By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Feb 16, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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Ellen DeGeneres starts her second week as the newest member of the "American Idol" panel of judges at 7 tonight on Channel 6 as the crowd of wannabes starts being whittled down to 24 semi-finalists.

Some of those two dozen singers will be picked tonight, with the remainder chosen by the judges in a one-hour "Idol" at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

It's the first time "Idol" has done it this way, and it's a good example of the tinkering that goes on every year. The tinkering doesn't always work, like last year's "judge's save," which allowed the judges to keep an eliminated finalist from going home. There's no word if that confusing mess will be back this season.

The addition of DeGeneres -- filling the chair vacated when Paula Abdul foolishly left in a financial dispute -- looks like a good change. She's an accomplished and comfortable TV personality, and has been far less wishy-washy than her predecessor in her first two installments last week. 

She even had fun with the rituals of "Idol," telling some contestants to step forward, step to the side and step back as she told one group that they had survived to sing another day. It was a funny riff on the now traditional way singers are separated into groups that move on and groups that go home.

It's a joke DeGeneres can't repeat. But she's got a quick enough wit that she won't have to fall back on the same bit.

While there's talk of friction between her and lead judge Simon Cowell, I wouldn't believe any of it.

One of the biggest strengths of the "Idol" producers is their ability to suggest backstage drama to pump interest in the show. 

The criticisms of DeGeneres for not having music business experience are off the mark.

More than anything else, "Idol" is a TV show. And Ellen's a TV star.

Some "Idol" chatter: I'll be joining WRIT-FM (95.7)'s  "Murphy and Meg in the Morning" shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday to talk about "Idol."

The County Board on WISN-AM: A monthly radio show featuring the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors debuts March 7 on WISN-AM (1130).

The 9 p.m. Sunday show "Inside the County Board," will be produced and hosted by the board's public information manager, Harold Mester, who was WISN's news director.

WISN is airing the show as a public service program.

On TV: Production has been halted on this season of Fox's "24" while Kiefer Sutherland recuperates from surgery on a ruptured cyst near his kidney. The L.A. Times' "Show Tracker" blogs that production could resume next week, and there's no word if it will effect the show's on-air schedule.

  • Barbara Walters told her "View" comrades Monday that next month's pre-Oscar special will be her last one. It will air March 7.
  • Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey will do a pre-Oscar ABC special, airing March 3 on ABC, and pushing the series finale of "Ugly Betty" back a week, to April 14.
  •'s Michael Ausiello says that it's a "sure thing" that NBC's "Community," created by ComedySportz alum Dan Harmon, will be renewed for a second season. Let's hope this comedy gets a second chance to develop an audience.

An anonymous bit of journalism: The video of the shooting death of an Iranian protester has won a George Polk Award. It's the first time the prestigious journalism prize has been given to a work that was made anonymously.

Music student Neda Agha-Soltan was shot during last year's protest over the disputed presidential election in Iran that returned Mahmoud Amadinejad to power. She has since become a symbol of opposition to the Iranian regime. 

Another winner of a Polk Award was the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Raquel Rutledge for stories exposing fraud in the state's child-care subsidy program.

Here's a CNN report containing the "Neda" video:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.