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Scott D. Pierce: It's 'Idol'-ized

Given the incredible ratings success of "American Idol," it's hardly surprising that the folks at Fox are trying to find a way to expand that ratings bonanza.

Much to the credit of the various people who have programmed Fox since "American Idol" burst onto the scene in 2002, the network has not diluted its success by trying to air more than one cycle of the show per year. Part of that has to do with Fox's coverage of the baseball playoffs and World Series, but it also has to do with the fear that if the show named one winner in the fall/winter and another in the spring, "American Idol" would lose ratings momentum.

But that hasn't kept them from trying. Fox put "American Juniors" — an "American Idol" with kids — on the air during the summer of 2003 and announced that it would continue through the fall. Except that the ratings were so lousy it disappeared in mid-August.

And in 2005, the network's reality-programming chief announced "Celebrity Idol," a series featuring — you guessed it! — celebrities competing in an "American Idol" format. But that show has yet to make it on the air.

In the spirit of try, try again, tonight is the debut of "The Next Great American Band" (7 p.m., Ch. 13). Which is, I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn, "American Idol" for groups instead of individuals.

Critics haven't seen a full episode, but we did get a clip reel. And it looks pretty much exactly as you'd expect it to. We see a bunch of bands that span a wide range of styles and talents.

There are some utterly awful groups here who are there simply to be made fun of. Because, after all, it just wouldn't be "American Idol"-ish if somebody wasn't being humiliated.

There's a host nobody in America has ever heard of before — Dominic Bowden, who hosts "New Zealand Idol." There are three judges — Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, has-been Sheila E. and Simon Cowell wannabe Ian "Dicko" Dickson (the mean judge on "Australian Idol").

The judges will narrow down hopefuls to 10 bands, which will perform live on upcoming episodes. Then viewers can dial in and vote.

Again, pretty much just exactly as you'd expect.

If you're such a huge fan of "American Idol" that you just can't wait for the next season to begin in January, you might enjoy "The Next Great American Band." (Although wouldn't you think that a lot of those people might be doing something else on Friday night?)

If (like yours truly) you burned out on "American Idol" a long time ago, you'll want to avoid "American Band" altogether.

SHORT MEMORIES: I'm glad that AMC has renewed "Mad Men" for a second season. It's a really good show, and I can't wait to see more.

But ... AMC's announcement of the pickup is unintentionally amusing. Not only was the announcement headlined "Critically acclaimed drama marked first original series for the network," but AMC's executive vice president of programming and production was quoted as saying, "AMC's first foray into original scripted series has been a success right out of the gate."

But "Mad Men" was not AMC's first original series. It wasn't even AMC's second original series.

The first was "Remember WENN," which ran from 1996-98 on AMC — a total of 56 episodes. And there was also a series titled "The Lot," which aired 17 episodes in 1999 and 2001.

Those were both series, they were both scripted, they were both original programs (not bought from another network) ... so, no, "Mad Men" is not AMC's first original scripted series.

It's true that the management of AMC has changed (more than once) since then, but, gee, all you've got to do is log onto the Internet and do a search on "AMC original series" and you'll quickly find "Remember WENN" and "The Lot."

Duh.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com