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The Auditions
by Idol Judge Mark Holden

Tamworth, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Perth and Sydney. What a journey! Nearly Fifty thousand people turned out. Many were family and friends but huge numbers of our 16 - 28 year old new Aussie crop fronted for the fun, the challenge, the dream and a shot at being the second Australian Idol or their fifteen seconds of fame.

The Loonies have multiplied. Like some kind virulent bacteria they have spread and are about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public in July when Idol 2 kicks off on Channel 10. You want William Hung? He looks decidedly ordinary next to some of the twilight zone deludes we have seen. Dicko has convinced Channel 10 to make a spin-off special called 'Otherworld Idol'. Brilliant - can't wait to see it! Watch out for 'Otherworld Idol's' version of Kath and Kim from Perth - Dicko does I Will Survive with two cousins who definitely have a Fountaingate thing going on big time - its hysterical!

Some towns were better than others. As reported earlier on this web site, Tamworth was disappointing. Canberra offered us a few surprises and a magnificent location in the Old Parliament House members dining room which looked out over the green mall to New Parliament House. It wasn't hard to imagine Robert Menzies at the beautiful deco bar next door and the endless intrigues hatched over copious quantities of claret.

Melbourne provided some absolutely classic loony's that had me falling over but unlike last year when Shannon was unearthed it wasn't the talent pool I was expecting. Adelaide didn't let us down with some really cool kids coming through and Darwin was beautiful, hot and indigenous. In particular there is one young aboriginal woman from NT that is going to blow Australia way - I wont say more now except look out for her in the Finals because I'm sure she will be there.

Perth had some contributions to the looming battle of the 16 year olds which has evolved over the auditions. With so many shows culling the crop over the last five years it shouldn't be surprising that 16 year olds represent the greatest potential for previously unseen brilliance. One girl from Perth that we put through to the top 100 was 15 only turning 16 on the last possible day for qualification - there will never be a younger contestant. Hobart was well... cold but did contribute one girl to the battle of the 16 year olds.

Bris-Vegas was great again but Sydney was outstanding. By the time we finished the Sydney auditions I was totally convinced that we are going to have a great show this year. The quality of the production and locations has been cranked up to be the best in the world. Cheers to the whole crew who did such a AAA job! But in the end this is a talent show and depends on there being contestants at the level of Guy, Shannon, Kelly and Fantasia. Australian Idol 2 will not disappoint. We have plenty of stars ready to shine.

One of the outstanding moments of the auditions would have to be the contestant who lined up whilst over 9 months pregnant, had her baby and made it back for the judges just 42 hours after giving birth. It was a highly emotional moment - even the camera men had tears in their eyes! Talk about creativity!

Meanwhile the Idol 1 alumni keep rising up. Guy recently had his second global exposure when he sang on American Idol. What a break! I'm told work visa issues meant that he had to leave the country and got back with only a couple of hours to spare which must have been exhausting and stressful for him. Nonetheless although it was not Guy at his best he was still clearly better than any other of the current US contestants except Fantasia and that's saying something - well done Guy!. My advice to him continues to be to go for the contemporary christian / gospel path. The American Idol exposure would have been awesome in middle America with that strategy in mind.

With his #6 entry in the charts Millsy has made it 4 blokes from Idol 1 with hits out - Whoopee!!!! Great to see the impact from last year still resonating. Levi has had a brief moment in the top of the charts at # 12 with his family band Lethridge on an independent label. Here's hoping they have the resources to keep it going so the album works. Cosima is about to go to LA to record her indie album with songwriting supremo Dianne Warren as Executive - Producer. Fantastic!!!! Paulini's album on Sony must be just about ready. Its all happening in Idol Land.

I can feel it in the air again - the pressure is building up. Next stop the Seymour Centre in Sydney where the judges cull the 117 we have chosen down to a Top 30 in 3 days. Much blood, rivers of tears. I can't wait to see all the contestants lined up and see who emerges. Its a very exciting time.

Stay tuned!


Star search
TV Week

Australian Idol hit the road in April in search of our next music star.

We asked judges Mark Holden and Ian “Dicko” Dickson what they thought of the talent…

The team went looking for another Shannon Noll, but were disappointed. Dicko: Tamworth is our country music centre, but we just saw the same crappy R’n’B singers you see everywhere.

Last year’s Cosima De Vito was discovered in Perth, so the judges had high hopes…Dicko: There were superb turnouts in Perth, but just not very good talent at all.

While the Apple Isle’s beauty impressed the judges, the talent did not. Mark: It was a disaster. I didn’t say yes to anyone until the very last person, who was a 16-year-old girl named Ameli.

This year saw the first Idol auditions in Canberra and the talent was a surprise. Mark: Canberra was actually quite good. I can’t reveal how many got through to the top 30, but it was a good surprise.

It wasn’t the talent that most impressed Mark in Australia’s second-largest city. Mark: The loonies in Melbourne were spectacular. On the talent front there were a few people, but I was disappointed.

Brisbane may have been wet, but that didn’t stop the talent from shining. Dicko: For the second year running Brisbane was fantastic. They are just so keen and enthusiastic up there.

The home of last year’s winner, Guy Sebastian, produced some talent! Mark: Adelaide was good, but a couple of people were there from Melbourne to take another crack at Idol.

The huge surprise of the auditions. The talent there was very impressive. Mark: Surprisingly good. There are a couple of people from Darwin that are quite interesting and groovy.

Highest population equals highest talent count. And they turned on the charm. Dicko: Last year Sydney was light on talent, but this year it was sensational.

Idol mania is here again as the search begins for tomorrow’s stars.

Number of kilometres travelled– more than 16,000
Number of days on the road – 54
Number of cities visited – 19
Number of venues used for the auditions – 17
Number of hotels stayed in – 15
Number of security guards – 180
Number of people who queued – more than 50,000
Number of auditionees – over 20,000
Number of tissues used – 120 boxes
Most popular songs – R Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” from the Sister Act two soundtrack and “Amazing Grace”.
Wacky outfits worn – nurses’ uniforms, a muu-muu, the Australian flag, a Grim Reaper outfit, furry animal suits.

Idol gossip
TV WEEK scooped all the gossip from the auditions.
Perth, the judges gave the thumbs up to a 15-year-old girl who turned 16 on the last possible day of qualifying. She’s the youngest ever Idol contestant.
Perth also had a rapping rabbi try out!
In Melbourne, Rove’s Peter Helliar turned up to audition dressed as a bogan rocker with a mullet. He had a scuffle with security after the judges turned him down.
Last year’s hyperactive top-30 finalist Roderick made another appearance in Melbourne – but was shown the door.
A big, scary man turned up to the Sydney auditions with a biker jacket and goatee calling himself, “Al Ka Holic – the wog full of grog”. He performed a really bad rendition of a Van Halen song and didn’t get through.
Sydney saw one of the most moving moments of Idol ever when a woman turned up, only 48 hours after giving birth, to perform. There was hardly a dry eye in the house and yes, she got through.
Keep an eye out for Mary, a young Asian girl from Sydney, who sounds like a chipmunk sucking on helium.
One of the more colourful Sydney auditionees was Phillip. He began whistling and dancing, then went into beat boxing, heavy metal and humming, then back to whistling. He got through.

Did you know?
The auditionees have to perform three times before they can make it into the final 100:
1.They audition in front of producers.
2. On the same day they perform in front of the executive producers.
3. They perform in front of the three bigwigs – Marcia Hines, Mark and Dicko, who have the deciding vote.

From TV Week

Australian Idol
TV Week

Want the low-down on this year's most exciting series return? Check out what Australian Idol Episode 1 has in store for you!

Australian Idol is back with a vengeance and following the stunning success of last year, Idol 2004 is even bigger. In fact, with 50,000 people turning out across the country in nine cities, it's the biggest search for a superstar ever conducted in Australia.

Episode one on Network Ten on Tuesday, 13 July @ 7.30 pm,(the first audition episode) sees the Idol juggernaut roll into Melbourne first where 15,000 hopefuls camped out in freezing cold and wet weather for the chance to come up against our three judges. Lord help them if they were the 497th person to sing I Believe I can Fly that day. Being Melbourne, of course fashion was a strong point. Plenty of pink, a lot of fake fur, a Santa suit and a naughty nurse are amongst many other fashion crimes that you're going to love.

Following Melbourne the wagons roll north to Australia's country music capital, Tamworth, where rock, pop and show tunes appeared, but not a lot of country. Young singers cause controversy between the judges as they debate who's ready for stardom, and an angel from Lismore descends to capture the hearts of the Idol crew. Plus there's a huge morale boosting parade down the main street of Tammie and a special appearance by Shannon Noll!

Idol chatter
Watch out for a brilliant new innovation for this year's Idol - the Idol Cam - in which recently punted punters can have their revenge by fronting up and letting rip. Random comments from Melbourne included "Dicko man, up yours!" and "Dicko, you're a @#$@#$ p$#@#!"

Australian Idol premieres on Network Ten over two huge nights Tuesday 13th July at 7.30pm & Wednesday 14th July at 7.30pm.

From TV Week

Idol chatter With Andrew G
TV Week

Australian Idol and Channel [V] host Andrew G takes TV WEEK readers inside the show.

Hasn’t the second series of Idol come around quickly?

Melbourne, our first audition city, was amazing. I don’t know about the last time you stayed out all night in the freezing rain, but thousands of Melbourne singers were up for it.

When we rocked up around 6am to chat with them, I couldn’t believe the enthusiasm.

People had come from so far away, from so many different places. Idol was turning into more of a cultural gathering than an audition!

A few folks in Melbourne who got as far as our judges didn’t take being rejected very well.

In fact, on more than one occasion, our friendly and professional security people were called on to enforce the judges’ diplomacy.

As far as what’s new this year, I can report that “Money” Mark Holden has an all-new “touchdown”, Marcia has all new “bling” and Dicko has all new hair!

As always, James (Mathison, Idol ‘s co-host) and I have been filming furiously for the Channel [V] behind-the-scenes show, Australian Idol Extra, talking off-the-cuff with judges and contestants, and rolling tape on events that would otherwise remain unseen.

We headed to Canberra and Brisbane after Melbourne and, as always, the Sunshine State didn’t disappoint, with a healthy dose of freaks and the fabulous.

I’ll fill you in next week!

From TV Week

Ten prays to its Idol
July 15, 2004

Lightning rarely strikes twice, particularly in TV. The experience of Nine's The Block, down about a million viewers from last year, has taught producers a harsh lesson, and it's weighing heavily on the mind of Australian Idol executive producer Stephen Tate.

"We had a huge hit last year but that doesn't automatically mean we'll get the same response this year," he says. "We've also been careful not to sell this year's Idol based on the spectacle of last year's finale. It's a long road to the top."

An audience of 3.3 million watched last year's Idol finale, making it the second most-watched program of the year, behind Seven's Rugby World Cup final. Reaching those heights again is a big ask, particularly in a TV market that is more fragmented and where Nine has regained custodianship - for now, at least - of Ten's preferred 16-39 demographic. "I am not taking anything for granted," Tate says.

There are signs, however, that Australian Idol II will be as successful as the original. There was an unprecedented turnout for the auditions - more than 50,000 people passed through the show's turnstiles - and the buzz, that famously intangible industry hum on which fortunes rise and fall, is mostly positive.

It's going to be a delicate balancing act, Tate says, which involves giving the audience what they know, without selling them the same old show. But Idol, like Big Brother, is in a good position to strike that balance.

"The great thing about Idol is that it is as different as the people we find," Tate says. "Last year was a huge learning curve for us; this year we know the types of people that will resonate with an audience."

The key to the early success of Idol - as with Popstars, widely regarded as the progenitor of the modern talent/reality genre - is the audition process. Audiences find a perverse delight in watching the truly talentless drown in their own creative juices. But Tate cautions against overplaying the audition card, believing it contradicts the essence of the format: the search for new, extraordinary, talent.

"Yes, there are a lot of really funny moments, and we've found some other precious voices around the country that will certainly make the water cooler, but you can't only present that, because that says we're not finding talent. You have to intersperse that with the magnificent voices and the wonderful characters we've also found."

On the consistency front, Idol's producers have retained hosts Andrew G and James Mathison, and the three judges: producer (and now Idol consultant) Ian "Dicko" Dickson, singer Marcia Hines and songwriter Mark Holden. Tate believes the judging panel is one of Idol's great strengths.

"Individually, all three of them have their own agendas," he says. "They are looking for specific but different things in the artist.

"Dicko is prepared to go for the lowest common denominator - he knows what will sell records. Mark is looking for voices that are recordable, while Marcia is looking at the artist, the person's ability to interpret lyrics and the kind of stamina they are going to have for the long run. Together, they have a kind of holistic approach that has delivered genuine talent."

Who can argue? The first Australian Idol landed record deals for its winner, Guy Sebastian, and for runners-up Shannon Noll, Cosima De Vito and Paulini Curuenavuli.

Even early cast-off Robert Mills, who found infamy as an occasional guest of the Hilton hotel chain, has released a record.

Dicko, says Tate, is a real find, a natural talent, who "astounds us, because every time we throw a challenge at him, he rises to it and exceeds our expectations". Conceived, on paper at least, as a clone of the British Pop Idol's nasty Simon Cowell, Dickson's candour earned him the respect of Australian audiences. "He delivers blistering honesty with wit," Tate says.

That honesty is what gives Idol its edge, particularly when compared with Seven's disastrous resurrection of the Popstars format earlier this year. That show's most significant failure (there were many) came in its poor judgement of performances - at first embarrassingly kind, then deliberately harsh.

Tate chooses his words carefully when Popstars is raised, attributing its failure to its attempt to reinvent the wheel.

"I think they would have enjoyed far more success if they had gone back to basics and the original format, which produced (girl band) Bardot," he says.

>The big question, however, whether you are Guy Sebastian or Bardot, is if winning a record contract on what cynics would dismiss as a reality TV stunt really amounts to anything, let alone a career of substance. Reality TV might be able to produce the next Britney Spears, but the next Madonna or John Lennon has proved too tall an order.

Tate says Idol is first and foremost a TV show. "We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are making a TV program, because we get caught up in the excitement of finding talent," he says.

But, he adds, Ten has made a significant investment in delivering "on the promise beyond the program".

It has supported the launch of Curuenavuli's debut album and will soon do the same for De Vito. Noll is the star of a coming TV variety special for Ten, produced, somewhat incestuously, by Dickson's new production company.

It's a smart strategy, linking Idol with Ten's broader assets, including Good Morning Australia, Rove (Live) and Video Hits, and, it is hoped, delivering Ten the 16-39 demographic. This audience is the real prize of the TV business and one that Ten has chased for the best part of a decade, mostly with success.

Tate concedes, however, that it is a notoriously difficult demographic to reach. This audience has very specific tastes - event-based programs, live programs and programs that aren't too "try-hard" - and won't fall for TV's lazy old marketing tricks.

"They're not looking for pretence. They're looking for entertainment; they're looking for escapism; and they're looking for appointment viewing," Tate says.

"At that age, you are very social and, if you're choosing something to watch, you are choosing something you know your peers are watching, too. They're looking for the social side of TV, the type of programs people are talking about the next day."

Australian Idol screens on Tuesdays at 7.30pm on Channel Ten.

Source The Age