This article is a few days old, but explains the problem somewhat:,00.html

More phone lines open for 'Fame' voters
June 25, 2003

If you tried to call in votes for Knoxville "Fame" contestant Brandon O'Neal last week and could not get through, you shouldn't fret this week.

Last week, the "Fame" lines got the "maximum" number of calls it could handle before the two-hour voting time limit was up.

"There was an overwhelming demand on the system last week," says Lisa Okikawa, publicist for "Fame."

But NBC has corrected the problem and expanded the phone lines this week, she says.

How last week's problem happened is explained at NBC's official Web site -

According to the Web site: "Voting for your favorite 'Fame' contestant begins at the end of the show. Remember voting is opened for only two hours, and will be closed earlier if the maximum number of votes for the particular time zone has been reached.

"If you place your vote during the two-hour window in the appropriate time zone applicable to the phone number from which you are calling, you will hear a pre-recorded message from your chosen contestant, thanking you for your vote and confirming the name of the contestant for whom you have voted."

The site did not state what a "maximum" number of votes would be.

If Brandon is not eliminated tonight and you want to vote to keep him in the show next week, keep calling, but if the maximum number of votes are obtained quickly - as it was last week - then you'll be frustrated again.

Though "Fame" has marginal ratings nationally, it is a solid hit in the Knoxville market. It has been the top-rated primetime program every Wednesday it has aired.

Even Brandon's mother, Natasha Caldwell, couldn't get through last week to vote.

However, Caldwell tells me she is awed by her son's performances on the NBC talent show.

"I'm in for a treat every week," she says.

Caldwell says she never knows what her son is going to be performing. So when she sees him doing his thing, it's always a pleasant surprise.

Caldwell will see her son in the flesh next week. She's going to California to see him perform.

Brandon, 16, is a Knoxville native and former resident. He now attends high school in Santa Monica and is pursuing a career in dance. He studied dance in Knoxville.

You can catch Brandon on "Fame" at 8 tonight on WBIR, Channel 10.