Three years ago, the first season of “Fringe” ended with Olivia stepping into a parallel universe. She was promised a meeting with the elusive William Bell, the president of the mysterious Massive Dynamic Corp. (back when it was Massive Dynamics). That moment revealed the central concept of the show: There are two worlds, identical in countless ways but also vastly different. Now as we head into the end of the fourth season, “Fringe” slams the door between those two universes, but not before getting in a few emotional goodbyes.
Everything stems from David Robert Jones’ secret plan. Jones has been our big bad the entire season. He’s been growing new shape-shifting super soldiers and stealing precious minerals. He’s creating human/animal hybrids by the pair and loading them into boats. Walter connects the mad scientist dots and in a dream realizes that Jones’ endgame involves collapsing the two universes together into a second big bang that he can safely ride out and then rewrite the laws of physics. Not too shabby as far as evil plans go.
Well, fellow "American Idol" watchers, I am a little sad. I realize Elise Testone might not have been among everyone's favorite contestants – clearly she wasn't, since she was voted off Thursday night -- but she had definitely grown into one of mine.
In this week's "Idol"/"Voice" rankings, where her performance of Queen's "I Want It All" slid into my list at No. 3, I compared the way Testone's voice leaps around the notes to the skipping of stones in the water, making graceful melodic ripples. And now that she's been told to pack up her groovy clothes and go home, my heart has sunk like a … oh, you know.
But of course there's no way we couldn't have seen this coming (yes, yes, Haley Reinhart, I know). Testone had been in the bottom three so many times mentor Jimmy Iovine joked that she'd built a vacation home there. Plus, the judges were hot and cold on her, and even Iovine sometimes piled on.
Still, after Ryan Seacrest delivered the bad news to Testone, did he have to rub it in by suggesting it might be time to consider Stevie Nicks' offer to make her one of her back-up singers? That seemed gratuitous. Surely Testone can carve out a successful career as a solo artist. If nothing else, Stefano Langone's performance of his (long, busy) song "I'm on a Roll" on Thursday's show proves you don't have to win the competition to get a record contract and to take advantage of the "Idol" platform. Langone came in seventh last year; Testone just finished sixth. Nervous giggling aside, she may yet get the last laugh.
Fox has renewed "Fringe" for a fifth season — but it will be the cult sci-fi drama's last.
It's a sigh of relief for its ardent fan base. The drama has seemed doomed in the past, especially after its move to Fridays in its second season. And its fate appeared murkier this season, its fourth, when it saw its ratings in the 18-49 demo dip multiple times; it averaged around 4.5 million viewers this season.
It was even reported that two endings were shot for this season's finale in case a renewal didn't happen. Instead, fans of the sci-fi series will get 13 more episodes — which will help it reach the highly coveted 100-episode mark, which would help in positioning a profitable syndication deal.
“This pickup means the world (both of them) to us, because we love sharing these stories with our enthusiastic fans,” said show runners and executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman in a statement. “On behalf of the cast and crew, we applaud our fans and Fox for allowing us to imagine the impossibilities together for so long. Season Five is going to be a conclusive thrill ride for all of us.”
Who would have imagined the songs of Queen would inspire better performances from the "American Idol" contestants than songs of their own choosing? But, with a notable exception or two, that proved to be the case Wednesday night, when the six remaining "Idol" hopefuls tackled the music of Queen and then sang a second song they felt suited them.
I have to admit, I had my doubts, and the contestants seemed to initially have had doubts too. Meeting with Queen's Roger Taylor and Brian May, Phillip Phillips asked about tackling such big songs. Freddie Mercury, they assured him, "was very shy" and the songs of Queen quite human, "very personal." Just feel the songs, Taylor and May told the contestants, and they would do fine.
The advice seemed to pay off. It was apparent from the moment the top six took the stage, backed by Taylor and May, to sing a medley of Queen anthems that they were having fun with the material.
In the end, the judges said, the candidates had nearly all turned in at least one top-notch performance. Then again, in a rare show of judge discord, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler didn't agree in every case about which songs worked and which didn't. They did, however, continue to agree that Joshua Ledet warrants a standing ovation every time he opens his mouth to sing. Ledet racked up two more standing O's from the judges Wednesday. We'd say he now had too many to count, but apparently Skylar Laine has been keeping track: According to her calculations, Ledet now has had 12 standing ovations from the judges. Wow.
"American Idol's" ratings may be going down, but Ryan Seacrest's paycheck is going up.
The ultra-tan MC will continue serving as host of "American Idol" for the time being, Fox announced Monday. Although terms of his deal were not disclosed, the deal will carry him for two years and will see him taking home $15 million a year, sources confirmed.
That's a $5-million jump from his current annual salary, which expires after this season and had him making $10 million per season. And in that contract, he also received a bonus of $15 million for merchandising rights.
The deal keeps his TV presence in full force. The in-demand TV personality, who moonlights as a radio DJ and an entertainment news anchor on E! network," was recently courted by NBCUniversal (E!'s parent company), signing a separate pact with it which will have him covering the Olympics for "Today. " He is also part of a Mark Cuban-backed venture to launch an entertainment cable channel.
Seacrest, who also produces a number of reality shows ("Shahs of Sunset," "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"), has been a constant on "American Idol" since it launched in 2002 — at which time, he co-hosted with Brian Dunkleman before taking all the hosting glory for himself.
“For the last 11 seasons, I've had the privilege to be a part of one of television's most iconic shows. It's been a wild ride, and I'm excited for my journey with 'American Idol' to continue,” Seacrest said in a statement.
Interestingly, this time around Fox and "Idol" producer Fremantle Media will be paying all of Seacrest's salary. In previous years, "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment was on the hook for Seacrest's contract with the show — although the network did cover a portion of it.
Ratings for "American Idol" have dropped more than 20% in total viewers compared with the previous year.
Fox will celebrate its 25th year on the air Sunday with a blow-out prime-time special featuring the stars of some of the network's biggest hits.
The cast of "Married... With Children" will be reunited. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny of "The X-Files" will be on hand. The Wayans Brothers (Keenan Ivory, Marlon and Shawn) from "In Living Color," Hugh Laurie from "House," Calista Flockhart from "Ally McBeal" and Kiefer Sutherland from "24" and "Touch" all are participating, as are the casts of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "That '70s Show" (even Ashton Kutcher).
And let's not forget the superstar judge's panel from "American Idol": Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson.
With all that star-power and talent on display, it's easy to wonder: Who won't be there?
The cast of "Woops!" for one.
Fox now may be the top-ranked network in the ratings, but that doesn't mean there are no embarrassing skeletons in its closet. Amidst all the 25th anniversary hoopla, it would be easy to overlook some of the network's more dubious programming decisions -- but where's the fun in that?
So that the network's anniversary won't pass without having the full scope of its accomplishments celebrated on the record, here's a brief rundown of some of the more bizarre shows to pop up on the Fox schedule over the last quarter-century.
Is there any other network drama on the air as daring and inventive as “Fringe”? Normally, the great, bold moves are reserved for cable. Even the big hitters of network creativity like “Lost,” “Twin Peaks,” and “the X-Files” had their formulas. You would have to get away from the big four channels to find risks like a musical episode of “Buffy” or the “Xena: Warrior Princess” where the actors played the show’s writers and producers.
“Fringe” takes risks. Risks on top of risks. It’s one thing to jump 24 years into the future for an episode. It’s something else to jump 24 years into the future and end on a cliffhanger. Television audiences notoriously want answers, or at least the promise of answers. “Letters of Transit” gives a lot of things (a fully developed world, compelling new characters, and a thrilling adventure), but it doesn’t even pretend that it’s going to give you answers. “Letters of Transit” is another excellent example of what “Fringe” does best: changing the perspective, and it’s a great example of why “Fringe” deserves a fifth season.
On "American Idol" this week, Colton Dixon got voted off, and the judges had no power to save him. Over at "The Voice," there was a surprise elimination — Jesse Campbell — who joined RaeLynn and Ashley De La Rosa in going home this week.
It's the end of the line for those three contestants, but not for our "Idol"-"Voice" mash-up, which takes all the singers from both shows and puts them head to head each week. I will be choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton — and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here.
Phillip Phillips, "American Idol": Phillips, long my "Idol" favorite this season, briefly fell off my list last week. But this week he reminded my how bad I have it for him, first strumming and singing just as sexily as Jennifer Lopez said he did on Usher's "U Got It Bad," and then all itchy-twitchy, chicken-dancey (sans guitar) with "In the Midnight Hour." When he really gets going, Phillips seems almost electrified by the music he's making, and we, too, get caught up in the current. A real musical thrill.
Elise Testone, "American Idol": Testone boldly tackled the Marvin Gaye song "Get It On," showing off her vocal texture, sensuality and soul. Who knows why the judges didn't like it? Maybe it made them uncomfortable to see a woman growling and grooving and getting her moves on up there. (Steven Tyler excepted.) Or maybe they are harder on her because she's older than the other contestants and they think she can handle the criticism, as Testone posited on Thursday night's show. Regardless, "Let's Get It On" was one of my favorite performances of the night. Testone's take on Alicia Keys' "No One" wasn't too shabby either.
Joshua Ledet, "American Idol": Ledet is an immensely talented singer, and early in the season, he was among my favorites. Not long before we started these weekly rankings, however, a few overwrought performances made me lose my taste for him. Happily, in the last couple of weeks, he's gotten his vocal excesses back under control and renewed my appreciation. His restrained "A Change Is Gonna Come," though not pitch-perfect, was nevertheless a pleasure to listen to, perhaps because it was less polished and precise than previous performances. It was no less passionate, though.
Jesse Campbell, "The Voice": Though "Halo" was definitely not Campbell's best song, he was one of the best singers — if not the best singer — on "The Voice" this season, and if the song didn't suit him, I blame his coach, Christina Aguilera, who appeared to press him into singing it even though he expressed discomfort. Campbell may not have hit all the notes spot-on, but even Aguilera had to acknowledge he brought emotion to it, evoking his experiences being homeless, inspired by his daughter to persevere. I'm including Campbell on my list in part to protest his early ouster. And he's the only "Voice" contestant on here (sorry, Jermaine Paul and Lindsey Pavao) because I'm mad at the show for not giving its audience a say in the matter. At this point in the competition, "The Voice" shouldn't deprive its audience of its voice.
Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol": Sanchez seemed understandably affected by her shocking near-ouster last week. She didn't come back with quite the same power we've seen from her some weeks, but she didn't lose her lush tone or playful musicality either. Somewhat chastened, perhaps, by the voters' spurning, she seemed to approach her songs — Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" and the Otis Redding hit "Try a Little Tenderness" — with a new caution. But then she got as caught up in them as ever, prompting many of us to fall for her all over again. I understand what Jimmy Iovine is saying about her tackling songs that may be too old for her. On the other hand, her vocal maturity is just startling. She may look 16, but she sure doesn't sound it.
If you have ever loved "Fringe," you need to watch this week’s episode, "Letters of Transit."
"Fringe" always likes to have a little fun as it gets closer to the end of the season. In year two, we got "Brown Betty," Walter’s pot-induced journey into the world of musical film noir. Then last season we were treated to an animated view inside Olivia’s crowded brain with "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide." This year it’s "Letters of Transit," where (spoiler alert!) "Fringe" takes us to the year 2036.
"No more second chances, no more safety nets," Randy Jackson reminded us at the outset of the "American Idol" results show Thursday night, on which Kris Allen and LMFAO performed. Since the judges had used their one save of the season to bring Jessica Sanchez back from the brink last week, from here on in, week after week, someone would head home.
This week, Colton Dixon got the bad news. And though the show's lead-in had promised that the results would be "another shock," to me, at least, Dixon's ouster was really only mildly surprising.
The judges loved Dixon, the faithful, skinny-pants-sporting piano player with the tuftily interesting '80s hair. The 20-year-old Tennessean had some of the showmanship of last season's James Durbin, but more softness and polish and style. But while I admired Dixon's comfort with a keyboard and melodic control, I never found him terribly exciting. To use the current judge parlance, I never connected with him on an emotional level. Colton Dixon, as far as I'm concerned, is no Phillip Phillips. INTERACTIVE: Who's the best? "Idol" vs. "The Voice
Not that I was comparing. That was mentor Jimmy Iovine's game. Iovine once speculated that Dixon, who had not previously been in the bottom three, was splitting the teen heartthrob vote with Phillips. Iovine contended that, at some point, that voting bloc would swing one way or the other. This week, that may have happened.
Of course, we'll never really know why the voters turned their backs on Dixon. But certainly he had not had a good night on Wednesday. (Phillips had.) Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" was probably not the savviest choice or the most suitable for a guy whose strongest moment on the show may have been when he sang his "favorite worship song." His fan base might not have been Lady Gaga devotees. And anyway, his performance of the song was strange. Iovine called it "completely wrong." Ol' Jimmy didn't have very kind things to say about Dixon's onstage look, either, comparing it to "1985 Billy Idol on MTV'" and "'Spider-Man' on Broadway."
Dixon's second song, Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," on which he accompanied himself on a leaf-strewn piano that matched his hair, was, to put it plainly, a total snoozer.
After the justified outcry over Jessica Sanchez's near-ouster last week, "American Idol" wanted us to think of this week as "a new beginning for all." But who are they kidding? We've watched these seven singers for many weeks now. We've seen their best performances and their worst. And every time they step back onto that stage, we judge them, yes, on what they do right then, but also all we have seen and heard them do before.
Sure, in the remaining weeks before next month's finale, they will have a chance to reshape –- to stretch and refine -- their images and our impressions. But for the most part we've gotten a good grasp on who they are. Many of us have picked our favorites. And here's the truth of it, and maybe the underlying reason that someone as talented as Sanchez, who remains a definite contender to take the whole thing, could come so close to going home so early: At this point, there's really not a clunker in the bunch.
Their individual talents were clearly on display on Wednesday night's "Now and Then"-themed show, during which each contestant tackled two songs: one from the year 2000 until the present day, as well as a retro "soul" tune.
Texas-dwelling Liverpudlian Hollie Cavanagh, whom the judges had cast as the weakest link, had yet eluded the bottom three last week. She passionately ripped into Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and proved herself worthy of the song and the competition. The judges were effusive, telling her she had finally managed to connect and show her emotions. (Conveying an emotional connection to a song would become the judges' topic of the night.) "You did it," Jennifer Lopez said triumphantly. For her second song, Cavanagh had fun with "Son of a Preacher Man," and if anything, the judges' liked it even better, saying she showed a new composure and is "ready."
Colton Dixon's autumn-red hair streak matched not only his pants but also his sister Schyler's 'do (Ryan Seacrest brought her up onstage to salute her bro) and the piano on which he accompanied himself for his second song, Earth Wind & Fire's "September." Much as the judges seemed to love Dixon's take on Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" –- "You are so in the zone right now," Randy Jackson told him –- they were less enthusiastic about his low-key version of "September." "It's not as exciting as we would have liked," Jackson said.
George Lopez is set to host "Take Me Out," Fox's new dating series featuring 30 single women searching for a match and several bachelors who must make what producers call "the ultimate first impression."
The show will be the first TV venture for Lopez since the cancellation last year of his TBS talk show, "Lopez Tonight." Lopez, who is currently on a national stand-up comedy tour and was also the star of ABC's "George Lopez" sitcom, will play matchmaker between the female contestants and their potential suitors.
The series, which is based on an international format, is set to debut June 7.