — which is relatively standard protective clause for a creator in my position," Harmon writes. "Guys like me can't actually just be shot and left in a ditch by Skynet, we're still allowed to have a title on the things we create and 'help out,' like, I guess sharpening pencils and stuff." Should Harmon attempt to help, he says, he'd simply be "offering" suggestions, not enforcing creative changes: "I'm not saying you can't make a good version of Community without me, but I am definitely saying that you can't make my version of it unless I have the option of saying 'It has to be like this or I quit' roughly 8 times a day." Harmon also says he saw the replacement coming. "I had my assistant start packing my office days ago. I'm sorry. I'm not saying seasons 1, 2 and 3 were my definition of perfect television, I'm just saying that whatever they[re going to do for season 4, they're aiming to do without my help," he writes. "So do not believe anyone that tells you on Monday that I quit or diminished my role so I could spend more time with my loved ones, or that I negotiated and we couldn't come to an agreement, etc. It couldn't be less true because, just to make this clear, literally nobody called me."  Though NBC is not issuing comment about Harmon's words, the Community cast has taken to Twitter to respond to the showrunner's ouster. Wrote star Joel McHale: "@danharmon you are a true genius. You gave me the role of a lifetime & three of the best years of my life."  Responded Gillian Jacobs, "I wholeheartedly agree with @joelmchale. I'm so grateful to @danharmon for my role, the show and everything else. Thank you, Dan. Thank you." Yvette Nicole Brown tweeted, "@danharmon So many thoughts. So little room. I guess, 'I heart you' and 'Thank you to INFINITY' will have to do for now." Finally, Alison Brie also spoke out about the Community shift: "I'm in creative debt to @danharmon who let us ride the coattails of his integrity, pushing boundaries & making f'ing awesome tv. Thanks Dan." EARLIER: Community's community just got a bit bigger — despite the fact that beloved former showrunner Dan Harmon has taken a back seat. After news broke that Harmon would be stepping down as the series' showrunner, Deadline reports David Guarascio and Moses Port have stepped into the role for Season 4 of the NBC series.  Über-fans of the series need not be worried — Harmon will still be involved to help keep Community a must-see, serving as a consulting producer. And it seems the network has left the show in good hands: Guarascio and Port have plenty of quirky sitcom experience in the industry, most recently as consulting producers on ABC rising star Happy Endings. The duo also executive produced Just Shoot Me! and Aliens in America.  Would it be wishful thinking for us to hope the Chevy Chase-headed Community will now become a big, happy family? [Image Credit: NBC] More:10 'Community' Episodes That Couldn't Exist Without Dan HarmonCommunity React: #SixSeasonsandaMovieJohn Oliver: The Internet is 'Killing' 'Community'
  • 'American Idol' Recap: Blame the Judges
    By: Kate Ward May 17, 2012
    Over the course of 11 seasons of American Idol, only one contestant outside the South has basked in a confetti shower. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, and Scotty McCreery were all winners raised below the Mason Dixon line. The one outlier? Illinois-born and -bred Lee DeWyze, who messes up the southern Idol theory as much as Season 9 messed up our ears and souls. Heading into Season 11's finale, it's hard to ignore those demographics — especially seeing our one non-southern contestant, California's own Jessica Sanchez, shockingly advanced into the final two. Can we expect a true nail-biter next week, or should we go ahead and reward the prize to the southern Phillip? At least we can count on a fair fight, as far as the judges’ are concerned. It’s no secret that our panel of three favored Joshua since the finals begin — Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson, and Steven Tyler gave the contestant just as many standing ovations as Idol has given us awkward Ford Music videos. But as much as I want to praise Jennifer for providing comfort to Joshua as he sang his final swan song, “This is a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World,” I can’t. Because, plain and simple, it’s her fault that Thursday night’s elimination was a shocking one. The reasons behind Joshua’s elimination are threefold: First, Joshua lost fans during the course of the competition because of the unabashed favoritism. Sure, we were pulled into the singer during his first performance, “You Pulled Me Through,” but it wasn’t long before the incessant standing ovations — an occurrence that used to be as refreshingly rare on Idol as a lucid Paula Abdul critique — began to grate on the voting public like they were Reed Grimm. (Ugh, gross!) Why should we back Idol’s favorite son when the under-appreciated are being so overlooked? Secondly, our panel of three Archuleta-ed poor Joshua. Leading into the Season 7 finale, young judge favorite David Archuleta was all but guaranteed the Idol crown. Simon Cowell had already named him the season’s winner — and last time he did that, Carrie Underwood was treated to a rightful confetti shower. Instead, Cowell’s words drove David Cook’s fans to pick up their phones like they were in Bye Bye Birdie (that comparison brought to you by Uncle Nigel Lythgoe), and Cook was named our American Idol while Archuleta fans wondered why they had assumed their favorite’s safety. Same goes for Wednesday night — with Joshua awarded one standing ovation, and a 13-week stamp of approval, his fans likely felt there was little point spending their nights tied to a busy signal. Thanks to the judges’ constant approval, Joshua had to be as safe as a performance of “Imagine,” right? And finally, our three judges managed to screw Joshua professionally too. Jimmy Iovine was absolutely right to label Joshua “overblown” and “overemotional” during his Wednesday night performances — but we can’t blame the contestant. After all, from his eyes, why should he fix what doesn’t appear to be broken? If the judges never told him to add subtly to his personal dictionary, why should he be expected to deliver the word? Now, I understand our panel of three are about as subtle as a Jennifer Lopez relationship in 2003, but constructive criticism is necessary to guide the voting public, and, more importantly, to help our finalists grow even stronger. After all, there’s a reason Jimmy has astutely pointed out Phillip’s growing originality over the past 13 weeks. Joshua, meanwhile, had yet to fall flat on his face, sure, but he also had yet to improve. And as soon as you plateau on Idol, it’s high time you fall. So, sorry, Jennifer, you might cry and scream about this seemingly unfair and shocking elimination, but you have no one to blame but yourself. If you do choose to return next season, remember that an Idol judge always rolls the dice — and gambles with a singer’s future — when choosing a favorite. Now, excuse me as I get back to wondering whether I should report myself to my neighbors just for noticing Jessica’s cut-out dress. Were you surprised by the results? Do you, like me, think the judges are at least partly responsible? Was the trio’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” the best opening number of the year? Does Jessica stand a chance of beating a southerner? Is she more of a Michael or a Jermaine? Or a Tito? When did Adam Lambert become so boring? How did Idol manage to book Tim Burton’s wet dream? What’s that? You didn’t say you wanted to see Ice Age, no matter how much Idol is shoving it down your face like it’s Casper Smart? And remember Reed Grimm? Ugh, the worst! Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard [Image Credit: FOX] More: American Idol Recap: Pick and Miss American Idol: Season 12 Will Boast 'Creative Tweaking' Idol Castoff Hollie Cavanagh on Her Bond with Joshua Ledet and Colton Dixon’s FangirlsAmerican Idol
  • 'American Idol' Recap: Pick and Miss
    By: Kate Ward May 16, 2012
    Oh, American Idol. You know exactly how to get me every year. Around this time every season, I find myself reaching for the Kleenex, hoping to stop my tears from overflowing into my oversized Coke cup. And just when I think I can’t cry anymore, you give me something that makes me weep more than Ryan Seacrest peering at an out-of-business tanning salon. You force a stale performance of “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” on me. Sure, the annual hometown visits are touching and all, but watching Wednesday night’s penultimate performance episode, I found myself shedding more tears hearing our Top 3’s disappointedly uncreative song choices. Really, Jessica? After already choosing overplayed Idol songs like “Turn the Beat Around” (Season 2’s Carmen Rasmusen, Season 3’s Diana DeGarmo, Season 6’s Haley Scarnato), “Fallin’” (Season 1’s Kristin Holt, Season 5’s Mandisa, Season 9’s Michelle Delamor, Season 10’s Haley Reinhart), “Try a Little Tenderness” (Season 4’s Nadia Turner, Season 5’s Taylor Hicks), “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Season 4’s Constantine Maroulis, Season 5’s Kellie Pickler, Season 7’s Michael Johns, Season 8’s Adam Lambert), “Proud Mary” (Season 2’s Trenyce, Season 4’s Fantasia, Season 7’s Syesha Mercado), “You Are So Beautiful” (Season 5’s Taylor Hicks, Season 8’s Danny Gokey), and “And I Am Telling You” (Season 1’s Tamyra Gray and Melanie Sanders, Season 6’s LaKisha Jones, Season 8’s Nick Mitchell, Season 10’s Ashthon Jones, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson), you decide to sing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing,” already performed on Idol by Season 2’s Josh Gracin, Season 4’s Lindsey Cardinale, Season 6’s Antonella Barba, Season 7’s David Cook, Season 6’s Allison Iraheta, Season 9’s Aaron Kelly, and Season 10’s Lauren Alaina? (For those of you keeping count, Jessica’s version makes eight — none of whom have killed it like Steven Tyler.) And seriously, Joshua? Choosing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” a song so manipulative, even David Archuleta’s dad is micromanaging it? (Imagine there’s no “Imagine” on Idol!) And, Phillip? Picking a song you probably got high listening to in your friend’s den while eating cheesesteaks? Well, at least you probably had more of a connection to Matchbox 20’s “Disease” than Joshua did with “I heard it on the radio” tune “Imagine.” It’s actually concerning — while, in years past, we were forced to suffer the judges’ faulty judgment (you can blame David Cook and Allison Iraheta’s aforementioned performances of the Aerosmith hit on the judges’ choice), this is the first season of Idol in which I found myself questioning the singers’ tastes. I’d love to give them the benefit of the doubt and simply blame fatigue (see: Joshua’s dreary-eyed, Ambien-fueled responses to Ryan’s questions), but you’d think the contestants would at least have a few magical beans in their back pockets. It’s like Top Chef contestants showing up to the competition without at least one dessert recipe in their arsenal — it’s hard to accept a delicious main course if it’s followed by an underwhelming chocolate soufflé. So why not cart with you some extra recipes for success? NEXT: Phillip: Music’s Twin Sets and Butterfly Clips. So as much as I want to eat up our singers’ post-Idol careers, I’m finding myself wondering if they’re even ready to dig in. Would we be satisfied with a Joshua Ledet album filled with tunes so saccharine, they could fill a candy store? A Jessica Sanchez album so predictable, you can call it Randy Jackson? A Phillip Phillips album so 1990s, you could slap a pair of Doc Martens on it? Perhaps my 1990s nostalgic has hypnotized me with visions of Lisa Frank unicorns and gelly roll pens, but I’m totally buggin’ thinking of that last option, Tai. Because while Joshua and Jessica’s choices were roll-your-eyes predictable, Phillip has managed to carve out an audience for himself that enjoys his particular recipe. Take one tablespoon of growl and combine it with one cup quirk and 100,000 screaming 13-year-olds, and you have a combination as delectable as it is cannibalistic. So while “Disease” might have been just mildly infectious, it was easy to forgive the performance after antidote that was Madcon’s “Beggin’.” (Holy English class, so many metaphors!) I have to give Randy-esque mad props to Steven Tyler for his unconventional choice for Phillip — his foresight let the contestant to deliver his best performance of the season. The acoustic beginning, reminiscent of Kris Allen’s “Heartless,” his playfulness with the melody, the outdoor concert vibe — it’s no wonder Steven called Phillip the “New Age Boss” after whipping out his poetry: “When you’re facing the sun, the shadows stand behind you. My hands are small I know, but they’re not yours, they are my own.” Though Phillip’s chest hair was screaming for it, the judges failed to give him a deserved standing ovation for “Beggin’” — but he did finally score recognition for Jimmy Iovine’s choice, Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight,” a lovely rendition that helped audiences remember that Phillip actually has a beautiful voice behind the guitar, growls, and dorm room move-in day wardrobe. (Even the insipid Swaybot clapping couldn’t bring him down.) Randy may be wrong calling it Phillip’s best performance yet — “Beggin’” and last week’s “Volcano” exploded on the Idol stage much more — but performing the song more than sealed a spot in the final two, especially after Steven’s praise: “Get used to it, because you never will. I still bleed and my lips still smile and my breasts won’t always be firm.” But the pimp spot isn’t the only thing guaranteeing Phillip a Top 2 finish — his hometown footage in Georgia was far more touching than his other contestants’ visits. Watching Phillip go home, we laughed (the “Phillip, you still owe me $10” sign), we cried (the usually stoic Phillip breaking down, and subsequently breaking hearts, during the parade), and felt simultaneously touched, petrified, and eager to read up on gun laws seeing Phillip Phillips Sr., packing heat. Phillips spot in the final two is as sure as the future restraining order he will file against the rabid fan who pulled him out of his limo. NEXT: Animal crackers in my Idol Speaking of (pawn shop) turkeys, I have a feeling that Jessica will miss the final two, no matter how much she don’t want to. It’s too bad — the 16-year-old deserves a spot in the finals, if not a chance to soak in a confetti shower. And her approach Wednesday night was quite savvy for a girl from a generation that documents all their embarrassing teen crushes online. (The pen and paper won’t seem so lame in 10 years, kids!) Why not become the next Mariah Carey in a world all too devoid of ridiculous photoshopped albums full of ridiculously amazing vocals? So I wanted to love Jennifer’s choice, “My All,” as much as I did when I jotted down the lyrics in my eighth grade notebook. And I wanted to see the rainbow at the end of Jimmy’s “I’ll Be There,” a song Mariah herself covered dutifully and passionately. But it turns out Jessica and Mariah’s songs are as bad a fit as TRL and ice cream carts . The songs lacked Jessica’s patented pizzazz, her penchant for wowing audiences who underestimate her abilities because of her young age. Instead, her youth showed — as did the fact that she’s simply not Mariah, no matter how much Tommy Mottola is interested in her. Add to that yet another unsettlingly mature, midriff-baring outfit and a song of her choosing as plain as Liv Tyler and unfrosted animal crackers, and Jessica seems poised to settle for a Top 3 finish. That’s despite Steven’s assessment that Jessica might end up Season 11’s winner: Said Ryan, “Did you just predict a winner?” Said Steven, “Don’t I always?” And isn’t that, ladies and gentlemen, the exact problem with our judges’ panel? Because while Steven might have supported Jessica following her performance of “My All,” he flip-flopped so quickly in Joshua’s corner, he might as well sit on an IHOP griddle. Because, once again, our panel of three cannot seem to jump off the Joshua train. Just see the trio’s standing ovation for Randy’s choice, “I’d Rather Go Blind,” a performance so tired, it just read a Nicholas Sparks chapter and turned in for the night. (I’ll spare you the “I’d Rather Be Deaf” jokes.) Not to mention their love for the uninspired “Imagine” and Jimmy’s choice, Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama.” Look, I respect Joshua’s talent and feel for him knowing he’s been unable to score any constructive criticism, but an octave-spanning run at the end of Joshua’s songs is as expected as Strawberry Alarm Clock at one of Nigel Lythgoe’s parties. So as much as the lady who bedazzled Joshua and Jessica’s jackets might tell her cats that she hearts the contestant, Joshua’s performances are still anything but spontaneous, Jennifer. Still, the judges will continue to praise Joshua for schlocky stripping (“That’s what being a great artist is about,” says Jeff Timmons Randy?) until they’re riding with Twinkies, cockroaches, and John Cusack into the End of Times. But with Idol’s end of Season 11 times fast approaching, can you imagine a final two with Jessica? Or do you agree that Phillip and Joshua are finals-bound? What made you cry more: Phillip’s hometown visit, or the fact that you felt jealous watching him caress his own leg during “We’ve Got Tonight”? Does Ryan deserve a raise of coping with two out of three contestants who are virtually not interview-able? Does Joshua have a future in politics, what with his skill for killing babies? And wouldn’t Stefon love West Lake, Louisiana? It. Has. Everything. Parades, crawfish, women who cry holding babies, women with pirate eye patches… Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard [Image Credit: FOX] More: American Idol: Season 12 Will Boast 'Creative Tweaking' Idol Castoff Hollie Cavanagh on Her Bond with Joshua Ledet and Colton Dixon’s Fangirls American Idol Recap: Hollie Go-Lightly-Away
  • 'American Idol': Ranking the Top 3!
    By: Kate Ward May 16, 2012
    On Wednesday night's show, American Idol sent home our Top 3. But lest you start thinking the series enforced the most creative tweak of all time, we weren't privy to any sort of shocking triple elimination. Instead, the series sent the Top 3 — Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez, and Phillip Phillips — home on their annual hometown visits, full of annual tears, laughter, and petrifying fandom (says the girl who still wears her Season 2 American Idols LIVE! concert t-shirt... and still considers trying to figure out a way to black out Carmen Rasmusen's face. The year 2003 might be over, but Kimberly Caldwell fandom and bitterness lives on!). But the night wasn't just about inappropriately devoted television watchers — we can't forget about the performances! Who's poised for a Top 2 finish? See my rankings below, and be sure to return later for my full recap! 3. Jessica 2. Joshua 1. Phillip Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard [Photo Credit: FOX] More: American Idol: Season 12 Will Boast 'Creative Tweaking' Idol Castoff Hollie Cavanagh on Her Bond with Joshua Ledet and Colton Dixon’s Fangirls American Idol Recap: Hollie Go-Lightly-Away
  • 'American Idol': Season 12 Will Boast 'Creative Tweaking'
    By: Kate Ward May 14, 2012
    American Idol, we truly love you, and always will, no matter how many young copycat series pass in front of us in a pair of flashy pumps. We will willingly walk beside you into your 12th season, despite your dreaded Rule of Three Curse. (Translation: Every third season of Idol, the ghost of Brian Dunkleman curses the series with a group of finalists as boring as they are shriek-y. Fact.) But you are as in need of a makeover as a Season 2 Ryan Seacrest. So I’m ecstatic to hear Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly announce that Idol is looking to instill “some creative tweaking” next season. Still, if Season 9 and the Ellen debacle™ has proven anything, it’s that we need to intervene to ensure good Idol TV. Without further ado, in order for Season 12 to avoid the Curse, here are six suggestions for how Idol, complete with a few creative tweaks, can continue to be our own TV idol. 1. Judges’ Panel Mix-up It’s time, Idol. Steven Tyler is nearing the end of his two-year deal, there’s no word whether Jennifer Lopez still needs to hitch a ride on the Idol train to industry relevance, and Randy Jackson should have left the series faster than Jermaine Jones. If Jimmy Iovine has proved anything during Season 11 of Idol, it’s that our panel of three is as useful as SPF 50 sunscreen in Ryan Seacrest’s bathroom. So, as we’ve been demanding for months now, it’s time for a full switch-up. For more on what we desire for a switch-up, see No. 6. 2. Better Theme Nights So far, during the course of Season 11, we’ve been forced to watch our talented finalists take on Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder (hello Season 1!), Billy Joel (why, hello to you too, Season 2!), Queen (it’s been too long since we’ve seen you, Season 5!), songs from the year they were born (I didn’t make nearly enough cake for all of you, Seasons 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10), and many more recycled genres. There’s simply no excuse for this laziness when you consider how many great themes Idol could enforce to switch up the competition: Where’s Songs From the Year You Were 16, which would enable singers to showcase a connection to music much stronger than Songs From The Year You Were Born? Or TV Theme Song Night, since only a true artist could make magic out of a song that reminds viewers of schlocky opening credits? Or Original Song Night, which would give viewers a taste of an Idol’s post-TV career? Or perhaps Idol could truly make it a fair fight, and ask its contestants to all perform their own version of the same song? (So long as it’s not “Against All Odds,” for the love that is Corey Clark, George Huff, Jessica Sierra, Scott Savol, Katharine McPhee, Ramiele Malubay, and Paige Miles.) 3. No More Judges’ Save! I’ve already aired my grievances about the dreaded Judges’ Save, which has only managed to rid the reality series of all its intrigue. (Why bother voting for a favorite if you know the panel is bound to save them? And does it mean anything if Jennifer Lopez wanted to use it every single week?) Instead, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe should learn from his beloved So You Think You Can Dance: To ensure a non-Season 9-esque cast, allow the judges to choose which bottom three dweller should go home until the Top 6. Or, if the judges are going to refuse to support anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with Noshua Bedet, the live studio audience. Now, that would lead to a TV moment worth rewinding. NEXT: The most important rule: Don't be The Voice. 4. Let us See Creative Process Sure, contestants’ talking heads in pre-packaged segments might tell us why they chose to sing certain songs from week-to-week, but, 11 seasons in, we still don’t know how. Give us full access, Idol! Don’t we deserve it for sticking with you this long?! We want to see what happens when two Idols choose the same song, when one Idol can’t get rights to his desired choice, and when one Idol decides to sing a song they’ve already performed earlier in the season. We want to see how much the Idols rehearse, how much musical director input the Idols listen to, how difficult it is for them to navigate the elaborate stage set during rehearsals, how many times they roll their eyes during group performance choreography, and how producers decide who goes first. (Perhaps Idol should even showcase a live draw to see who goes last on the elimination show each week?) We want to know who’s rooming with who, who’s hanging with who, and who’s flirting with Phillip enough to make us fans at home seethe. Anything and everything, Idol… besides an inside look at the Ford Music Video. Which, strangely enough, is the only access you give us. 5. Change of Scenery As much as we love the very literal backdrops at CBS Television City, why not give live studio audiences elsewhere in the country the opportunity to watch their favorite Idols? Wouldn’t you be more likely to see them in an outdoor venue if you know how they perform in an outdoor venue? 6. Don’t Be The Voice I know it’s tempting, Idol. The Voice is like your younger, prettier, more popular cousin. She's the flashy one that gets all the attention, while the viewing audience constantly tells you you’re the comfortable choice. But while you do indeed need to switch things up, Idol, you’ll just look silly in your cousin’s clothes. So please, whatever you do, don’t try to amp up the star power of your panel — if Seasons 10 and 11 have proved anything, it’s that celebrity voices like Tyler’s and Lopez’s fade into the bowels of CBS Television City where even Simon Cowell’s lazy Season 9 barbs roll over in their graves. Don’t let the pretty faces distract you — a pre-Season 10 Idol proved it’s the home for the most passionate, the most discerning, and the most critical of musical judges. And, really, there’s no place like home. You can pay millions to the most famous, the richest, the most powerful people in the biz, asking them to sit on your panel, but all it takes is an unknown, watchable Greek Chorus like Simon Cowell to make a splash. So don’t be afraid to test the unknown waters and avoid an influx of celebrity mentors. Remember: The Voice might be all about the A-list panel, but Idol will forever be about the contestant. And folks like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are better for your image than any angle of Christina Aguilera’s sideboob. What am I missing? What other creative changes should Idol adopt? [Deadline] Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard [Image Credit: FOX] More: Idol Castoff Hollie Cavanagh on Her Bond with Joshua Ledet and Colton Dixon’s Fangirls American Idol Recap: Hollie Go-Lightly-Away Phillip Phillips Backstage at Idol: 'I Was So Nervous, I Didn't Know What Was Going On.'
  • 'Celebrity Apprentice': Are You 'Woot'-ing for Arsenio Hall?
    By: Kate Ward May 14, 2012
    Two months ago, I thought I had Donald Trump and his Celebrity Apprentice franchise all figured out. Folks like Aubrey O’Day and Lisa Lampanelli would be entertaining, sure, but they’d be weeded out one by one like a Trump spouse until we ended up with our final two: Clay Aiken and Penn Jillette. Then Trump did something during a scent-related challenge that made little sense: He fired Penn after Trump fragrance executives slammed a slogan that Trump himself loved. Penn, you didn’t earn it! (The firing, that is. You’ve got to love a show that makes as little sense as a masturbation-themed Tide commercial.) I rejiggered my faulty Celebrity Apprentice ESP, and predicted entertainment would trump practicality, and Clay would instead be forced to face off against Aubrey, who I also predicted would take credit for the victory at Stones River in the finale. (Still could happen!) But then Trump fired Aubrey last night for being “transparent,” which was unexpected since Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson never showed up during the course of the show. Instead, we learned I have the psychic abilities of JP Morgan, and Trump really, really, really loves Arsenio Hall. Enough, in fact, to send him into the final two with Clay Aiken — and enough to see him win the whole shebang. I would be surprised to see Trump hire Arsenio — not only is the businessman as stuck in the 1980s as his hair, but last night’s penultimate episode seemed to point to a victorious Arsenio. Despite being one of the best players in the competition thus far, Clay has proven to be a surprisingly ineffective and combative Project Manager. It was bad enough that the former American Idol runner-up had difficulty finding any piece of land with grass in New York — a city that boasts a 2.5-mile stretch of grass in the middle of its most populous borough — but his behavior with Debbie Gibson during Muralgate was as obnoxious as people who lazily put “gate” at the end of a word to describe a conflict. Now, I know enough about the tricky Celebrity Apprentice to assume its producers purposefully create conflict in the final episodes to ensure the process isn’t seamless for our final two. I wouldn’t count out the possibility that producers confined Clay to a grassless neighborhood full of refreshingly priority-driven New Yorkers that won’t let you take the baseball field from their kids, no matter how many times they voted for you on American Idol. And I guarantee a producer somehow convinced Michele Bachmann’s cameraperson to step in for Adam Carolla’s contact for Arsenio’s Magic Johnson bit. Still, Clay has not only made few fundraising efforts — does it matter what color a wall is if you only bring in a couple thousand dollars? — but also made a few enemies on his own team. Aubrey’s Arsenio-direct insults at the final boardroom will mean nothing if she hurls insults at her own Project Manager as well. Of course, the very fact that I’m predicting an Arsenio win likely means Clay, instead, will pick up the title. (Or did I just now predict Clay, which means Arsenio will actually win? You guys, Monday thinking is hard.) Still, heading into Sunday’s finale, the only way I can get over my disappointment over Aubrey’s firing — and the inexplicable fact that Lou Ferrigno wasn’t brought back to help our final two — is to “Woot! Woot! Woot!” for our late-night legend. Sorry Clay — once a runner-up, always a runner-up. Surprised by our final two? Does Clay have a chance to win, especially without the fundraising heavy-hitters? Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard [Photo Credit: NBC] More: Celebrity Apprentice: Did Donald Trump Get the Final Three Right? Celebrity Apprentice: Now THAT’s What I Call a Boardroom! Celebrity Apprentice: Could Dayana Mendoza Make It to the Finals? Celebrity Apprentice