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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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American Idol

FOX, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT and Wednesdays 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Despite some very promising singers—and that means you, Kris Allen!—season 8 heads into its final weeks a bit of a mess. Blame tweaks and tinkerings that were meant to freshen the show’s format. You can argue that these were merely cosmetic—but considering the massive scale of the FOX hit, that’s like doing a little eye work on the Mount Rushmore Lincoln. If the procedure doesn’t take, it’ll be visible for miles. The introduction of a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, has if anything made the judges seem less significant—an acoustic muddle of snap judgments that de-emphasizes keen-eared Simon Cowell and, unexpectedly, boosts Paula Abdul. Her trembling little speeches of inspirational gibberish stand out from the hubbub. Then there was the “Judges’ Save,” which allows one loser in the popular vote to be kept in the competition. Ryan Seacrest made it sound like the most momentous twist since the Supreme Court heard Gore v. Bush, but when the rule was finally put into play, the judges rescued Matt Giraud, a bland singer Simon said had no chance of winning. Why bother?

The Fashion Show

Bravo, May 7, 10 p.m. ET/PT |



With Project Runway officially gone to Lifetime and scheduled to roll out a new season in August, Bravo introduces this knockoff. It’s a respectable copy: You have contestants who are both ruthless and flamboyant (one designer, named Merlin, shows up in what looks like the uniform of a gatekeeper from Oz’s Emerald City, and another dresses strippers). Everyone sews and sweats their way through bizarre, pressure-cooker challenges (make a little black dress from a T-shirt in an hour).

But what about the show’s essential style? Can anything make us forget Runway’s elegantly avuncular Tim Gunn or blindingly chic Heidi Klum? In the first episode, no. The presiding figures here are Kelly Rowland, formerly of Destiny’s Child, and designer and gadfly Isaac Mizrahi—who at least is never boring. He reacts to fashion miscalculations with a catty but fundamentally amused horror. It’s a pleasure to hear him say things like “There isn’t a bosom in the world that’s going to benefit from that top.”