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Tastemaker Extraordinare
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Can a Sherman Oaks Girl Win 'American Idol'?
Do Katharine McPhee's Angeleno roots doom her quest for the top slot?
By Deborah Netburn
May 19 2006

On Wednesday night, 27.1 million viewers watched video footage of the three remaining contestants on "American Idol" returning triumphantly to their hometowns. Elliott Yamin received the key to the city of Richmond, Va., from Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and a "Virginia is for Elliott Lovers" T-shirt from Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine, and he performed to 4,000 supporters in the downtown plaza. When Taylor Hicks returned to his town of Birmingham, Ala., Governor Bob Riley declared May 16 "Taylor Hicks Day." The singer also performed to 12,000 screaming fans in a mall, and attended a parade in his honor.

But L.A. girl Katharine McPhee, who grew up in Sherman Oaks, Calif., had a less enthusiastic welcome. She visited her old high school, went on Ryan Seacrest's radio show and took a helicopter ride to see the Hollywood sign. No parade. No screaming fans. No governor, although Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did put in an appearance at the school.

All this led "American Idol" blogger Augie De Blieck Jr. to ask some pointed questions on his blog, Various and Sundry.

"I...have to wonder what the affects [sic] of being from the big city versus a small town are on voting patterns," he mused. "Is Katharine hurt by being from LA, a town that's hardly going to stop everything to rally in support of her? Are the small town Southern singers going to excite a larger fanbase based on local support and always win the day? After all they've dominated this competition through all five seasons." In other words, is it statistically possible for a girl from California to be the next "American Idol"?

De Blieck Jr., who describes himself as "a TV geek with a blog," has been keeping a close eye on "American Idol" since the first season. He thinks McPhee has a fighting chance. "I don't think you can rule her out just because of geography," he said in a phone interview. "The Southern thing helps Taylor for sure, but it can be overcome with broad support." We consulted the experts of the "Idol" community, the people who devote their lives to following the show, analyzing and predicting its every twist -- to see whether L.A.'s local heroine has a shot in the big leagues of reality TV, or if an L.A. lineage is the kiss of death to a would-be Idol.

Jennifer Grove, who blogs about "Idol" on says the poor showing from Sherman Oaks and Los Angeles in general may even help McPhee in the finals next week. "Katharine is interesting because she's the first finalist from right around the corner where celebrity is so common that her homecoming seemed to garner minimal media attention when the guys both scored front-page headlines," she wrote in an e-mail interview. "But that might possibly have picked her up a few supporters, because most of the reaction to the hometown videos I've received were of the 'poor kid, she didn't get a parade' variety. And I never discount the power of the empathy vote..."

But Simon Nobel, CEO of Pinnacle Sports UK, an online betting website that runs a line on each week's "Idol" elimination, disagrees. "Nothing personal to her, but it's no coincidence that every winner so far has been from a Southern state," he said. (Last season's winner Carrie Underwood was from Oklahoma -- not technically the South, but close enough.) "The typical voter is young, quite often female and from the South. That has more to do with it than whether [McPhee] does well or not."

"When we are setting up the odds for the very first time we actually go through and make a note of who comes from the South," said Nobel.

Traditionally the "Idol" title has gone to people with inspirational stories like Carrie Underwood, the little farm-girl with the big voice, and Fantasia Barrino, the single illiterate mom who wouldn't give up on her dream. But McPhee is from an affluent section of Los Angeles. Will being seen as a rich girl from the big city hurt her chances?

The pundits say no, especially because Sherman Oaks, unlike Beverly Hills or Bel Air, is not a nationally known indicator of wealth. "I know virtually nothing about Sherman Oaks," said David Bloomberg, who lives in Springfield, Ill., and edits of the popular website, Foxes on Idol. "And even if it was clear that it is a wealthy area I don't think that would affect people much at this point."

"There are those who really believe that those who are perceived as 'privileged', either by affluence or family connections don't 'need' this show as much as someone who is perceived as 'less privileged.' And they vote accordingly," Grove said. "I don't think that attitude equates to enough votes to defeat someone from an affluent state/community over someone from the South/small town on its own, but the attitude is there. And it's rearing its head in my comment thread today.

In an e-mail interview the editor of, who asked to be credited as "Joe Reality," said he thinks McPhee can win, but it will be an uphill battle. "The odds are heavily stacked against her," he wrote in an e-mail. "A large part of the reason Southerners do so well on 'American Idol' is because their entire state rallies behind them. For Katharine McPhee to have a chance, she needs California to rally behind her."

And unfortunately for her, the state shows little sign of being swept by a large-scale outbreak of McPheever. For Californians, the possibility of a local girl becoming a star hardly registers on the cultural radar. While in smaller cities in IL, TX, or MS, seeing one of their own make it big and move to Los Angeles fulfills a dream for the whole city.

Shaken, never Stirred
8,013 Posts
godblessbotox said: wife watches this all the time. this girl and paula abdool are a bunch of wack jobs.

and simon is a real life ass... with man boobs

^^ Be nice, show some LA Love!

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The Answer is yes
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