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The Week Ahead

A decision that's not idly reached

May 19, 2003|Greg Braxton

In the grand tradition of battles royal -- Ali vs. Frazier, Tyson vs. Holyfield, Rocky vs. Apollo -- comes this week's showdown: Ruben vs. Clay. No trash-talking is expected, but this conflict is expected to hit many high -- and possibly some low -- notes.

Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, opposites in looks and style, are the two finalists vying for the crown of "American Idol" in what may be one of the highest-rated climaxes of TV's May ratings sweeps.

Fox's "talent-show-meets-'Survivor' " series, which attained phenomena status in its first competition last year, is even more popular this season, growing from a weekly average of almost 13 million viewers when it debuted in January to an average of more than 21 million viewers in recent weeks.

Last September, when former waitress Kelly Clarkson was crowned, more than 40-million viewers tuned in, and producers are making this season's finale an even bigger event, moving the festivities from the 3,500-seat Kodak Theatre in Hollywood to the 6,000-seat Universal Amphitheatre. Studdard and Aiken will perform Tuesday, and the winner will be crowned Wednesday following a telephone vote by viewers. At stake is a recording contract and possible stardom. Clarkson has already turned her "Idol" coronation into a hit single, a No. 1 album and a starring role in an upcoming movie.

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