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Published: Thursday, 2/11/2010

Northwest Ohio's Crystal Bowersox impresses Simon, survives another 'Idol' round

Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

Crystal Bowersox continues to get great national exposure on American Idol. During last night's show, the first of the Hollywood elimination round, the cameras followed the 24-year-old Elliston resident to a tattoo shop, where she got a tatt of her infant son's name on her back.

"He's the reason I'm going to be the next American Idol, to give him a better life," the single mom said. "He deserves it."

Bowersox increased her chances of making good on that dream after again drawing praise from the judges. In one of the final performances of the day, Bowersox, with her trusty acoustic guitar in hand, belted a memorable version of "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman," made famous by Aretha Franklin, and had her fellow contestants singing back to her and cheering her along as her vocals soared.

Said cranky judge Simon Cowell to Bowersox following her performance: "I think what you have is that you're infectious. People like you, so you have a head start. You're real. That was good."

And just like that, Bowersox will be back next week in what looks to be the team portion of the Fox talent competition, before the performers are whittled from 181 singers to make Hollywood down to 24 -- 12 guys, 12 girls.

As for the other northeast Ohio performer to make it to Hollywood, 24-year-old Luke Shaffer, who goes by Luke James, there was no clear-cut sign of him. One singer-guitarist with light bulb white hair seen for a only a moment did bare considerable resemblance to Shaffer. If that was him, then it wasn't good news. Cowell was shown telling the contestant, "Maybe learn how to play the guitar." Ouch.

Perhaps Shaffer will pop up in tonight's show, seen locally at 8 p.m. on WUPW-TV, Channel 36.

Other American Idol notes from Tuesday night ...

Ellen DeGeneres made her debut as replacement judge for Paula Abdul. The cameras made a point of catching DeGeneres goofing around with the contestants as if to remind us that yes, she's a comic. And yes, she's nice. But DeGeneres didn't hold back her criticism, either, telling contestants: "Don't frighten your audience." "I'm tired as it is, that almost put me right out." "It was crazy, I think, in a bad way." As Nick Lowe once sang, "You've got to be cruel to be kind."

One standout performer in Tuesday's show was Andrew Garcia from Moreno Valley, Calif., whose Dave Matthews-esque version of Abdul's "Straight Up" was the night's highlight. Barring some major vocal mistakes or mental collapse, Garcia makes it the final 12. He's got a warm personality and a compelling backstory, as the son of gang members and now a young father himself, that should take him far in the competition.

So who wasn't caught up in the national mania of the first season of Survivor in 2000?

OK, me for one. I just wasn't interested in it, and found many other things to occupy my time rather than wondering if corporate trainer Richard Hatch or rafting guide Kelly Wiglesworth would win $1 million for their troubles of being isolated on an island with other cranky contestants. But, a few seasons later and I was watching the show, in large part because my wife -- then girlfriend -- was a big fan of Survivor. Like her, I found hooked on the weekly drama, and rooting for and against players -- even though I knew most everything I saw in the reality show was highly manipulated in the editing room.

I lost interest again in Survivor a few seasons ago. The show had run its course, I thought. Judging by the lower ratings, I'm not the only one who thought that.

To combat viewer apathy, Survivor and its mastermind, reality show guru Mark Burnett, like to shake it up every so often. A few years ago Survivor featured an All-Star selection of favorite participants -- hero and villain -- from previous seasons. The show even awarded a million-dollar check to the ultimate fan favorite, Rupert Boneham, as voted by viewers.

So when I saw the promo for the Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, which kicks off tomorrow night at 8 on WTOL-TV, Channel 11, I was highly suspicious and skeptical of the gimmick. "Guess they need to recruit former viewers," I thought.

My wife talked me into watching a one-hour Survivor special last week that was celebrating the show's 10th anniversary with a look back. (A decade of Survivor -- wow, has it really been that long?) I decided I'd tune in, thinking, if nothing else, it's good blog fodder. But strangely, I found myself enjoying the self-serving special. It was great to see the familiar names and faces from the show's past, and an update about what many of them are up to now.

And when the show ended with a promo for the Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains season, I made a verbal commitment to tune in. It's not like I have enough TV shows and movies to watch already, so what's another one-hour added to the weekly schedule?

So I'll give Survivor another shot. If I grow bored with it, I'll bail out quickly. I have no problem pulling the rip cord on a show if I don't like it. But I think I'll see this season through to the bitter live finale, when host Jeff Probst announces the winner. If nothing else, it'll give me another blog topic in the weeks or months ahead.

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com

or call 419-724-6734.

LINK: For all of Kirk Baird's Culture Shock riffs



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