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Wild about Harry's performance on "American Idol"

By Alan Pergament

Near the end of tonight's two-hour season premiere of "American Idol XIII," there is a recurring joke that suggests this year's  contestants know judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban very well but they couldn’t pick newcomer Harry Connick Jr. out of a lineup.

If America doesn’t know who Harry is already, they will know after the season premiere, which airs at 8 tonight on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate.

"Hatchet Harry" -- as J-Lo nicknames him near the end of the night -- steals the show.

Or to put it in "Idol" parlance, Harry makes the show his own.

His personality, his sense of humor and his musical lessons make him the dominant “Idol” judge on opening night. "You know too damn much," says J-Lo after one of Harry's lessons.

Connick hits all the right notes, except when he tells J-Lo "I will slap you on national TV." It's a playful remark, but still inappropriate.

It also is out of tune with the rest of the night's lovefest. After last year's turmoil among the female judges who left the program, the idea this year is to show that holdover Urban, returnee Lopez and newcomer Connick really, really like each other.

Connick, who has made some guest appearances on the show before, is the ringleader. Besides playfully joking around with Lopez, he starts a bromance with Urban that seems modeled after the relationship between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton on NBC's "The Voice."

Best of all, the premiere filmed at auditions in Boston, Mass. and Austin, Texas concentrates on the upbeat stories about waitresses, valets and a New England Patriot cheerleader who all think they can be the next Carrie Underwood or Phillip Phillips.

Thankfully, the exploitive stories about the delusional people trying out are kept to a minimum and there seems to be a decent amount of musical talent. And the quality of the talent and their personal stories will determine if "Idol" can get some of its mojo back as much as the friendship developing between the judges. 

Admittedly, I'm hardly an "Idol" expert. I haven't watched more than an hour or two it in years and was thrilled when the newspaper used a terrific feature writer, Anne Neville, to blog on “Idol” nights back when the series was hugely popular.

Those high-rated days -- and the newspaper "Idol" blog -- are a distant memory. Sort of like Clay Aiken and Paula Abdul.

As further evidence of the slide, Fox sent along the two-hour premiere in hopes of getting some critical buzz and driving viewers back to the show. It has another two-hour episode on Thursday night.

If my memory is correct, Fox didn't used to send critics an entire "Idol" premiere.

I'm sold. In fact I'm so wild about Harry that I might even watch "Idol" a few more times this season just for his musical lessons.

Boy the networks sure proclaim new shows "hits" awfully fast. CBS has been promoting the new Josh Holloway series "Intelligence" a hit since it premiered to strong ratings after the hugely popular "NCIS" on Tuesday, Jan.7.

Judging by the declining local popularity of its its second episode when it moved to Monday, CBS might want to reassess its promotional campaign.

The second episode had an anemic 3.8 rating on Channel 4, which was about one third of its opening night rating, It finished deep in third place in its time slot here to NBC's "The Blacklist" on Channel 2 and ABC’s "Castle" on Channel 7.

Meanwhile, NBC also is proclaiming "Chicago PD," a spinoff of "“Chicago Fire," a hit after one episode. The premiere did decently last Wednesday, but we'll have to see if it keeps that audience tonight when the second episode airs.

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Music | New Shows | Television | TV news
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