Finally! An ”Idol”-free week!
1. Our first American Idol-free week in what seems like forever
Hey, if you’re a fan of the show, bless your soul and enjoy EW’s all-Idol issue. But for the rest of us: Hallelujah! If I never have to hear the caterwaul of any of this edition’s grotesque excuses for ”pop” or ”rock” singing, I will be forever grateful. Ditto the name ”Sanjaya.” Ditto anything from the mouths of Ryan, Randy, Paula, and — yes, I’ve even tired of the one person in on the cynical joke of it all — Simon.
2. John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson in the new two-disc Rio Bravo
(Warner Home Video DVD)
There’s a slew of John Wayne movies being released to capitalize on the 100th anniversary of his birth, but this, of course, is the best of them. Director Howard Hawks’ 1959 ode to a man’s-gotta-do-what-a-man’s-gotta-do is simply one of the most purely enjoyable Westerns ever made. Richard Schickel’s commentary provides a welcome wealth of production detail and exploration of Hawks’ themes. Schickel’s only flaw? He doesn’t really ”get” Ricky Nelson — what the teen idol stood for outside of this film, and how good the kid was in it.
3. Ultimate Fighters: Rosie, Elisabeth, and Joy on The View
Hoo, boy, last week’s O’Donnell/Hasselbeck donnybrook, provoked by Behar, was far more tense than anything on the entire season 6 of 24…and led to the announcement that Rosie won’t be coming back to ride out her contract. Does that make Hasselbeck the winner? No — now she has to contend with a freshly feisty Joy Behar, who won’t grab headlines the way Rosie did, but will provide the liberal yin to Elisabeth’s conservative yang. I’ll stay tuned for a while, if only to hear how Barbara Walters spins this.
4. Father vs. son: Which should you buy?
Loudon Wainwright’s Strange Weirdos: Music From and Inspired by the Film Knocked Up (Concord) or Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars (Geffen)?
Rufus: gorgeous voice, overreaching ambition, mosquito-size sense of humor. Loudon: scratchy tenor, sneakily large-but-underplayed ambition, best sense of humor in the music biz. I declare Dad the winner by a knockout. His album is a hybrid by Loudon standards — I gather that instrumental versions of some of the tunes here accompany the Knocked Up you’ll see in the movie theater, and Loudon, usually a solo author, collaborated on a few songs with his producer Joe Henry, and also covers a couple of Henry’s songs. Strange Weirdos is nonetheless top-tier Loudon music. Its fretting about middle-age (”Doin’ The Math”) adapts neatly to the movie’s anxiety about impending parenthood, and parenthood has always been primo subject matter for Loudon (just ask, um, Rufus, immortalized in more of his dad’s songs than he’d probably like). The re-recording of an old Loudon song, ”Lullaby,” is lovely, and new stuff such as ”You Can’t Fail Me Now” and the title track are superb. Come on: Give the old WASP duffer some record sales.
5. The season finale of House
(Fox, Tues., 9 p.m.)
The best thing about this season of House has been the streamlining of its concept. The writers no longer bother trying to give the families of the mysteriously stricken patients personalities — establishing subsidiary characters just gets in the way of what we tune in for: Hugh Laurie being rude and brilliant. And I appreciate the effort, in the second half of the season, to give more screen time to Robert Sean Leonard’s Dr. Wilson; until now, Leonard has managed to convey anguished soulfulness almost solely through line-readings and glances — it’s good to see him actually handed a storyline now and then, because he’s both witty and moving. Oh, yeah: the finale plot is about Omar Epps’ plans to leave the hospital (yawn).