August 5th, 2009
10:25 AM ET

'American Idol' won't be the same

It’s a dark day in the history of “American Idol.”

Right up until the bitter end I believed Paula Abdul and the producers would be able to work it out.

After all, there is no one else like Paula. Her special mix of kindness and kooky has left such an indelible mark on contemporary pop culture that whenever a new talent show appears, featuring a panel of judges, the inevitable question is asked: “Which one is the Simon and which one is the Paula?”

Paul’s dizzy sweetness was the perfect foil for Simon Cowell’s sometimes caustic criticism.

Sure, their juvenile antics could test fans' nerves on even a good day (the poking, the silly zingers and the time Simon drew on her face), but beneath the japes appeared to be a mutual respect for one another’s career and their shared good fortune to have landed on television’s most popular show.

Now word comes that Paula is out and Kara DioGuardi is the new, reigning chick on the block. No disrespect to the Grammy-nominated DioGuardi, but the only thing she seemed to share with Abdul was a sometimes tragic fashion sense.

Watching "American Idol" won’t be the same without the chance to be treated to the uniquely Paula feedback to contestants like “You found the matrix of the song” or “I want to squish you, squeeze your head off and dangle you from my rear-view mirror.”

I’m going to say it (and you can cue the groans): for this die-hard “Idol” fan, Paula is forever my girl.

So what do you think? Will you miss Paula on the show? Post your comments here or head over to iReport to upload a video response.

August 5th, 2009
10:01 AM ET

‘G.I. Joe’ actors bow down to American soldiers

When I sat down to interview the cast of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," of course I asked them about the film. But I was also interested in hearing about a red carpet they walked down a week before the film’s U.S. release.

Channing Tatum

A premiere and screening of "G.I. Joe" had already taken place at Andrews Air force Base in Maryland. The cast was flown in to meet service men and women, their families, and wounded soldiers from Walter Reed Medical Center.

While the film itself is based on the legendary action figures and comic book characters, the idea of the iconic American soldier is truly what G. I. Joe symbolizes - the men and women who serve their country.

When I asked the actors about visiting Andrews Air Force Base, each one of them quieted down immediately. No explosions, no special effects, just their thoughts on real G.I. Joes. As for Channing Tatum who plays "Duke" in "G.I. Joe," he told me that during the trip to Andrews Air Force Base, there may have been a little too much pomp and circumstance. Perhaps a meeting with the men and women who sacrifice so much should be a more solemn event.

Tatum explained, “It was really strange we rode in on Humvees, and we’re all pumped up, and everybody’s yelling and then all of a sudden we met all the wounded warriors. I wish we wouldn’t have met them in that atmosphere. I wish we could have had some time to actually hang out with them. But it really makes you sit back and say, ‘Wow. I need to do more.' ”

Marlon Wayans who plays "Ripcord" in the film told me, “We’re playing heroes in 'G.I. Joe', but when you actually go down and you meet those guys and you see what a real hero is and you see the damage that a war can do, it makes you have a whole other appreciation for what those guys do.”

Actress Sienna Miller who plays "The Baroness" said, “It was really humbling. Those guys are the real heroes, they were incredibly brave and you know, how grateful we are to have met them.”

“It was an awe inspiring experience.” Rachel Nichols added. She plays Scarlett in the film. “I mean we went to Andrews, they gave us a tour, it was just one of those things that we’ll never forget. And we’re really fortunate to be able to have done it.”

What would you say to the American troops if you had the chance to meet them?

August 5th, 2009
09:30 AM ET

Your pop culture cheat sheet

Here's what's going on in the entertainment world this morning:

  • Four million viewers tuned in for the return of "Jon & Kate Plus 8," according to the Detroit Free Press. That's down from the 10.6 million who watched the much-hyped divorce announcement episode.
  • Several days after returning from the hospital, Mischa Barton is not a worry for The CW network, says Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff: ""We were concerned whether she would be ready for production. She was. It's not even an issue." Barton stars in their new series "The Beautiful Life."
  • Leonardo DiCaprio's production company is looking to film a new take on "Little Red Riding Hood," according to Variety.com.
  • More changes to the Emmys: Full-time employees will not be able to vote in a category in which their network is nominated. Variety says this could "disproportionately disenfranchise" HBO, which has the most nominations.
  • CBS Films is looking to remake the classic TV Western "Gunsmoke" for the big screen, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
  • Paramount is not showing "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" to critics, instead screening it to popular internet fan sites and "promoting the movie directly to the heartland," the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Rachael Ray, Snoop Dogg, Patricia Heaton, Katy Perry, Vanessa Williams and Lauren Conrad are among the celebrities in the hot seat for the 10th anniversary of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." The show returns Sunday.
  • Jeremy Piven has been making the rounds to promote his new film "The Goods." He even hosted "WWE Monday Night Raw," and got into the ring himself.
August 5th, 2009
01:13 AM ET

Visiting the College of "Hard Knocks"

It's not often a producer on the entertainment news beat gets to cover his hometown football team, but when the Cincinnati Bengals were selected to appear on this season's "Hard Knocks" on HBO (premiering August 12), I pounced at the chance.

hard knocks

The reality series focuses on the training camp of an NFL team and chronicles the ups and downs of the players as they try to make the cut.  In all likelihood, this is the one time in my career that the Bengals will actually intersect with the world of entertainment.  So with microcassette recorder and camera in hand, I flew to Cincinnati on my own dime to conduct interviews with the team for a CNN.com piece that will appear next week.

After a visit with family and friends, I found myself at camp. The soldiers of the gridiron were already working out and stretching in the morning sun.  The HBO film crew was working away, getting their shots.  I chuckle as I hear defensive tackle Tank Johnson good-naturedly egging on the sole Caucasian in his position group during drills: "That's it white lightning! Way to go white lightning!'

I usually talk to actors and musicians and had never interviewed athletes in a setting like this. I didn't know what to expect. When my first interview subject came up, I found out in a hurry.

Larger than life wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco greets me. He's struggling to get through a phalanx of autograph seekers.  I plant myself next to him, recorder at the ready. "You gotta walk with me, man," he instructs me.  We're walking a mile a minute through the practice field.  It's utter chaos. I get a few questions in, before the local media jumps in with theirs.

Thankfully, one of the Bengals PR men, PJ Combs, pulls him away from the bombardment and we continue our one-on-one interview walk.  I tell him I'm thinking of calling my article, "Inglorious Bengals," a play on "Inglorious Basterds," the World War II Quentin Tarrantino movie out this month.  "I like it," he says.

"Do you think that would be a fun persona for the Bengals to assume, one that would strike fear into the heart of your opponents?" I jokingly suggest.  "The title of an article is really not going to be the thing that does it," he replies, "Right now, we're going to have to go out there and earn our respect."  As this is going on, the HBO crew is filming us.  I had inadvertently become part of the story I was covering.

One of the players Bengals fans hope won't let them down is this year's second round draft pick, Rey Maualuga, out of USC.  "Hard Knocks" needs colorful characters to attract the casual viewer and  Maualuga certainly qualifies. I ask him bluntly if coming from a wildly successful program like USC to the Bengals is a "bummer."

"I don't see it as a bummer... We can only move up from here.  It's a good thing to come to a program that hasn't been doing too well for the past few years and try to help the team progress.  I think that's the whole point of 'Hard Knocks,' that a team that's been down for certain years, you know, what a way to come out this year and start out this year with this and show how this team can come together and bring something good to Cincinnati."

"Hard Knocks" debuts on HBO, Wednesday, August 12th.

August 5th, 2009
12:19 AM ET

Paula Abdul leaving "American Idol"

It's official: Paula Abdul, the occasionally loopy judge who spent eight seasons lauding "American Idol" contestants even as fellow judge Simon Cowell tore them apart, won't be back in January for season nine.  And to hear the show - and Abdul - tell it, it's her call.  Here's the statement from FOX, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment:

"Paula Abdul has been an important part of the AMERICAN IDOL family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show.  While Paula will not be continuing with us, she's a tremendous talent and we wish her the best."

And here are Abdul's tweets, for that handful of fans not checking her Twitter activity every five minutes:

"With sadness in my heart, I've decided not to return to #IDOL. I'll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all..."

"I'll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day1 become an international phenomenon."

"What I want to say most, is how much I appreciate the undying support and enormous love that you have showered upon me"

"It truly has been breathtaking, especially over the past month"

"I do without any doubt have the BEST fans in the entire world and I love you all"

So what had been rumored seemingly forever - especially since Kara DiGuardi joined the judges' table - has finally come to pass.  How do you feel about it, "Idol" fans?

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