If Olympic medals were given to TV networks right now, NBC would probably rank somewhere between chrome and lead.
OK, that’s harsh, but the Peacock network is not scoring points with viewers, as counterprogramming such as ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and FOX’s “American Idol” leave NBC’s Torino coverage in the equivalent of a ratings snowbank.
Why is this, particularly when “Idol” -- now in its fifth season -- should be slowing down? Snarky "Idol" judge Simon Cowell, who stopped by FOX News this week, first blamed the lack of Yankee talent in Torino. “Nobody wants to watch Swiss people doing well,” he said.
Then he turned the spotlight on “Idol.”
“I think it’s rawer this year,” he said. “We’re showing the public more of what really goes on. We’ve got a more wacky bunch of contestants. When we were shooting the audition episodes, I thought, ‘They’re all crazy, terrible and having a go at me. This is gonna be great.'”
But don’t these people push the limit just to get on TV?
“The people who do outlandish things -- like the guy who dressed like the Statue of Liberty --they’re a complete waste of time to the show,” he said. “But the other terrible people are genuine about believing that they can be on the show. That, in itself, is fascinating.”
Cowell claims that at this point in the competition he’s always been able to spot the winner (but didn’t he seem to favor Clay over Ruben?) and that this season he’s unable to do so.
“Certain people are going to do well based on sympathy, certain people because they’re extroverts and some purely based on talent. Everyone has a shot -- it’s a very mixed bag.”
Readers of this column may recall that last week I commented on “Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson’s shocking victory over Paul McCartney at the Grammys. What may have been more shocking is that Cowell had no knowledge of this.
“Kelly Clarkson beat a Beatle!” I said.
“Which Beatle?” asked Cowell.
I told him.
“Oh, I thought you were going to say Ringo Starr,” he said, laughing. “I can beat Ringo Starr.”
While Cowell is not a fan of the Grammys (“they’re self-indulgent”) he did note the importance of Clarkson’s win to the “Idol” franchise.
“When you win ‘American Idol,’ you become attractive to the best songwriters out there. Kelly had incredible material written for her. Kelly, without the competition, would never even have her calls returned by these songwriters.”
In case you couldn’t tell, there’s no love lost between Cowell and Clarkson. He was miffed she didn’t lend her songs to this season’s “Idol” contestants for the show (she later changed her mind). She didn’t bother to thank him or anyone from “Idol” -- not even the folks who called to vote for her -- at the Grammys.
Still, her win is his win.
“Without that kind of [awards] success, ‘American Idol’ doesn’t mean anything. There has to be something to win. ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ what do you get? A round of applause. The point of ‘American Idol’ is it’s from zero to hero. It’s about living a dream.”
More of my interview with Cowell can be heard on FOX News radio affiliates nationwide.