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TV: In Defense of American Idol 2014 (Yes, I Said That)

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I know, me, sticking up for American Idol? Look, I've always called them as I see 'em and Idol was fast becoming a dinosaur. It seemed the show producers' old bag of tricks, mainly false controversy and laughable drama, which worked so well through the first six or seven seasons, suddenly seemed incredibly old school and just plain embarrassing. I thank you, the viewer, for the current turnabout. Through your use of social media you quickly saw through those shenanigans, spread the word and went elsewhere. Stunt casting, stunt judges, stunt drama. You wouldn't be fooled. Authenticity is what you craved. Now you have it in 2014 with Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez.

While some may argue Jennifer Lopez is as authentic as President Obama's promises regarding the readiness of the Affordable Care Act, I'd say you're wrong. Every time I've met and chatted with Jennifer, she's always seemed completely down to earth. Oh, I hear you say, "But, Tony, you ding-dong, she was putting on her best behavior for you (and your cameras)." And, to some extent, you'd be right (especially about the ding-dong stuff). But I don't know a star in any field -- music, acting, sports, you name it, who doesn't change a bit once the camera is on. However, I've been fortunate in that most of the stars I know have come to trust me over the years. When the camera is off, they let their guard down or, better yet, just relax. As for Jennifer, she's a goof. Seriously, a funny goof. And that's a compliment. Self-effacing humor. A diva with a disarming ability to just be -- normal. Away from the cameras, away from the entourage. You get the point.

And that fits in well with this incarnation of Idol judges. Grammy winner Keith Urban is nothing if not authentic as is new judge Harry Connick Jr, also a Grammy winner. It is important to remember when Idol first came on the scene, it was viewed as the antithesis to the backstabbing show storming the country, Survivor. Idol debuted two-years after Survivor. Sure, Simon Cowell was mean, but he was authentic. Ah, that word again, authentic. Plus, you could watch Idol with your kids, without seeing Richard Hatch naked. Always a bonus.

In addition, Urban and Connick are fantastic musicians. They genuinely seem to get along, get each other's humor and it appears they like being around each other. Urban has a great, easy-going way about him. Connick is the same.

I remember meeting Connick on the set of NBC's huge hit, Will & Grace, back in 2002. Connick was just beginning his four-season arc on the show playing Dr. Marvin "Leo" Markus. In fact, the first time I saw him he was on a horse riding into a scene. That episode was appropriately titled, "And The Horse He Rode In On..." It was quite an entrance.

I chatted with Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, the Will & Grace, before sitting down with Connick. I know these two very well and they had nothing but great things to say about him. This wasn't on camera, this was just hanging around the set and shootin'-the-you-know-what. When I sat down with Connick, he told me he was like a kid in a candy store. He and his wife, Jill Goodacre, loved the show. He just didn't want to embarrass himself or the family. He had this fun, self-effacing way about him mixed with a wicked and unique sense of humor.

I came back four episodes into his first-season arc and the cast and crew now considered Connick family. In fact, he would be family, continuing for 23 episodes right through to the show's finale in May of 2006.

So, now it's 2014 and Connick seems to be the missing piece of the judges' puzzle. In fact, it looks like Lopez is the sister to Urban's and Connick's older, prankish, yet caring brothers. Brothers who create authentic television moments. THAT is incredibly important in a world where been-there, done-that audiences saw through, and became tired of, Idol's contrived drama and controversy.

Wow, a nice dose of authenticity on TV? I like it. More importantly, I actually want to see the next episode.

Haven't said that in years.