Fox's family-friendly "American Idol" is headed down the tubes if Howard Stern and Perez Hilton have anything to do with it.
Stern, while now on XM Sirius Satellite Radio, dominated the public airwaves for more than 20 years as a shock jock. Regular discussions on his show revolved around celebrities' sexual proclivities, complete with explicit language. Strippers and porn stars were regular guests. As of 2005, the FCC had fined him more than any other radio broadcaster to the tune $2.5 million. He migrated to satellite radio to escape FCC rules.
Gossip blogger Hilton built his career by enhancing paparazzi shots of celebrities with crude white drawings of genitalia and bodily fluids and posting them on his site, PerezHilton.com, and outing gay celebrities. He injected politics into the Miss USA pageant last spring as a judge when he asked about same-sex marriage. He continually harassed former Miss California Carrie Prejean on his Web site after she expressed a belief in the traditional view of marriage in response to his question.
After "Idol" judge Simon Cowell, known for his brutal honesty, announced on Jan. 11 that this would be his last season as part of the wildly popular singing competition, Stern and Hilton both pitched themselves as his replacement, and entertainment journalists applauded.
Stern fueled the rumors of a potential deal between him and Fox on his Feb. 8 Sirius XM radio show.
"A $100 million to judge a karaoke contest? Yeah, I would do that show for a $100 million," the self-dubbed "King of All Media" stated. "If I do say so myself, I can't imagine anyone else but me replacing (Cowell). I mean, I don't know. How else are they going to make that show work? Who knows how to broadcast and who knows how to speak their mind?"
Fox has not commented on Stern's claim.
As for Hilton, he begged for the job in a Jan. 26 MTV News video.
"If they're looking for a new judge on ‘American Idol,' I am available," the celebrity blogger offered. "Basically, I'm shamelessly looking for work. I'm available and I'm cheap."
Cowell claimed in a Feb. 18 press conference that his replacement has to be "somebody who can actually make a different to the contestants, who's not afraid to speak their mind, who's prepared to be honest and occasionally blunt, but not being gratuitously rude."
Stern provided listeners with a sample critique about a past contestant and her effect on young boys' masturbation habits in his typical crude fashion during his Feb. 8 show [Warning: Offensive Language]:
Hey Fantasia [Season 3 contestant], you're not getting little boys hard. Nobody's beating off to you. You look like you stepped out of a cartoon. Little boys want boners. They want a Britney Spears or Rihanna. Little boys are scared that you are going to sit on them. You're out. Honey, you look like you stepped out of a Haitian earthquake. You've got to go clean up your act. Get a haircut like Rihanna if you want little boys beating off to you.
Hilton claimed in a video posted Feb. 23 on his site that his "track record for judging others is unmatched." Nobody else would find it appropriate to snark about a photo of a three-year-old girl, as Hilton did last winter when he posted an unflattering picture of Suri Cruise on his site with scribbled caption, "bad angle?" scribbled over it. Suri is the daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
Neither Hilton nor Stern could be considered anything other than "gratuitously rude," in Cowell's words, but other media personalities celebrated the possibility of one or the other taking Cowell's place.
Rachel Sklar, editor-at-large at Mediaite.com, approvingly discussed Stern's possible job change on CNN Headline News's Feb. 8 "Joy Behar Show" program, saying he "would be a nice jolt of newness and rawness in the show."
"The show is pretty much in a groove. So, it's a little smooth," she claimed. "I think Howard Stern would give it a little bit of authenticity."
Behar agreed, and noted that she "would watch it." Earlier on Feb. 8, Behar tangled with her "View" co-panelists about Stern, and claimed that she "want[s] to see Howard tell the truth."
Hilton can count celebrity journalist Ben Widdicombe and Kim Serafin, senior editor of "In Touch Weekly," in his camp. Both appeared on CNN Headline News's Feb. 19 "Showbiz Tonight" to tout him as a good replacement, complete with Widdecombe's claim that Hilton "would be perfect for it."
"I know that he's passionate about music," lobbied Widdicombe for Hilton. "He loves supporting the work of new artists. He was instrumental in breaking acts like Lily Allen and Mika in America. And he loves the business."
For Serafin, Hilton's strength is his ability to market.
"Perez would be a good choice in the sense that he understands pop culture. And now, probably more than ever, the music industry you have to know how to market yourself as well as be good musical talent like Adam Lambert, like Lady Gaga," she argued.
Count Cowell as a Hilton fan. As CMI previously reported, the judge spoke fondly of the blogger.
"Perez, he'd be funny. You know, he's got good taste in music, he's a personality. That could work," he told reporters during the Feb. 18 press conference.
Memo to Stern: Satellite Radio is Not Broadcast TV
In the controversy over Adam Lambert's sexuality in the final weeks of last season's "Idol," Newsweek's Ramin Setoodeh wrote, "Idol is the No. 1 show on TV at least in part because it's so family-friendly, and it also appeals to a large demographic of Christian viewers."
It's not likely those Christian viewers would tune in to see Howard Stern's rants.
After the tragic massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, Stern offered offensive, insensitive commentary about the sex lives of the killers.
"There were some really good-looking girls running out with their hands over their heads," he remarked. "Did [Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold] try to have sex with any of the good-looking girls? They didn't even do that? At least if you're going to kill yourself and kill all the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex? If I was going to kill some people, I'd take them out with sex."
But it's not comments like this that has kept media people from enthusiastically endorsing Stern as an "Idol" judge; it's the fact that he doesn't have a background in the music industry.
Celebrity journalist Ben Widdicombe told "Showbiz Tonight" choosing Stern would be "stunt casting" and explained, "He doesn't have the rungs on the board or the record ... he hasn't created any stars or any hits."
Hyla, an entertainment journalist for 5dollarprep.com, noted Stern's lack of respect for the program as well as the difference between Stern's audience and "Idol's."
"Howard doesn't even respect ‘American Idol,' calling it a karaoke show on his radio show," he stated during a Feb. 9 "Showbiz" appearance. "The audience that he's going to bring is not the audience that Fox wants. They don't want a bunch of ‘To Catch a Predators' watching ‘American Idol.'"
"Showbiz" host A.J. Hammer defended Stern on Feb. 9 by saying the radio host "is a smart performer" and that "people need to give him more credit than to think that ‘Idol' is suddenly going to become an R-rated show if this really does happen."
If Stern's sample commentary about Fantasia is any indication, perhaps it's Hammer who is giving him too much credit.
Perez Hilton: Sleaze Peddler
Perez Hilton currently oversees his own record label under Warner Bros. Records, which gives him credibility within the music industry. His early support of Lady Gaga could arguably demonstrate that he knows how promote and market talent. But Hilton is offensive and downright hostile to people with whom he disagrees.
Widdicombe described Hilton as "feisty" and noted that producers "might have to keep him on a tight leash because he loves getting into fights," but nobody mentioned his vile treatment of celebrities.
Take, for instance, his video response to Carrie Prejean's answer to his question at the Miss USA pageant about same-sex marriage:
She lost, not because she doesn't believe in gay marriage. Miss California lost because she's a dumb b----. Okay? This is how a person with half a brain answers the question I posed her, which is, ‘Vermont recently legalized same-sex marriages. Do you think other states should follow suit, why or why not?
Five months after the fact, he was still "doodling" penises on photos of Prejean and posting them to his site.
It is logical to expect the same behavior from Hilton if he were to disagree with the voting results on "Idol."
And of course there's Hilton's proclivity for attacking young women's looks on his blog.
Actress Demi Moore accused Hilton of peddling child pornography last fall after he posted a photo of her 15-year-old daughter Tallulah Willis in short-shorts with the helpful label of "ass" doodled next to her bottom. This, and another photo that has since been removed of the teen in a low-cut shirt, caused Moore to strike back at the blogger via Twitter.
"Clearly Perez Hilton isn't taking violating child pornography laws very seriously. He might not but there are a lot of people who do!," Moore tweeted on Sept. 3. She later explained, "Let me ask all of you, what is it called when someone is telling people to look and focus on a child's ‘boobs and ass' while providing photos?"
Fox cannot expect to allow Howard Stern or Perez Hilton to be part of "American Idol" and the receive the same kind of top ratings it currently enjoys.
Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council noted the potential problems Fox could face if Stern appeared on the program, including the destruction of the "show's hard-earned reputation as one of the most reliably family-friendly programs on broadcast television."
Winter added, "It would also immediately, and perhaps irreparably, alienate the show's biggest sponsors which tend to be trusted family brands and would not want their reputations to be tarnished by someone who has demonstrated nothing by contempt's for broadcast decency through his words and deeds."
The PTC's arguments against Stern would also hold against Hilton. He's not on the broadcast networks yet, but he has shown no regard for common decency in any of his endeavors.
True family-friendly entertainment is rarely found on the airwaves these days. Adding Stern or Hilton to "Idol" would further reduce the options.