So of course I kept watching. Until the phone rang - it was my parents, so I hit the "record" button on the TiVo, turned off the TV and chatted.
When I went back to play the rest of the show, it turned out to be the Azteca Channel's answer to American Idol.
But they do it very differently, and IMHO way better.
After the young lady sang, the MC turned her to face a panel of 5 judges. They all gave a minute or so of feedback, and then rated her on a scale 1-10. Out of 50 possible points, I think she scored 48.
After the commercial break, I saw the whole routine. First they show photos of three finalists in a particular age group. These can be male or female. Then for each finalist, they bring the person out dressed in street clothes, the MC does a 3-minute interview which includes pointing out their relatives in the audience, giving the person's name, age, occupation, home town, zodiac sign and favorite hobby. Then the finalist mounts the steps to doorway upstage center, turns to face the audience, and disappears into the stage fog, waving as the doors close.
They show the photo and details about the person, then the MC announces the name and what they will sing, the doors open and the finalist comes out of the fog and down the steps in full costume and makeup. The costume may be as simple as a Frank Sinatra style sport coat and open-collared shirt, or it could be a highly ornate mariachi outfit. They pick a costume to match the song and make the finalist look as good as possible.
There is a dance troupe of 4 men and 4 women, and they will have choreography designed to enhance the number and make the performer look like a professional in a night club act. Some of the finalists get to be the center of a full dance number, some only have the dancers in a tableau off to the side, and there is everything in between. It depends on the performer and the song. They do an excellent job of matching that up.
After the finalist sings the song, they are given feedback and a score by the judges.
As I mentioned, they do three finalists at a time, and when all three have been judged the MC brings them on stage to show their scores and get some more applause.
When all the age groups are done, there's a long commercial break, and just when you think it's wrap-up time, there's more!
They bring out each set of finalists again, show the judge's scores for the three, then one by one they show the audience vote count for each one. Then they add the audience vote to the judges' score to come up with the final winner for that age group.
I should mention that just the one pretty girl singing was not enough to hook me on this show. The next person up was a tenor named Reuben, short, stocky, with a voice that will land him at the Met some day. He sang "Time To Say Goodbye", the Sarah Brightman/Andrea Bocelli hit (a.k.a. Con Te Partiró) in Spanish. Amazing performance. Women in the audience were crying, there was dead silence for 10 seconds and then thunderous applause, cat calls, bravos and one judge was speechless, just stuttered "10". His combined score was the highest of the night.
I've seen two episodes of Applauso now, and there were no outright clunkers. One 75-year-old ex-diva showed she could no longer stay on key, but she had all the moves and personality, and got a 49 from the judges, but came in third with the audience. The woman who came in first was a mere 43 years old, had also gotten a 49 from the judges, and got a 10 from me.
I'm keeping it on my TiVo season pass list.
Oh yeah - I should mention that I don't speak Spanish, I just know a few words from living in California for 20+ years, and a week each in Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta.
The show's title is Aplauso, Aplauso and the first episode I saw was originally broadcast November 21, 2004. The singer who brought the house down is named Rubén, and they have a pretty nice web site - check out http://www.tvazteca.com/programas/entretenimiento/aplauso/ganadores/211104.shtml and click on Rubén's picture to hear his solo (requires Real Player).
KTNC-42, Cable Channel 19 (in Mtn View) Sundays at 4:30 pm.