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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
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
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
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
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 RnB singers
you see everywhere.
Last years 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 Isles beauty impressed the judges,
the talent did not. Mark: It was a disaster. I didnt
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 cant reveal how many got through to
the top 30, but it was a good surprise.
It wasnt the talent that most impressed Mark in
Australias 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 didnt stop
the talent from shining. Dicko: For the second year running
Brisbane was fantastic. They are just so keen and enthusiastic
The home of last years winner, Guy Sebastian, produced
some talent! Mark: Adelaide was good, but a couple of
people were there from Melbourne to take another crack
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
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 tomorrows
FACTS & FIGURES
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 Kellys 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
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.
Shes the youngest ever Idol contestant.
Perth also had a rapping rabbi try out!
In Melbourne, Roves 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 years hyperactive top-30 finalist Roderick
made another appearance in Melbourne but was shown
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 didnt
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
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
3. They perform in front of the three bigwigs Marcia
Hines, Mark and Dicko, who have the deciding vote.
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!
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$#@#!"
THERE IS ONLY ONE IDOL*
Australian Idol premieres on Network Ten over two huge
nights Tuesday 13th July at 7.30pm & Wednesday 14th
July at 7.30pm.
Australian Idol and Channel [V] host Andrew G takes TV
WEEK readers inside the show.
Hasnt the second series of Idol come around quickly?
Melbourne, our first audition city, was amazing. I dont
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 couldnt
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
didnt 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
As far as whats new this year, I can report that
Money Mark Holden has an all-new touchdown,
Marcia has all new bling and Dicko has all
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 didnt disappoint,
with a healthy dose of freaks and the fabulous.
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
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
"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
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
"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
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