Fantasia and Diana are Idol 3 finalists; voting company says the problem is local.

Fantasia and Diana are Idol 3 finalists; voting company says the problem is local.
Georgians, you can stop rioting now and get your rotary dial phones ready; Hawaii, get ready to secede from the union. Jasmine Trias left American Idol 3 last night, leaving Fantasia Barrino, 19, and Diana DeGarmo, 16, to battle it out for the title next week. Meanwhile, the voting drama continues: USA TODAY interviewed, exclusively, the company that counts the votes. Telescope Inc.’s Sandy King said the problem is local, not national: “The call figures are astronomical. Only a certain number can be processed at the local level.” Using technical jargon designed to confuse and bewilder lay persons, she explained, “We’ve got the biggest, best and fairest system available.” The Associated Press got into the middle of the action, calling furiously from different locales. Their reporters only managing to make four successful calls out of more than 100 tries. They didn’t really discover much, except in Georgia, where “the second call went through and a vote for DeGarmo was placed. But after hanging up, the phone went dead for 17 minutes.”

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.

A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.