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Test Pattern: ‘Lost: The Musical’

Plus: Oscar speeches; maim a friend; snakes on a plane; happy monkey

Five-link Friday: ‘Lost: The Musical’

Ah, Friday, I love you so. Random linkage is my reward for getting through the week.

• Remember my recent rant about "Snakes on a Plane"? One sharp-eyed reader sends proof that there . Check out the snake-sniffing  beagle.

• "Lost" fans will find this fun, though I admit I thought it'd be much funnier: Jimmy Kimmel imagines (I still think the parody, is funnier.)

• Mystery novelist Lisa Gardner runs a contest called Submit a name of a friend or enemy (or your own) and the author will choose one name for a doomed character in her next book. She notes "Please don’t provide a physical description of the proposed Lucky Stiff or details about the manner in which you’d like to see the person die. This is supposed to be a harmless bit of fun, not the beginnings of couple’s therapy."

• Personally, I'm bored out of my mind by most Oscar acceptance speeches, as the winners dither on and on thanking everyone they've ever met. But somehow it's more fun to read through the speeches than to hear them spoken. lets you read all the speeches back through 2001, though they don't make it easy. Click on the Oscar year you want in the left margin (73rd awards=2001, and so on). Click on "Nominees and Winners" at the top of the new left margin. Now click on any of the winners' names to read their speech. (Link via .)

• Reader-submitted link: is a Web site run by ... well, apparently by a terrycloth monkey. Who cooks. Here he's seen , step by careful step. I don't quite grasp the purpose of this site, but the monkey is awfully cute.

I just don’t get ‘Idol’

"American Idol" is, without question, a television phenomenon. No show, not even the vaunted "CSI," gets the ratings, the hype, the plain old craziness that surrounds "Idol," which with another round of can-you-believe-they're-so-bad auditions.

I'm a television editor and a pop-culture junkie. I've been addicted to some great shows ("American Dreams!") and some truly awful shows ("Reunion!") in my time. I'm no TV snob, and I don't shun reality shows — I never miss "Project Runway." But I don't understand the appeal of "American Idol," which started its fifth season last night, and so help me, I don't think I ever will.

And it's not as if I haven't been exposed to "Idol," given it time to work on my brain. As TV editor here, I have to watch almost every episode. I've endured the hideously delusional auditioners, watched the singers slowly move up from no names to hitmakers, seen the so-called Simon-Paula banter, tried to dissect Randy Jackson's latest "a'ight" filled criticism. And I still don't get it.

I guess it can be called a wholesome show. Sure, there's some bleeping of language going on during the audition phase, but compared to the blood and gore of "CSI" or the bed-hopping of "Desperate Housewives," perhaps the only other two shows that come close to it in viewership, "Idol" is "The Waltons." The appeal can't be the bland musical styles -- "Idol" surely has millions of fans who watch, yet would never buy a Kelly Clarkson or Clay Aiken CD. It cuts across demographics as well. A co-worker across the desk from me is a massive fan, as is my best friend, who works achingly long hours in Washington, D.C., then comes home and relaxes to "Idol." A friend watches with her young boys, who actively argue about their favorite contestants.

I've read through hundreds of reader e-mails about the show and the devotion from viewers shines through. Not even devotion, it's passion, sometimes obsession. To some, it's just a light-hearted show, sure, if they happen to catch it, great, if not, no big deal. But to others, it's an event to be anticipated all year round. What's funny is the very same folks who will write in and decry the very existence of reality shows don't view "American Idol" as a reality show in the same way they might view "The Bachelor" or "The Apprentice." They'll write e-mails blasting those shows as garbage and also turn around and write one praising "Idol" to the skies. To them, it occupies its own lofty space in the television pantheon. To me, it remains a popular, yet incomprehensible mystery.

Shelley Winters, champion of the plain

Like many, I read of with sadness. And like many, I was one who read the frequent description of Winters as a "blonde bombshell" and realized that I came to her work too late to ever think of her that way. For me, she was Shelley Winters, champion of the plain and put-upon.

I won't pretend to have seen every Shelley Winters movie, but in "Place in the Sun" she played Alice Tripp, the poor factory girl who gets knocked up by Montgomery Clift and whom he eventually watches drown so he can live the party life with the gorgeous Liz Taylor. Her obituary reports that Winters had to actively campaign for that role, that her "blonde bombshell" reputation preceded her, and director George Stevens thought she was too sexy. Winters apparently scrubbed off her makeup and went after the role again, this time successfully selling herself as the plainest of the plain, and getting the part.

That's not unheard of even today — look at sexy Charlize Theron mussing up her glamour-girl look to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster." But Winters did it so well that I, for one, never questioned that she was a regular Jane who'd somehow fallen into the world of Hollywood beauties.

She did it again in 1955's "Night of the Hunter," playing a bedraggled mother who was unable to protect her young kids from oh-so-creepy Robert Mitchum. Again, there was no pinup girl in Winters' portrayal of Willa Harper, last seen in a shocking underwater shot after she'd been murdered by Mitchum's character. She was completely believable as a woman who just wasn't strong enough to fight off Mitchum's conniving con man killer.

And of course, her role as Belle Rosen in "The Poseidon Adventure" didn't exactly appeal to a Hollywood actress's vain side. Belle was older, overweight, looking soft but possessing of a scrappy soul, willing to give her all for others. She epitomized the roles Winters had come to after her pin-up days were in the past — one whose looks were dragging her down rather than raising her up. But with Belle, unlike with her roles as poor doomed Willa and Alice, Winters epitomized the woman whose looks were just a facade covering a spine of steel. She'll be missed.