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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

7 picks for 7 days

Here’s this week’s 7 picks for 7 days, a list of things to do Today (Jan. 17) through Thursday (Jan. 23). This week’s choices includes celebrated musical theater, high-flying actions sports, beer tasting and live music.

Observations from a grumpy old man

Randy Jackson, Ryan SeacrestIt looks like Randy Jackson will be leaving “American Idol.” Why shouldn’t he join the millions of viewers who have already left the show?

“The Great Gatsby” is getting such bad reviews, it will be release on DVD under the title, “The Not So Great Gatsby.”

Amanda Bynes wants to create a clothing line. I’ve seen the photos the former child actor has been releasing of herself. My question is — what clothing?

The networks will announce their 2013-2014 lineups next week. You only have a few days to begin really liking a TV show before it gets canceled.

Speaking of cancellations, a new photo of “The Walking Dead” was just released. It’s not a pic of the cast of “Community.”

Observations from a grumpy old man

Lindsay LohanSaturday is “Free Comic Book Day.” Considering how bad some of the recent DC Comics have been, they should have a “Here’s a Dollar to Take Our Free Comic Books Day.”

It’s also the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. The race is called the most exciting two minutes in sports. The same could be said of all the good playing time by the Los Angeles Lakers in the recent playoffs.

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Life’s a diamond jubilee for Mariah Carey

One of the most interesting moments in the TV Critics winter press tour was getting the chance to see the world that is Mariah Carey. She showed up with the other judges for the next edition of “American Idol.”

Considering the number of diamonds the singer was wearing, it was probably easy to pick her up on satellite images. Not only was she wearing earrings, a HUGE necklace and bracelets covered in more diamonds the number of sequins on a country singer’s jacket, she was wearing a ring so big it had to have had its own gravitational field.

No one was going to get near the walking jewelry store as Carey was surrounded by guards so big they blocked the sun. It would have taken a bulldozer to move these guys.

And then, while Carey was taking to critics, there was someone standing to the side who would reach over and brush Carey’s hair out of her eyes. You know you’ve made it when you have a Hair Mover.

She might have looked like a diva, but Carey was very honest with her comments. She got a little emotional when talking about her childhood and the musical acts that influenced her.

“I grew up in a household where everything was I heard everything. My mom’s an opera singer, and she made her debut at Lincoln Center. She was always singing. And that’s how she first knew that I had an ear for music, but my brother and sister, who are older than me, were always listening to R&B constantly. Stevie Wonder. We heard Al Green in my house night and day. Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin,” Carey says. “There’s a lot of favorites. I love a lot of gospel singers, the Clark Sisters. Our favorite was Kim Burrell.

“There are so many singers who I admire. I also love a lot of rock music that my brother played when I was a little kid. So it’s fun sometimes when we’re sitting here and we’re, like, oh, yeah, I remember that song.”

The song’s she probably remembered during the interview was “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

FOX president talks Mariah Carey, ‘Fringe’

anna torv.JPG FOX’s President of Entertainment, Kevin Reilly, got the network portion of the Television Critics Association summer tour to a positive start. The TV executive has every right to be positive as FOX has had ratings hits with shows like “American Idol” and “The X-Factor.” The network failed to make any waves in the drama category of the recent Emmy nominations. He wouldn’t say which new shows had the potential to change that next year but expects FOX to see more success with its dramas.

During his announcement that Mariah Carey would become a judge on “American Idol,” Reilly called the singer and put her on speaker. Carey said, “I am so excited to be doing ‘Idol.’ First of all, I wanted to be there today, and I wish I could have been there myself to tell you, but I think you know the show just sort of just happened quickly. So I can’t wait to get started in a couple months, and everybody have a great TCA, and I will see you in January.”

Here are a few other highlights from Reilly’s meeting with the TV critics:

On the upcoming season of “Glee”: “Now that I’ve read the first three scripts, I am very happy with how seamless it is. There’s going to be thematic links between the two. Although we have not severed relationships with anyone, obviously we’re not going to be servicing that large a tapestry of characters. We are adding some characters in New York. We’ve cast two guys already, one in New York, one in Ohio. We have fresh faces joining Ohio, so this is sort of the natural, almost a mirror of real life that people graduate and new faces come in. But I think also like real life, this is set in a small town in Ohio with very important and close relationships. Just as in real life, people tend to not stray too far away from that. Some people settle down in their hometowns. Some people go away, but they come back for holidays. They come back for reunions. And because we have a very good relationship with all the actors, some of whom have very vibrant careers now on the outside, the idea is to kind of keep that relationship where it can be fluid and for the audience in terms of who is going to show up when.”

On giving “Fringe” one final season: “I don’t like to just pull the plug on any show, because many of our failed shows, most of them have many, many millions of fans. But ‘Fringe’ has a particular fan base. We have a checkered history with genre at best because we’re one of the only networks that has consistently tried genre. Genre is hard. It’s been a really contemporary show for which most of the fans are there, but they’re there on their DVRs. I’m hoping this puts to bed the ‘ghost of Comic Con’ sentiment, if you will, which is, ‘Damn you, FOX. You put these shows on and then break our hearts.’ I think, at least hopefully, we’ve got a little bit of cred for seeing one through that really deserved it.”

On the affect of DVRs on ratings: “All of the top shows tend to shift in proportion. So what you’re seeing right now is the penetration of DVRs particularly, and the demo has now gotten around 50% and you’re watching people learn how to use them, and that’s the way they like to watch television. So we’re not fighting that.”

On Britney Spears joining “The X Factor”: “I think they’re going to be surprised at just how feisty she is. She is not afraid to lay it on the line. She’s tough. She knows what she’s doing. She’s been around, she’s seen it all, and she definitely lays it on the line.”

On TV tonight: ‘American Idol’

Judgesseason11a.JPG “American Idol,” 8 p.m. KMPH (Channel 26.1): After weeks of singing and voting, Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez are “American Idol’s” two finalists.

“I’m just a normal guy who loves to play music,” says Phillips. “I just happened to get lucky and I’m so blessed by it. I’m so excited.”

“Being in the position I’m in now is more than I could have ever asked for,” says Sanchez. “I’ve been looking forward to auditioning for ‘American Idol’ ever since the first season. And now, the first season that I’m eligible, I’ve made it to the top two. It’s crazy what you can do when you put your mind and heart to it. I don’t know what could be better than this.”

Last night Phillips and Sanchez battled it out. Now all they can do is wait for the final vote.

To fill the rest of the more than two hour telecast, Rihanna, Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery and others will perform. There will also be a Top 12 reunion.

Concert News: ‘Idol’ David Cook yee haws in Clovis

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“American Idol” winner David Cook is coming back to the Valley, but he’s not playing where you might expect.

Cook, it was announced today, will perform at the annual Clovis Rodeo.

Music isn’t new to the rodeo. It generally has a big country show on the Friday night of the rodeo’s run. This year, that’s already been announced as Justin Moore, who performs April 27.

Now the rodeo is doing something that it hasn’t done in recent memory — adding a pop concert. Cook will perform April 26, which is the rodeo’s first night. The music starts after that night’s rodeo, which features the PBR riders. Tickets are available now, cost $22 and include rodeo admission.

On TV tonight: ‘American Idol’

group2.JPG “American Idol,” 8 p.m. KMPH (Channel 26.1): More than 300 contestants – including Reedley’s Dilia Jelen – have made it to Hollywood where the field will be cut to 70.

In the Hollywood rounds, contestants will face challenges different the early “American Idol” auditions as they’ll have to sing solo, perform in groups and then sing on a huge stage, as they compete against each other to remain on the show. Those who survive Hollywood will head to Las Vegas for the performance challenge on stage in Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis Theatre at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Their efforts will be seen in a two-hour episode at 8 p.m. Feb. 16.

The following week, contestants take the stage one last time and sing for their lives to prove they deserve to make it to the next round. The second phase of the competition ends when this season’s semifinalists are selected Feb. 22 and 23.

Fans of the Good Company Players will recognize Jelen’s name as being in the junior company and on the main stage at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. She was born deaf and could not hear until she had her first surgery when she was 5.

Reedley’s Dilia Jelen advances on ‘American Idol’

jelen2.jpg Reedley native Dilia Jelen was given a golden ticket during the Portland auditions of “American Idol” to advance to the second round of the FOX reality competition series. Fans of the Good Company Players will recognize her name as being in the junior company and on the main stage at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. She appeared in the 2000 production of “42nd Street” and in 1999′s “A Chorus Line” singing “What I Did for Love.”

Jelen, who is in her last year of eligibility to be on “Idol,” has an inspirational story as she was born deaf and could not hear until she had her first surgery when she was 5.

She currently lives in Astoria, N.Y.

It says on her online site that “her mother from Guadalajara taught her both strong and tender ways, and her American born father, taught the deepest family values, both encouraging her natural talent and love for Latin American culture and its music.”

In a video interview, Jelen says, “I am next ‘American Idol’ because I know what I was put on this Earth to do. I have to sing or crawl in a hole and die.”

On TV tonight; ‘American Idol’

group2.JPG “American Idol,” 8 p.m. KMPH (Channel 26.1): Here we go again. The 11th season of “American Idol” opens with auditions that include the same blend of potential winners and those who just want to get on TV. The first few weeks will be the open tryouts which means the music competition series won’t get serious until the first invites have been handed out.

Executive producer Ken Warwick says that this year’s group of contenders is one of the strongest yet.

“Our last day in Vegas this time, we had to call all the kids back on stage at the end of the two days because we just had too many, and the judges had to make a decision as to who would be going home. And I tell you now it was incredibly difficult,” Warwick says. “Half of those kids five years ago would have won ‘Idol,’ and they’ve been sent home.”

“American Idol” continues at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Fate of several FOX shows in question

3shot-pool_1905_comp_rc.JPGTCA Winter Tour: Here are a few highlights from FOX’s President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly:

On the decision of whether or not “House” will end after this year: “I think we have just been avoiding it, to be honest with you. It’s hard to imagine the network without ‘House.’”

As to the future of “Terra Nova”: “I don’t know. We’ve done a good job of avoiding some of these big decisions until after the session. It was an exciting bet to take, and I think it’s proven that it was worthwhile. There were 14 new dramas on the network schedules this year. Most of them have come and gone. It’s the second-highest-rated drama. It is one of the highest-rated new shows of the season. There is a distinct audience that has stuck with that that enjoys it. You know, the perception of it kind of got away from us at a certain point. It was pretty obvious the bar was set enormously high.”

His expectations for “American Idol” this year: “My gut is, based on the way the shows are positioned right now, and the way ‘Idol’ is tracking, I expect ‘Idol’ will be down this season, but mostly due to the fact it’s going to be an 11 year old show. It’s going to be a natural life cycle for that show.”

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On TV tonight: Three big finales

scotty McCreery_jpg.JPG Lauren Alaina_jpg.JPGCompetition shows top tonight’s viewing options.

“Dancing with the Stars,” 8 p.m. KFSN (Channel 30.1): All of the weeks of training, bad falls, confrontations, failed expectations and desires to win the grand prize come down to tonight’s final dance and voting.

“Biggest Loser: Couples,” 8 p.m. KSEE (Channel 24.1): All of the weeks of training, bad decisions, confrontations, failed expectations and desires to win the grand prize come down to tonight’s final weigh-in.

“American Idol,” 8 p.m. KMPH (Channel 26.1): All of the weeks of training, bad musical numbers, confrontations, failed expectations and desires to win the grand prize come down to tonight’s final performances. OK.Technically, the “American Idol” winner gets named Wednesday night. But, the finale begins tonight.

It’s down to four on ‘American Idol’

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We here at the Beehive have been mostly silent on this latest season of “American Idol.” Not even the spectacle of Jennifer Lopez — who in her interactions with the singers seems to be trying to add Most Bestest Friend to her title of “People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Judge” — doing her thing, or Steven Tyler getting all loosey-goosey on national TV, or Randy Jackson trying to channel a slightly kinder and gentler Simon Cowell as he competes with the star-power wattage sitting next to him, was enough to draw me in on a regular basis.

But now that there are just four singers left — with one booted off tonight — it’s time to weigh in. I watched last night. My impressions:

James Durbin. So cocky he owns the stage. Perhaps too cocky? Though Lopez kept trilling last night about his fabulous vibrato last night in Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,’ ” I thought the second part of the song wasn’t all that impressive vocally. But I do like his swagger. And he’s from Santa Cruz, and I’m from Santa Cruz County, so there’s the homeboy thing. Who knows? Maybe he’s different enough to shake up the winning “Idol” formula by being a champion we can actually remember in a year.

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‘AI’ judges tell Valley teens they can’t sing

If you missed it on “American Idol” last night, two teens from the Valley auditioned in L.A. The buddies — one from Lemoore and the other Corcoran – thought they could sing but did not impress (Awful!). I couldn’t find video of them actually singing, but if you watch from the 2:44 to 3:10 mark on this video you’ll see the judges giving them the boot.

On the up side, both teens took it in stride, stayed positive and didn’t act like total jackasses. They were no where near as nutty as these two auditions:

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So how’s that ‘American Idol’ thing working out for ya, Lee DeWyze?

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“American Idol” diehards probably already heard about this — heck, they’ve probably been in line for a few hours — but Lee DeWyze, the reigning “American Idol,” is playing a free concert in town tonight.

It’s part of Y101′s Unplugged concert series and it’s happening at 6 p.m. at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis. It’s a good get for both of them, but for Lee DeWyze? Doesn’t winning “American Idol” elevate one past the free-shows-at-the-mall stage in one’s career?

Admittedly, I’m an “American Idol’ hater — BIG TIME! — but with all the talk about “American Idol’s” decline, I have to see this as an indication that winning “American Idol” is not what it once was. Local cover bands play free concerts at the mall too, ya know. Actually, that sounds about right. I’ve always said “American Idol” is just a glorified karaoke contest.

ON A SEMI-RELATED NOTE: New Rock 104.1 has announced the first show in its own “Unplugged” concert series. It’s with rock band Paper Tongues, who is playing at Howie & Son’s in Visalia on Wednesday. It’s a free show with doors opening at 6 p.m. and music starting at 7 p.m.

On TV tonight: ‘American Idol’

TV American Idol.JPG “American Idol,” 8 p.m. KMPH (Channel 26.1): The Fox Network is facing a major crossroad tonight. How well the 10th season of the music competition show does will have a huge impact on what the network’s going to be able to do over the next few years.

With the departure of Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, producers need new star judges Jennifer Lopez and Stephen Tyler to hold on to the audience. Both Lopez and Tyler are stars but when it comes to the judges for this show it has nothing to do with star power. That’s why DeGeneres was such a bad addition.

The show’s never been about finding real musical talent. It’s been about the wicked barbs of Cowell. He was the only reason “American Idol” survived past the first season and Now that he’s gone, the future of “American Idol” looks bleak.

You’ll get your first look at the new judges with the two-night season premiere that includes auditions in New York and New Jersey. Expect big ratings numbers this week because there’s a curiosity as to how the new judges will do. The big test will come in the next few weeks after the newness is gone.

Fox backs ‘Fringe,’ ‘Raising Hope’

RH_MOUNTAIN_A06_LYL1_CM_2[1].JPG It’s Fox Network’s day at the TCA and their presentation covers everything from the ratings champion “American Idol” to the untested big-budget series “Terra Nova.”

Here are a few highlights.

The subject of moving “Fringe” to Friday night concerns many critics. Fridays have become a place Fox has sent shows to die. Kevin Reilly, President, Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Co., stresses obituaries for “Fringe” should not be written yet. It’s a show the network is passionate about and the move is an effort to find a the solution for the network’s problems on Fridays.

A second season of “Raising Hope” has been ordered.

“Terra Nova,” a series about a family who travels to prehistoric Earth in an effort to save the human race, will debut with a two-night preview May 23-24.

Wild woman Mary Murphy will return to “So You Think You Can Dance” to join Nigel Lythgoe as resident judges. The search for the next group of contestants starts Feb. 2 in Salt Lake City. The closest audition will be Feb. 25 at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.

As for other networks trying to create clones of “Glee,” the Fox execs believe those efforts will just make “Glee” look better.

Reilly expects “Bones” and “House” next year but there are some negotiations to get through.

Michael Feinstein no ‘Idol’ fan

DSC_5232[1].JPG After watching Michael Feinstein perform for a small group of TV critics, it’s easy to understand why he’s so popular. He’s an amazing musical talent who performs more than 150 concerts, hosts TV specials and produces new CDs every year.

There’s more. Feinstein’s also very passionate when it comes to musical history. He’s been known to put on a surgical mask and wade into storage units, basements or attics in hopes of finding one more scrap of America’s musical history.

And, he just comes across as being a nice guy. He was in Los Angeles to talk about his PBS “American Songbook” series. That would have been enough but Feinstein also agreed to perform a concert for the critics.

The interview and concert came at a time when all of the “American Idol” buzz was happening. Who would be the new judges? Will the show survive without Simon Cowell?

Asked about his take on the series, Feinstein said he has problems with the Fox competition show.

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One local guy’s ‘American Idol’ experience

Note: Vanessa Rakis-Garabedian, a student writer for The Bee, is in San Francisco this week tracking her husband, Westley, as he auditions for the upcoming season of “American Idol.” She’ll be filing guest blogs for The Beehive.

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THURSDAY PT. 2
It’s a “no” for Westley.

After about eight hours of waiting he got his 30 seconds in front of two judges and they turned him down. But he hasn’t lost his smile or his love of singing.The process went something like this:

After all the contestants had entered the stadium and found their seats they filed down to the field one row at a time. Once on the field, groups of four contestants sang one at a time for a pair of judges behind one of ten tables.

If the judges said “no,” the contestant walked off the field through the fence, had his wristband cut and was sent on his way.

If the judges said “yes,” the contestant walked across the field to the dugout where they waited for an interview. If they were still liked after the interview, they were asked to sing again (contestants were asked to be prepared to sing up to three songs). And then if they were still liked after that they came back for another interview. If it was a “yes” after all of that then they were invited to sing for the TV judges sometime in September.

So, Westley is on his way home to continue singing and writing music.

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Fox starts with ‘Idol’ chatter

TV American Idol.JPGNormally at the TCA, the network executives start by talking about their new shows. There’s no way that’s going to happen with Fox.

Peter Rice, Chairman, Entertainment, Fox Networks Group has just started the network’s session by talking about the hottest topic of the day:”American Idol.” He says that NO ONE has signed a contract that was not on the show last year. He won’t talk about who’s being considered to take over as the judges and won’t offer any clues. That information will be released later.

Kara DioGuardi did have a contract last year but Rice refuses to talk about whether she will or won’t be back.

He does say that he tried to talk Ellen DeGeneres out of leaving but she just felt like the show was not a good fit.

The lack of judges hasn’t stopped the audition process. Talent is being judged and cut down at auditions the same as it has been in the past. Once the judges are signed, they will get into the process.

There was some news:
The Steven Spielberg produced series “Terra Nova” will preview in May 2011 and then will debut in the fall of 2011. It’s the same pattern used to launch “Glee.”

Fox will launch the “American Country Award” on Dec. 6.

Indira Varma and Janet Montgomery have been added to the cast of “Human Target.”

Guest star voices for this season of “The Simpsons” include Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Hugh Laurie, Halle Berry, Ricky Gervais, Daniel Radcliffe, Jemaine Clement, Bret Mckenzie, Mark Zuckerberg, Mike Scioscia, Martha Stewart, Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, Cheech & Chong, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Alyson Hannigan, Danica Patrick and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

‘Idol’ finale seemed more like an AARP convention for rock stars

beegee.jpgI stopped watching “American Idol” about six weeks ago because I thought this year’s crop of finalists were DULL. I can’t imagine buying any music from Lee, the winner, or any of the castoffs. Not watching was hard to the first week, but by the second week I really didn’t miss the show. I decided to tune in to the finale last night after much badgering from my husband (All the Facebook comments say there are good performances; it’s the last show with Simon; c’mon, he urged). What I found was a bit baffling.

Six performances were from people over age 55 (that makes them eligible for the New Wrinkles): Alice Cooper (62), Hall & Oats (63/61), Joe Cocker (66), Michael McDonald (58), Bee Gees (63/60) and Chicago (4 original members are ages 62-65).

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Lee, the ‘local paint salesman,’ wins

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Like it was any big surprise. As one commenter on the New York Times “American Idol” blog wrote this morning of Lee DeWyze’s triumph over Crystal Bowersox:

Clear evidence that the world must not be run by 12 year old girls. What a travesty that the blank-eyed lump with a familiar raspy shout should win over a mesmerizing gorgeous vocalist- half Streep half Bonnie Raitt…with a little wild thing marbled thru her.

Speaking of the Times, its “AI” wrap-up is hilarious. Unanswered questions include:

What the heck is a local paint salesman anyway? Is there such a thing as a national paint salesman? A global paint salesman? To quote the late, great Tip O’Neill, isn’t all paint sales local?

Crystal vs. Lee: We find out tonight

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As I’ve said before, I gave up long ago truly caring who wins this season’s “American Idol.” But I’m still a teensy bit curious, enough to TIVO my way through tonight’s season finale.

I only watched a bit of last night’s final competition, but it was enough to grasp that Crystal Bowersox pulled off a stronger performance than Lee DeWyze. I’ve just never warmed to Lee, and I think he looks nearly as uncomfortable on stage today as he did at the start of the competition. Sure, his shyness and dimples count for lots of votes, but is that enough for an “Idol” winner? I’ll be rooting for Crystal.

Anyone else planning to watch? And are there any Lee fans out there who can explain how he got this far?

The more perplexing question for producers is: Will the show even be watchable next year without Simon Cowell?

Who will the final two ‘AI’ contenders be?

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Earlier today I declared my love for “Modern Family.” I’m not going to do the same thing for this season’s ho-hum “American Idol,” which I’ve already bashed so many times this season that it seems like overkill to do it again. (Sort of like thwacking the destroyed printer in “Office Space” just one more time, even if it’s already gone long ago to prefabricated-plastic hell.) But it IS a rather big episode tonight for “AI,” and I know there are still a lot of people out there watching (including me, if only in a bableep-bableep-bableep accelerated TIVO way).

So. Who’s going home? Crystal Bowersox, Lee Dewyze or Casey James?

If the judges have their way, at least according to last night’s show, Lee is definitely in the Top Two. I still don’t really get the whole Lee phenomenon, however. I guess his story arc fits a kind of anti-glamour, underachiever-type trope — he’s basic and solid and droopy-eyed appealing, just an average Joe getting his big break. He’s the meat and potatoes on the “AI” menu.

I think (I hope) that the lightweight Casey doesn’t make it into the finals, setting up a Lee-vs.-Crystal showdown — but even then, it’s not as if I feel all that strongly about the matter. Guess we’ll see.

Any more passionate guesses out there?