It's Wednesday, the day of anticipation around the country. It's a day that promises a crushing rejection where a person's life long dream is destroyed. It's the day that ticks down to the second when Ryan Seacrest looks some poor loser in the eyes and tells them that America likes Sanjaya Malakar better so get lost (video).
Los Angeles is the epicenter hosting this event that grips people of all ages, races and sexual preferences. And unless you're in a coma you know that Wednesday is elimination day on American Idol. Someone we didn't love enough is going home. It happened to Brandon Rogers and most recently, Stephanie Edwards (video).
You're probably asking yourself, why is a Today Show producer blogging about a Fox show on an NBC website? Stay with, me it'll make sense.
Ten contestants are currently left in the competition. They are: Lakisha Jones, Melinda Doolittle, Jordin Sparks, Haley Scarnato, Gina Glocksen, Phil Casey, Blake Lewis, Chris Richardson, Chris Sligh and Sanjaya Malakar. I don't know them personally but they're my people. On any given Wednesday during the American Idol finals we sweat it out. The Idol hopefuls are sweating because one of them will be sent packing on live television as millions of viewers watch. For me, Wednesday is the day I workout with my trainer Scott. Ten minutes on the treadmill, some lifting and an hour later I'm drenched.
Two weeks ago during my Wednesday training session, the Blackberry in my gym bag started to ring. At the time I was lifting two 30-lbs weights over my head. Normally I would ignore the interruption because I'm paying Scott by the hour. But Wednesday is "results day" on Idol and I was waiting to get my assignment. So I took a moment to check the email and just as I thought it was from Audrey Kolina, the West Coast Senior Producer for the Today Show. Kolina relayed the assignment from Noah Oppenhein, Today's first hour Senior Producer in New York. The plan was as follows: If Sanjaya Malakar doesn't get eliminated from the competition I was do a story explaining possible reasons why. You see, according to Idol judges Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell Malakar really isn’t a very good singer. But somehow America keeps voting him through to the next round and Oppenheim wanted answers.
At 6pm Pacific Time I take my seat in the edit room to watch the American Idol show live. Sitting next to me is my editor Mark Walters. This is the second season of American Idol pieces for Mark and me. I can remember when we first started producing and editing these weekly segments for the Today Show Mark didn't know the difference between a Taylor Hicks and a Katherine Mcphee. And frankly, he didn't care. But editing two Idol pieces a week does something to a person. Mark, like the more than 35 million other Americans watching each week, became hooked. So when Sanjaya Malakar's limited vocal talents took him to the next round we were overjoyed, cheering, clapping, high fiving. I'm not sure Mark and I won't hug if Sanjaya avoids elimination again this week.
The script usually comes together pretty quickly. It has to because I have a 2-hour window to interview a talking head and shoot a stand-up with Maria Menounos, who's also a reporter for Access Hollywood.
Once I'm done writing I send the first draft to Steve Thode, the late night senior producer in New York. He's a big Idol fan too. Most days when I send him my script for approval his message say's "love it. Approved." But occasionally I'll get a response that says, "Call me." With Steve there are certain degrees of "call me." Some days it's a quick conversation requesting minor changes. Other times it can be like going to the principal's office. I call him, we talk, and then he sends me "version #2" of the script with his suggested changes. I incorporate his changes into the script and send him my "version #3. We go back and forth a few times before we settle on a final version of the script.
At 7:30pm Pacific Time, Ben Mandelker, the founder of TVgasm.com arrives and I interview him for about 7 minutes. When Maria Menounos arrives at 9:45 pm we shoot her stand-up, record her tracks and Mark edits it all together.
Just passed midnight the process comes to an end. The piece is written, tracked and edited. "Version #10" is fed to New York for final approval from Steve. He likes it. The message, "Approved. You are the American Idol King."
Sanjaya ended up surviving again last week when his number one fan, 13-year-old Ashley Ferl, cried during his performance. Her tears gained her national fame including a conversation with Meredith Vieira (video) on our show. I had nothing to do with that.
This week I’m interviewing Stephanie Edwards, the most recent Idol contestant booted from the competition. I’ll ask her what the other idols really think of Sanjaya. If she says anything interesting I’ll be sure to include it in this week’s Idol re-cap.
You can count on me to keep you in the know when it comes to American Idol. It's good to be the king.