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‘Idol's’ emotional focus will highlight Abdul

"American Idol" plans to give the show a more emotional focus, which will play to the strengths of judge Paula Abdul.
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When “American Idol” returns to television Jan. 13, the show will be “more real” and “intimate,” and “raw,” according to Mike Darnell, Fox’s president of alternative programming.

What does this mean exactly? “It’s going back to letting the kids be more emotional and seeing more of their reality, we’re going to allow the public to see a little more of their emotional state,” Darnell said in an interview with TV Week.

While further details of any retooling remain scant, one source close to the show adds that the emotional focus will play to Paula Abdul’s strengths.

“Last year there was very little of the Paula that we knew from earlier seasons,” said the source. “Seeing the innocent side of these contestants really gets to her. She feels for their mistakes.”

Ratings for the last season of “Idol” were down 9 percent last year, and the changes to the show will reflect changes in the mood of the country, Fox marketing chief Joe Early tells TV Week.

“It would be reaching to say we’re trying to tie into the election itself, but what we are tapping into is what we’ve just been through and the mood of the culture and the state of our economy," Early said. "We’ve been through a lot of divisiveness lately, and our message is, ‘It’s time to stop arguing and fighting, to all pull together.’”

‘Valkyrie’ not interested in awards season? Awards season is just around the corner and typically, many of the December releases—especially those with big A-listers attached — are considered Oscar contenders.

Celebrity Sightings

Slideshow  26 photos

Celebrity Sightings

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

One film that would seem to fit isTom Cruise’s new Nazi-themed film “Valkyrie,” but it appears MGM is opting not to throw the film into Oscar contention. “Valkyrie” won’t be shown to most critics until Dec. 15, which is after the deadline for the pre-Oscar awards such as the National Film Board of Review. Skipping out on the pre-shows is basically an indication that the studio doesn’t think it has the goods to compete. (Moving the film’s release from February 2009 to Christmas 2008 is why all this awards chatter began in the first place.)

One person attached to the film says that skipping out on the awards could have something to do with the studio not being entirely behind Cruise.

“The PR around the film definitely appears to revolve around Tom, but if you look at the marketing, it doesn’t," says the source. "He’s not in the trailers as much as you’d think he’d be, and the research showed that they didn’t want this to be just a Tom Cruise film.”

Don Draper and Liz Lemon romanceOkay, so it’s actually actor Jon Hamm, and not really Don Draper of “Mad Men” who makes a series of guest appearances on “30 Rock.”

But as fans of all of the above, it’s a pleasure to report some details about Hamm’s spot on the show.

In the January Vanity Fair interview with Tina Fey it’s revealed that Hamm will play "a pediatrician who impresses (Liz) Lemon with his love of pie-making documentaries and ice-cream makers."

Sounds like perfection; please just watch the show(s) so that “30 Rock” is around next season, too.

Sightings L.A.: Beyonce, Adrien Brody, Gabrielle Union and Jeffrey Wright toasted their new release, “Cadillac Records” with Grey Goose cocktails at Les Deux on Nov. 24. ... The same night, Javier Bardem and a friend were at Sushi Roku in Santa Monica. …. Anne Hathaway and her agent ate at the West Hollywood location Nov. 22. Nicole Richie sipping Venom energy drink at the Ecco Ultra Lounge Nov. 20. … Kevin Connolly drank Effen vodka cocktails at the Viper Room Nov. 16.

Miami: Supermodel Naomi Campbell danced at Liv nightclub in the Fontainebleau Hotel alongside Diddy and Campbell's Russian billionaire boyfriend Vladimir Doronin until 2:30 am Nov. 29.

Have you heard? Britney Spears will ring in her 27th birthday at Tenjune in Manhattan Dec. 2. She’ll wrap up her New York City appearances by appearing at the Rockefeller Center tree lighting Dec. 3. … Matt Damon is said to be looking at the film adaptation of the yet-to-be-published book “Adventures in the Drug Trade: I Was a Big Pharma Pusher,” by Andy Behrman … On Dec. 4, Brooke Burke will sign 1,000 cards from for troops who can’t come home for the holidays.

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