Television: Rhyme and Punishment

A cast of would-be pop stars and one nasty judge make American Idol a cool, cruel summer hit

If it's true what rocker Nick Lowe sang--you've got to be cruel to be kind--then Simon Cowell is the kindest man on TV. A judge on Fox's hit singing contest American Idol: The Search for a Superstar, the British BMG Records executive eviscerates wannabe divas with insults that would make one reconsider singing in the shower, let alone in public. "Who's your teacher?" he said to one aspirant. "Get a lawyer and sue her."

Think of Idol (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. E.T. and Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. E.T.), which landed two episodes in the Top 20 its first week, as Star Search Goes...

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