"American Idol" fans were talking about Kelly Clarkson Thursday morning but Hollywood insiders couldn't help but notice how Fox's star rose with the success of the latest incarnation of one of the oldest conventions in entertainment -- the talent show.
"American Idol: The Search for a Superstar" averaged 22.5 million viewers from 8-10 p.m. Wednesday night, with viewership peaking at 27.9 million during its final half-hour. Those numbers came on top of stellar ratings for Tuesday night's "American Idol" show, when 18.2 million viewers tuned in.
For beating Justin Guarini in a popularity contest that attracted an estimated 15 million telephone votes from viewers, Clarkson gets a multimillion-dollar recording contract with RCA Records and a management deal with a subsidiary of the British production company that created "Idol." A single release of "A Moment Like This" -- one of the songs she sang on the show Wednesday -- will be released on Sept. 17, and her first album is due in stores in November.
Clarkson is scheduled to appear Thursday night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
The other contestants will not go home empty-handed.
The show's 10 finalists will each have a song on a compilation CD expected to be released in October. And the initial group of 30 wannabes is scheduled to reunite in Las Vegas for a show that Fox will air on Sept. 23.
NEW TALENT, CONT'D.
Hollywood has discovered Nia Vardalos.
She's hot following the unexpected success of "My Big Fat Greek Weeding," the story of a Greek woman who falls in love with a non-Greek -- much to the dismay of her family. As she struggles to get the folks to accept her man, she develops a new appreciation for her heritage and cultural identity.
The movie has grossed $82.3 million in 20 weeks in release -- making it one of the all-time slow-motion blockbusters in Hollywood history.
Vardalos didn't just star in the movie -- she also wrote it. Now she reportedly has a deal to make another movie -- "Connie and Carla Do L.A" -- which is being described as a female buddy comedy that might remind audiences of "Some Like It Hot."
Vardalos shot a pilot for CBS earlier this year, so she might show up in primetime during the upcoming TV season.
Prior to "Wedding," Vardalos' film credits included a handful of less-than-memorable pictures -- such as "Meet Prince Charming" (1999), "Men Seeking Women (1997) and "No Experience Necessary (1996). On TV, she was the voice of Domino on the 1997 series "Team Knight Rider," and appeared in several episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "The Drew Carey Show."
Plans are under way for a feature film based on Jiminy Glick -- the aggressively stupid film journalist played by Martin Short on the Comedy Central series "Primetime Glick."
Short plans to spend a few days in character as Glick at the Toronto Film Festival, shooting improvisational encounters with as many celebrities as he can round up, for use in the upcoming murder mystery-comedy "Lalawood." Plans call for Short to cut those scenes into soundstage footage, to be shot in January.
That means he'll sandwich the project in between production on a new season of "Primetime Glick" and his debut in Los Angeles next spring with Jason Alexander in the West Coast production of "The Producers."
Short told Daily Variety he got the idea for "Lalawood" during a brief stop at the festival, when he realized that Glick would fit right in there.
"There was so much intensity in the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel, it was like a microcosm of Hollywood in a nutshell," he said. "There were 85 celebrities, thousands of agents and publicists, all selling."
PHOEBE'S NEW 'FRIEND'
RIMES WARMING UP FOR BASEBALL PICTURE
Country singing star LeAnn Rimes is getting ready to star in "The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth," an upcoming movie about Jackie Mitchell -- the Tennessee woman who gained fame when she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, then got booted from baseball because she was a woman.
Rimes has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including the 2000 feature "Coyote Ugly," in which she played herself. Her only notable experience playing a character other than herself was a season as Madison on the daytime drama "Days of Our Lives."
The Media Project -- a partnership of the nonprofit organizations Advocates for Youth and the Kaiser Family Foundation -- has announced the finalists for this year's SHINE (Sexual Health In Entertainment) Awards.
The awards are presented each year to "honor those in the entertainment industry who do an exemplary job incorporating accurate and honest portrayals of sexuality into their television, film and music video programming." NBC had the most nominations of any network, with four.
The comedy nominees are "Becker" (CBS); "George Lopez" (ABC); "Grounded for Life" (Fox); "Sex and the City" (HBO; and "Will & Grace" (NBC). The drama nominees are "Boston Public" (Fox); "ER" (NBC); "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC); "Queer as Folk" (Showtime); and "Resurrection Blvd." (Showtime). The daytime drama nominees are "As the World Turns" (CBS); "Guiding Light" (CBS); and "Passions" (NBC).
The SHINE Awards will be presented at the House of Blues in Hollywood on Oct. 19.