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Idol pursuits


Published: Fri, March 3, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Chicago Tribune: Give TV fans a choice and what do you think they'll watch: the world's finest athletes, America's best-selling musicians or a gaggle of off-the-street and off-key amateurs?
Why they'll choose the amateurs.
The Winter Olympics and the Grammy Awards failed to bring home the gold during any hour in which they were matched up against the Fox Network's phenomenon "American Idol."
"Idol" even prevailed on the Olympics' biggest night. Fewer than 25 million viewers watched the famously feuding speedskaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick in their 1,500-meter event, according to Nielsen Media Research; more than 31 million viewers tuned to the wanna-be singers at the same time. Olympic viewers edged up to almost 28 million for Sasha Cohen's much-anticipated performance in women's figure skating, after "Idol" went off the air.
The Grammys fared even worse: 15.1 million viewers for Madonna, Coldplay, U2 and the other pros; 28.3 million viewers for the amateurs.
This shouldn't entirely be a surprise.
"American Idol" was adapted from the British hit "Pop Idol" and has been successful in 30 countries, but it does seem to owe a debt to such shows as "Major Bowes' Amateur Hour" from radio's golden age and its TV successor, "Ted Mack & amp; the Original Amateur Hour."
Bowes launched such stars as Frank Sinatra, Gladys Knight and Pat Boone.
"Idol" goes one better than the vintage amateur shows: Viewers can vote, giving them the power to make or dash dreams. That's heady stuff.
And it has the rest of television fighting for silver medals.


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