Sure, fans can be fickle. But many viewers of July 31’s ”American Idol” were stunned when mop-topped crooner Justin Guarini finished second to last after a performance that underwhelmed Simon Cowell & Co. So stunned that cynics may wonder: Could Fox have fiddled with the numbers in the name of nail-biting drama?
No way, says Michael Eaton, VP of FremantleMedia, the production firm that brought ”Idol” to the U.S. He says it’s virtually impossible to penetrate the show’s vote-tallying system — which is monitored by London-based Telescope, creator of high-volume phone-vote lines for companies like Evian and Pepsi. (Yes, Telescope’s independent from FremantleMedia.) ”Nobody can get in there and change the votes,” says Eaton, defending the decision not to report actual vote counts each week. Still, ”Idol” is not legally considered a game show, so it doesn’t fall under the same scrutiny as, say, ”Jeopardy!” ”There’s nobody from the government side regulating the vote,” Eaton admits.
Meanwhile, a cadre of songwriters — including Diane Warren (Aerosmith’s ”I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”), Desmond Child (Bon Jovi’s ”Livin’ on a Prayer”), and early-’90s pop star Cathy Dennis, who cowrote ”Idol”’s catchy theme — has been recruited to pen original tunes for the Sept. 3 showdown between the last two finalists. Both contenders will sing two of the new ditties, as well as a cover of their choosing. (The winner’s single will be released Sept. 24.) Thankfully, judge Paula Abdul is not among the competing tunesmiths.