'American Idol' Develops New Pastime: Predicting The Winners And Losers

Published: Apr 14, 2006

As the Grand Couch Potato Know-It-All Wizard, I predict Chris Daughtry will win "American Idol."

Pack up your cell phones. And get out the hankies if you like any of the others.

Daughtry has been a favorite of the judges from the get-go.

And even before this round of competition started, judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson were saying that the guys would rule this year.

Was that more than a hint?

Of course, anything can happen with the fickle public voting.

For example, voters keep supporting Jessica Simpson wanna-be Kellie Pickler while someone with real talent - Mandisa - is dumped.

Pickler's Elly May Clampett act is wearing thin. She does, however, provide comic relief. Her version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" this week was a laugh riot.

If there was any justice (or taste) involved in this competition, Bucky Covington (who was booted this week) and Pickler would have left before Tampa's Melissa McGhee.

Meanwhile, betting on "American Idol" has reached a fever pitch this season.

Thousands of online gamblers put money on pretty boy Ace Young leaving Wednesday after seeing his Tuesday performance of "We Will Rock You." Covington was the second most popular pick to lose by online oddsmakers, according to the Gambling911 Web site.

But Young survived and Covington was out.

Predicting the loser has become great sport this season.

Every week, millions are checking the results from James Hellriegel's "DialIdol" computer program. Hellriegel, a 30-year-old fan from Cleveland, says he was doing his laundry when he came up with the idea: a speed-dial program to help people cast hundreds of votes. It can be downloaded for free at DialIdol.com.

Hellriegel is able to monitor the data from those who use his program, including the number of busy signals registered for each contestant. From this, he can determine the top contenders and bottom feeders. Singers with the fewest busy signals appear most likely to be dismissed.

It's not 100 percent accurate. He has missed the mark a few times, but he comes close. Last week, he accurately predicted Mandisa would lose. This week, however, his data incorrectly indicated Young would be going home.

Hellriegel has said the system has flaws, but he never intended the results to be anything more than fun information for fans.

He also is having battles with FreemantleMedia, the company that produces "American Idol." In March, the company's lawyers gave him a cease-and-desist notice because his Web site logo was too close to the "American Idol" brand. After he changed it, his site was up and running again.

BAY NEWS 9: Bay News 9 has hired meteorologist Brian McClure from WTVM-TV in Columbus, Ga., to replace Alan Winfield, who left the cable news channel after eight years.

Winfield, who recently graduated from Trinity Theological Seminary, has joined Skycrest Baptist Church in Clearwater as an associate pastor.

McClure, a native of Spartanburg, S.C., covered hurricanes as a meteorologist at stations in Raleigh and New Bern, N.C., before moving to Columbus.

Bay News 9 also has hired Summer Smith, who has been an anchor-reporter for the failing newscast on WTTA, Channel 38. Smith, a former producer for Bay News 9 in 2001, will work as a reporter in the Hillsborough County newsroom.

Also joining Bay News 9 is Melissa Eichman as a medical anchor-reporter. She is from KETK-TV in Tyler, Texas.

New in the Pinellas Country newsroom are reporters Carol Minn and Josh Rojas. Minn, who comes from WHAS-TV in Louisville, Ky., has a degree in international affairs from Georgia Tech and a degree from the Emory University School of Law. Rojas comes from KABB-TV in San Antonio.