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Taylor Hicks

IDOL CHATTER: With a week until the new season debuts, the buzz is growing that Idol’s juggernaut status is slipping. Before Christmas we learned that Ruben Studdard had been dropped from his label contract, and last week it was season five winner Taylor Hicks’ turn to be jettisoned from J Records’ roster. “Taylor is going to record his next album on his own,” a label rep told the New York Post. “He is no longer on the J Records roster.”

Hicks is the worst-performing Idol winner by sales so far, and the underwhelming public response to the post-Idol releases by winners and runners-up has inspired some hand-wringing and brow-furrowing. Entertainment Weekly went so far as to publish an analysis of post-Idol careers. “TV star doesn’t equal pop star,” EW concluded. “Just because they love you on TV doesn’t mean Idol fans will shell out cash for your album — or that radio programmers will jump up and down to spin your new single.”

“Voting for the dork to win was fun,” Chris Booker, a morning jock at Philadelphia pop station Q102, told EW. “Buying his album with my money, not so fun.”

The diminishing celebrity half-life of Idol winners was underlined by an ad on the homepage for Idol’s next season on Fox’s website, pushing Clay Aiken’s stint on Broadway in Monty Python’s Spamalot. The show’s biggest successes so far have been final six losers who’ve gone country, like Carrie Underwood, while rock and R&B fans have been more reluctant to help give any Idol star a career.

Which underlines the fact that Idol is a TV, not a music, sensation, and with that in mind the networks are busy trying to shift their schedules around to accommodate Idol’s expected tyranny over Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Even though they’re running out of fresh episodes this week thanks to the Hollywood writers’ strike, the CW is shifting Gossip Girl to Monday nights, according to Variety.

The network is trying to keep the new show on the radar as its best hope for surviving the fatally crippled fall season, but with little in the way of new scripted shows to challenge Idol, I’m imagining that by March Fox will be up against little more than Perry Mason re-runs and curling tournaments on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

ALL I’VE GOT IS A PHOTOGRAPH: With nothing going on in the low end of the dial, perhaps now’s the time to start exploring the high two- and three-digit part of the dial. If you’ve gone fully HD, HDTV’s Treasure HD channel is debuting Aperture, a new series on photography, tonight at 9. My Name Is Earl actor Earl Steeples interviews fetish photographer Marla Rutherford about her latex and ball-gag clad models, and reveals more than we wanted to know about his personal life. Other celebrities interviewing shutterbugs will include Lou Reed, Ally Sheedy, Drea De Matteo, Rosario Dawson and David Byrne. Hey — it beats One Tree Hill reruns, right?

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