Friday, February 24, 2006

Patting myself on the back

Wow, I'm even impressed with my prognostication--I guessed correctly three out of the four that were sent home, and even noted that the fourth, Becky, should be sent home. (I thought her looks would keep her around for a couple weeks, but I guess they didn't help.) Can you bet on this stuff in Vegas?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How do the Idol guys stack up?

Two more hours down, one more to go in the most American Idol packed week ever! First of all, I take back what I said about Paula yesterday. Was there anyone she didn’t swoon over tonight? I think she might have given a standing ovation to just about everyone tonight. On the bright side, she did look better tonight. Oh, and I was rather amused by Randy’s answer when Ryan asked what the singers needed to do tonight. His response: “They got to be great tonight.” Wow, Randy, thanks for giving us that inside information on what the judges are looking for.

Tonight was somewhat of a contrast with the women last night. While the women had a few notable standouts, as well as a number of auditioners that were well below par, I didn’t think anyone was really terrible tonight, but there also weren’t many that stood out from the crowd.

Patrick Hall (“Come To My Window”)–So Patrick said he was going to “bring it.” What was he bringing? And why do you have to notify people you’re going to “bring it.” Shouldn’t you always be “bringing it”? Is there a time where you would sing in American Idol and not “bring it”? Maybe William Safire should look into this. Anyway, Patrick had a pleasant voice, and sang the song OK, but it just came across as a soft rock, bloodless version of this song, and who wants to hear that? I’m not really a Melissa Etheridge fan, but this is a pretty good song, with a lot of passion behind it. I guess Patrick didn’t really “bring it.” One other thing: Paula referred to the “goosebumps” that everyone got from his song at the Hollywood edition that they showed briefly in the intro–was that the other contestants? Did they show a clip on one of the Hollywood shows that I don’t remember? And if that’s the case, did people really get “goosebumps” from a 10 second clip? So many questions....

David Radford (“A Crazy Little Thing Called Love”)–So unlike Patrick, who wanted to branch out and show his alleged range, David stuck with his crooning style and picked a contemporary song he could croon. I guess it was OK, but I sort of got bored in the middle. And isn’t this guy just John Stevens with a slightly stronger voice? Paula said “do what you do best,” but I personally would like to see him sing a song that can’t be crooned. (Oh, and Paula and Randy will tell him to do what he does best, until they tell him that he’s being too safe with his song choices and he should try something different, and then he will try something different and they’ll tell him they liked the old David that crooned–Isn’t that always what happens?) I was most fascinated by Randy’s critique that David sounded like someone at a high school show who gets asked if they can sing a particular song–apparently Simon is rubbing off on him. As for Simon’s comment that “I have a feeling the audience will like you,” I guess he’s thinking of John Stevens too.

Bucky Covington (“Simple Man”)–So we have a second person to sing Lynard Skynard on American Idol, and I kind of liked it. I guess Bo Bice sparked a revolution or something. In fact, I was going to nickname this guy “Bo Bice Jr.,” but then he started talking to Ryan, and it took me a few seconds to actually comprehend the words coming out of his mouth, so I’m going to nickname him “Boomhauer,” in honor of the character on King of the Hill whom no one can understand. I’m interested to see where Bucky will go next, but I can’t see him sticking around like Bo–he doesn’t seem to have the charisma. And since we really hadn’t seen him before tonight, I doubt he’s built up many fans.

A quick couple comments: I think I’m going to watch those new Fox comedies, solely to see if they’re really as bad and unfunny as the commercials seem to indicate. And as far as Idol goes, how come we saw everyone’s parents, friends, relatives, etc. tonight, but not last night? Was there a different director tonight?

Will Makar (“I Want You Back”)-- If you’re going to sing a great, classic song–and “I Want You Back” is probably one of the best singles you’re ever going to hear–then it better be great. And this wasn’t great. On the bright side, it was better than Niko Smith’s horrible rendition of this song last year. But it was nothing memorable, kind of average, and it loses something when you sing this song without, oh, four brothers behind you backing you up. (It is pretty amazing that Michael Jackson sang that song when he was what, 10 or 11?) He does remind me of Fred Savage in the “Wonder Years” era.

Jose “Sway” Penala (“Reasons”)–As I’ve said many times before, Simon is correct most of the time, and I believe he was tonight. Before “Sway” stopped singing, I said to myself, “Isn’t he just doing a Phillip Bailey from Earth, Wind and Fire impression,” and that’s basically what Simon said. I didn’t care for it, and I guess I wrong last night. I said after hearing Stevie Scott that I really don’t like when women sing in falsetto, but I was OK with men doing it because the guy from Coldplay does it sometimes, but I really didn’t like “Sway’s” falsetto, either. Perhaps I’m just an anti-falsettite.

Chris Daughtry (“Wanted Dead Or Alive”)–First of all, I’m fascinated by the way he shaves his head but still grows a beard. Is it to prove he can grow hair somewhere, just not on the top of his head? Anyway, I liked his performance of what, if I recall correctly, is the first Bon Jovi song ever sung on American Idol. The song, or at least the arrangement of it, was a little repetitious (how many times did he actually sing the words to the song?), but he was really good–had a nice rock voice and should do well.

Kevin Covais (“One Last Cry”)–The American Idol season hasn’t started until someone sings “One Last Cry”–I think this song may have been sung at least once every season. And with good reason–it’s good but not too complicated song, which allows someone to show some emotion when they sing it. As for Kevin, maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for his whole look and persona of the small dorky-looking guy, but I kind of liked him. He’s not the greatest singer, but it was sincere and heartfelt and sounded OK. It certainly wasn’t as bad as Simon said–like I said, he’s correct “most of the time.”

Gedeon McKinney (“Shout”)–First of all, why did Gedeon talk so robotically and strangely when introducing his song? It seemed like he was talking like a preacher, and it was just odd. Or perhaps he was reading it off of cue cards, which would be a concern. And I agree with Simon–his smile also bothers me. There’s something too artificial about it. I can’t agree with his comment about Gedeon opening for the Chippendales, because I’ve never been. (But as I said yesterday, following Simon around for a week would probably be a fascinating week.) As for Gedeon, I thought he had a nice sound and tone to his voice, but I really didn’t think the song demonstrated much–yes, it’s a classic, but it doesn’t really require singing as much as calling out stuff. So I’m not really sure why Paula and Randy were so enamored of this and started comparing him to Jackie Wilson. Otis Day only had this one hit, didn’t he?

Elliott Yamin (“If You Really Love Me”)–This was the first of two songs in which the singer started with the chorus and then did the first verse of the song–Ace and “Father Figure” was the other. I have no idea why, and didn’t really like it. But I did like Elliott, although I’m not ready to sign on to Simon’s pronouncement that he’s the best male vocalist in the history of the show. Why does Simon occasionally make these wild statements so early in the competition when he’s usually so sensible?
Anyway, I thought Elliott was great singing the verse to this song, but not as good on the chorus for some reason. But I liked it overall.

Bobby Bennett (“Copacabana”)–Why have we not seen this guy before? He had an audition in which Simon said he seemed drunk and he may (I couldn’t confirm from the clip) have been singing Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” and we didn’t see it? Simon said he loved the guy, but we didn’t see it? But we saw a faked five minute bit where they aksed random people to sing “Lady Marmalade”? It’s exasperating, but I’ll stop beating that dead horse. Anyway, it’s weird for someone to sing “Copacabana” because it’s a song with an elaborate story (at least for a song), and we missed most of it because you only get to sing for 90 seconds or so on the show. We never even got to Rico in the song. Anyway, Bobby was OK and kind of fun, and I think every season needs the (intenational) comedy contestant. Maybe he can be that for a couple weeks. But since no one has seen him before tonight, I’m not sure he’ll catch on.

Ace Young (“Father Figure”)–I thought he was fine, but not that great. And I think before we’re done this spring, he’ll certainly challenge Constantine’s record for most longing looks at the camera. I know everyone was talking about the “X-Factor,” but I wasn’t getting that much of it. Then again, I’m male.

Taylor Hicks (“Levon”)–I’ve liked this guy from the beginning, because he was soulful and original. And he was impressive tonight, although Randy was right that it might not have been the best song choice. And I’m glad Simon, who usually is pretty perceptive about what the American public is into, finally caught on after having actual fans of the show tell him that they liked Taylor. This guy is really “interesting,” and I’m looking forward to him the rest of the competition.

So who goes home? It’s a tough one. I would probably send home the first two guys, David Radford and Patrick Hall. Who will go home? I’m going to say Patrick Hall and Bobby Bennett.

Fingerhut out!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The competition begins, with the women

We’ve finally made it! The American Idol semifinals are here, and Fox gave us two full hours as a reward–although even for an Idol lover like me, two hours is a really long time, especially since Fox certainly didn’t skimp on the commercials. On the other hand, they didn’t have to rush through the show like they did last year in this round, and we got short clips of each singer talking a little about themselves and why they picked their song–particularly important for the three or four singers we’d never seen before last Wednesday. And the judges had plenty of time to critique, which is a good thing–Simon has plenty of time to figure out what bad meal or European trip a particular contestant makes him remember. Unfortunately, the show tonight wasn’t live (as I said a few times last year, I think the live element adds that special element of danger and surprise), but I guess that’s what separates the semi-finals from the finals. And the results show will be live Thursday.
Before we get to the singers, a couple words about Paula Abdul. Everyone’s been talking about how Paula has seemed tougher this year than in the past–so much so that Ryan even asked her about it. I was amused by her answer that everyone now is a critic at home and knows when someone is pitchy–to be honest, I’m still not totally sure when exactly someone is pitchy, but Paula, we’ve all been critics at home since season one. That’s why we enjoy the show–we can judge at home, and then hear what the judges on the show say. Anyway, I don’t think her judging tonight was that much tougher than in the past–sure, she did criticize a couple people, but she’s always occasionally done that–but at least she wasn’t wildly effusive over pedestrian performances, which is an accomplishment. On the other hand, Paula had also been looking very attractive this year, but tonight I thought she did not look good at all. I don’t know whether it was the hairstyle, the makeup, or just that I’ve been up since 6 a.m. and I’m really tired, but something was wrong. Maybe she’s shaken up from asking Dr. Phil to find her a man. (Did anyone see that show? I’d love to have a report.)
And one last judging note: Randy has apparently started to used the word “wow” in the same manner he uses the term “dog,” i.e. all the time. But Randy, using the term “wow” to express surprise at how bad you thought something was, as you did a couple times tonight, is pretty harsh and should be reserved for truly, stunningly bad performances. On to the singers:

Mandisa(“Never”)--Every year we have at least one female singer who drops their last name because they have a unique first name, and Mandisa has stepped up to the plate to claim that title this year. And she was very good–she has a powerful voice, and pleasantly surprised me by picking a rock song instead of what I expected, a gospel-tinged ballad. I’m unsure what Paula was talking about when she referred to how difficult it is to “take on Heart” (Is “Barracuda” a really complicated melody?), and I’m not ready to proclaim that she’ll still be in the competition in mid-May like Simon is (really, Simon, she was the very first singer of the final 24 and you’re making a pronunciation like that?), but I’m curious about what she’ll do in the coming weeks.

Kellie “Pick” Pickler (“How Far”)–I’ve been a fan of Kelllie since we heard her story in the Greensboro audition (mother left her when she was very young, her dad’s in prison), and if she keeps dedicating songs to her dad and stuff, she’ll get a lot of votes. I’m not sure, though, that she has the vocal chops to keep up with some of the powerhouses we saw tonight. She was solid tonight, and has that “likeability factor,” as the judges mentioned, but I didn’t think she was great. And I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not a huge fan of country music–it’s fine on occasion, but I hope her choice tonight of a Martina McBride song tonight doesn’t indicate a Carrie Underwood-like affinity for that style.

Becky O’Donohue (“Because the Night”)–Unfortunately, Becky seems to be our first representative tonight in the “she’s only an OK singer, but she’s hot, so we put her through to the semifinals” category. It seems like Randy and Simon even conceded that tonight–didn’t both of them say she was better than they thought or a pleasant surprise? Anyway, I thought she was pretty bad. I ran my tape back and listened to it again, and it sounded worse the second time. I found myself much more interested in figuring out what CD she received at Christmas as a little kid that had “Because the Night” on it. It wasn’t the album with the Patti Smith original on it, because who would give a young child a Patti Smith record? It could have been the 10,000 Maniacs Unplugged album with a cover of that song, but I believe that album came out in 1993 or 1994–which would make the 25-year-old Becky12 or 13 and likely too old. So I guess it was the Bruce Springsteen live boxed set with his version of the song (which he wrote) which came out in the mid-1980s and would make her about 5 or 6 years old. I’m kind of puzzled that of the three dozen or so songs in that set, she and her sister would choose “Because the Night” as the one to go crazy over, but I guess a 5 year old wouldn’t appreciate the acoustic version of “Thunder Road,” for instance.

Ayla Brown (“Reflection”)–So Ayla Brown’s big hardship in high school was overcoming the disrespect from her teammates on the boys’ football team. I’m not even sure what to say about that, but I guess everyone has their own problems. But can you imagine how they would have reacted if she had left the football team to go try out for American Idol? Only her girls’ basketball teammates have to deal with that, though, and I would think they’re probably pretty annoyed. Especially because after watching tonight, she’s unlikely to get close to winning the competition. But she was certainly good enough to get through to next week. She has a pleasant, surprisingly strong voice (I guess Randy and Simon are rubbing off on me), and I thought she handled a difficult song well. I also thought that she looked better with no makeup on the basketball court than she did heavily made up when singing, but I’m not sure how relevant that is.

Paris Bennett (“Midnight Train to Georgia”)–That really deserves a “Wow,” Randy. She was great–fabulous singing, a fun performance (like when she pretended to blow the train whistle a couple times) and she just commanded the stage. This performance really got me excited for the season to come. Oh, and I liked that Paris did her hair like Gladys Knight--she really got into this one.

Stevie Scott (“To Where You Are”)–I didn’t really care for her performance, bascially because she sang most of it in a high, falsetto voice and I really don’t like that (or at least I don’t like to hear that from women; the guy from Coldplay sings in a falsetto and I don’t mind it from him.) It was kind of boring, and Paula, it was not “ethereal.” What most interested me about Stevie was her statement that “I know I can bring it” after she was panned by the judges. First of all, is this how people talk now? Can you please define your pronoun? What exactly are you going to bring? Second, why didn’t you “bring it” in week one? Did you leave it at the hotel? And third, Stevie said she could sing in five languages? How would you say “I know I can bring it” in Italian? Oh, and Simon said the performance sounded like a “Sunday lunch” where someone comes out and sings out of tune. Who are Simon’s friends who are apparently always bringing out people to sing when he eats at their houses? I’d like to spend a week with Simon just going to meals and visiting places like Brazilian piano bars and cabarets in Belgium, so I could then have all these bases for comparison that he has.

Brenna Gethers (“You Are the Sunshine Of My Life”)–Midway through this performance, I wrote in my notebook “wrong song.” And then Randy and Simon said the same thing. Brenna is annoying and full of herself, but that’s her “thing.” Singing a quiet, kind of boring song takes everything that’s interesting about her away. And while I understand she wants to show “humility,” it came across as calculating and forced–as just an attempt to curry favor with the voters because she thinks that’s what people want to see. She’s probably right–she’s unlikely to win the competition without showing some humility–but it’s probably too late to change that now. Her die has been cast. Oh, and if you are trying to be curry favor with the American public, encouraging the crowd to boo Simon is not a smart move.

Heather Cox (“When You Tell Me That You Love Me”)–She’s in the same category in which Becky O’Donohue has been classified..And I’m a really big fan of American Idol, but actually singing the group single from last year is a bit much. As Simon said, it was “forgettable.” And he was right about sounding like an elocution lesson–when they played the review of the singers at the end, she was really enunciating every word in the clip they showed.

Melissa McGhee (“When The Lights Go Down”)–Had we ever seen here before? I don’t think so, and I was glad she pointed that out to the viewers–it’s not really fair that she hasn’t been seen at all until this round. I liked her raspy tone of voice, and thought she sung the song OK, but I really don’t like the song. Does that song have more than one verse? It just seemed like one long chorus, with the line “when the lights go down” just repeated over and over. Maybe it was just the portion of the song she sung, but it just seemed kind of frantic.

Lisa Tucker (“I Am Changing”)–She gave a very impressive performance–the singing was great and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next. But Randy, very briefly in passing, touched on my problem with her when he said the song may have been “too old.” I agree–it was a grown up song that was too old for a 16 year old, and the mannerisms and other things in her performance just came across as a little too polished and professional for such a young girl. But maybe I’ll warm up to her. And I’ll repeat Paula’s comments just for everyone’s enjoyment: “You have this precious little gift that lights this fire inside my heart.”

Kinnik Sky (“Get Here”)–Another person we hadn’t seen perform before–we only saw her as the last person picked for the final 24 on Wednesday. And she selected the song Justin Guarini sang at his audition and on the final night in season one–probably not good karma. And I agreed with Simon, she also came across as too old–although in a different way than Lisa Tucker did. She may be 28, but everything from the way she dressed to the sound of her voice to the way she just stood at the microphone gave me the impression she was much older, and I just wasn’t all that interested.

Katherine McPhee (“Since I Fell For You”)–Simon said she was the best of the night and I’m not sure about that–especially because less than two hours earlier he had labeled Mandisa a sure finalist. But she was really good–although I wasn’t crazy about the not particularly contemporary song. And she’s extraordinarily attractive, which always helps in American Idol. I would watch for one thing, though. She apparently struggled some in the Hollywood auditions, after wowing the judges in her original audition with a song she had probably been singing for years. This song also was obviously one she learned with her mother the voice coach long ago. It might be interesting if she struggles with other new songs later in the competition. Of course, maybe she knows enough songs that won’t be a problem. I hope so, because when you put her, Paris, Mandisa and Lisa in the final 12, you have a pretty good competition.

Who’s going home? It’s tough, but I would send home Becky and Kinnik. I think the voters, though, will pick Kinnik and Stevie. Fingerhut out.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Finally, we're down to 24

So we have our 12 women and 12 men, but of course the most amazing thing to me is after 12 hours of American Idol programming in the last month, there were still at least five--up to one quarter of the group--who I don't recall ever seeing on the show. Anyone know who Robert Bennett is (other than Bill Clinton's lawyer for the Paula Jones case?) Gedeon McKinney? (And what a shame his first introduction to the audience was a dumb speech?) Melissa McGhee? And the two people that were the final selections were also complete mysteries to me. Can't believe they couldn't fit their original auditions in.

So I could handicap the field, but since we've probably heard no more than one minute of any person sing--and much less of some others--it would be impossible. But, as seemed obvious in January, many of those whose original auditions were featured prominentely--or people who appeared in the promos--shockingly made it. Kellie Pickler, Chris Daughtery, Mandisa (has she dropped her last name), Katharine McPhee (and how about that kiss Paula Abdul planted on her? We could have a new Corey Clark here...But more seriously, Paula, stop fanning yourself when Ace enters the room--did you even watch that Primetime Live report on you last year?), Paris Bennett and gray-haired guy Taylor Hicks. (Here's a prediction: Taylor Hicks' tenure on American Idol will play out sort of like George Huff's time did. Simon doesn't like him, but a lot of people in the audience do. He'll advance to a certain point, and then have to sing salsa and disco or something and have to be eliminated.)

As for the claim of Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe,1002,271|99550|1|,00.html
that this was the nastiest, most competitive group yet, apparently he was referring pretty much just to the antics of the Brittenum twins. I read that story a few weeks ago, and I've been waiting for all this bad behavior that allegedly occurred, and going back and reading it now, it's obvious he was primarily just referring to two people who were from the same family. As for whether this is the most talented group of 24 ever, they say that every year, don't they? I gues we really won't know that until Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Down to 44

Sort of a strange episode of American Idol last night--we didn't see a lot of the people they've focused on for the past couple weeks. Only a brief glimpse of Kellie Pickler, a couple brief shots of gray-haired guy (although I'm wondering if Simon's comment during the cutdowns about someone whom he doesn't know why they're in the competition but he's curious to see what he'll do if he gets there was about him), nothing about Katherine McPhee (although I'm told she was in one of the groups messing up the words to that Four Tops song). And we only saw enough of "fit model" to know that she's unfortunately been sent home. On the other hand, we saw more than we ever could have wanted about the Brittenum twins. The only saving grace is that we know they don't make it to the final 24.

It's no mystery why the Brittenums got arrested for the identity theft crime they allegedly committed--they're obviously too dumb to be successful criminals. One guy quits the show because he thinks his brother got axed, but his brother really didn't get axed--sharp move, Derrell, or is it Terrell? Terrell (or is it Darrell?) ripping on the group member who got canned, even though that was the only guy that would practice with him was pretty classless--although I did enjoy one of the other group members standing behind him during the interview just shaking his head at Terrell's (or is Derrell's?) idiocy. And I'm not sure why the judges let them back in the competition--although I guess they felt that hey, they're kids who don't quite have their head on straight and let's give them a break and maybe they can get their act together. Or they just figured they're entertaining TV. Of course, after building us up to hate those guys, then American Idol goes and gives us Terrell (or is it Darrell? I really don't care enough to even try to tell them apart) getting all sad that his brother might not have made it, and we get a happy reunion. And I'm a sucker, so it kind of worked on me--but I'll still enjoy watching them go home tonight.

As for the rest of the show, when does the statute of limitations run out on "Brokeback Mountain" parodies? That thing about the cowboys was painful. As for their performance, Simon said it seemed like they wanted to do a comedy routine, but I didn't really find it all that funny. In fact, poor Garet looked like he wanted to crawl in a hold during the whole thing--like he either was terrified or embarrassed. Sad to see him go, but his singing really wasn't up to par.

And I wonder about the people on this show--every year there's someone who wants to practice but "can't find her group" or something, there's someone else who just goes to sleep instead of practicing--do they do this just so they'll be featured on the Hollywood show? Why do they repeat the same mistakes? (Although one of the guys who went to sleep in the Terrell Brittenum group was declared the best singer by Randy, so I guess it did work for him.)

So we're down to 44, and for the second year in a row, we're going to have this bizarre show where they call everyone back to Hollywood just to tell close to half of them they need to go back home. Apparently, the judges are going to look at tape of the performances to make the cutdowns--what are they, football coaches? And then they'll bring them into that big room, empty except for the table they're sitting at--kind of like the last scene in Flashdance--and get rid of a bunch of them. Cruel and heartless, but they're the number one show on TV, so I guess they can do whatever they want. At least, though, we'll finally be into the sing-off rounds next week.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Halfway through Hollywood

It's still too early in the process to do a full American Idol play-by-play, because you can't really judge anyone by the ten to twenty seconds of clips we're still getting. But it was great to finally get out of the endless audition phase and whittle the 175 down to under 100. And how about the American Idol producers shelling out some money and hiring vocal and musical accompaniment for the singers in Hollywood, huh? I imagine the show can afford that by now.

Maybe my memory isn't as good as it used to be, but I don't remember the first Hollywood show in the past so heavily focused on the auditioners we already know, instead of introducing us to some more new people. But I liked the people they did focus on, and am hoping Kellie Pickler (the one with the dad in jail), Taylor Hicks (the gray-haired guy), and Paris Bennett (the relative of the Sounds of Blackness singer) keep moving on. As for the farmer kid, I like him, like his story, but I'm not really sure he's a good enough singer. And who was the guy who sang "Hopelessly Devoted to You." Him and his country inflection were kind of interesting--I'd like to see more of him.

Glad to see "arrogant guy" (you know who I mean) go home. Although I think I mentioned this last season, I'm still disturbed that Ryan Seacrest has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And did we need to see so much of the full of themselves but not really all that good Brittenum twins. If you haven't heard, they were arrested last month for identity theft (Maybe they were posing as the other American Idol twins from Chicago)and have been kicked off the show. So there's not much drama there, although to be fair, these shows were taped well before the Brittenum arrest, and perhaps couldn't be altered. And although I think I briefly saw her twice, we didn't see any singing by "fit model." I hope she's not gone.

I'd write more, but I spent too much time watching the Grammy Awards, where I see there's already a wire story posted about how Kelly Clarkson didn't thank American Idol in either of her two acceptance speeches. I don't think I care that much for these two reasons. She did thank the fans, which obviously includes all the fans she developed on the show. And let's face it, even if she doesn't acknowledge it, I can't believe there is even one person in the entire United States who bought her album and didn't know she had won American Idol. And she also didn't thank Max Martin, the producer behind her hit "Since You Been Gone"--and let's face it, you can have the greatest female pop vocal performance in the world, but if it's a bad song no one cares. And that's a great song--and led to the album becoming a huge hit.

Anyway, Tuesday we'll see the always entertaining night in the hotel preparing for the group sings, and two weeks from tonight we'll be in the midst of the most intense week of American Idol in history. Yes, on Tuesday, Feb.21, Fox will give us the final 12 guys in a two hour show, then two hours of the final 12 girls the next night, and an hour results show on Thursday, Feb. 23. I love American Idol, but that may even be too much for me. And the following week, it'll be 90 minutes on Tuesday and Wednesday and an hour on Thursday. So stock up on food and water and start preparing your bodies for that grueling experience before it's too late.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Are we finally there?

I sound like a broken record--or maybe the term should be broken blog--but the best part of last night's American Idol was the coming attractions for tonight's edition. Another audition round, another bunch of bad singers (not that some weren't entertaining), and, what, three actual good singers--none of which Simon even approved of, I believe. (Late edit: Simon did kind of like the attractive twin, although it wasn't just for her singing.) There were 28 people that went on from Boston, and we saw virtually none of them. But we did see people singing "Joy to the World" badly--once again organized by producers, because how many auditioners in 2005 would really sing "Joy to the World"? Oh, and then we got a review of the last few weeks of shows--because none of us watched those, right?

So we finally get to Hollywood tonight, which should provide some actual material on which to coment....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The dumbest character in TV history

Tonight on "The O.C.," we saw the demise of Johnny, and in the past few weeks I became convinced he must be the dumbest character in recent prime-time television history. Consider the evidence:

1. He decides that the best way to get money for his knee surgery is to rob a convenience store, until he's talked out of it by Ryan.

2. He decides that the best way to get Marissa out of his life and convince her she should go back to Harbour is to concoct some ridiculous story about his doctor went to college with the surf team doctor and convinced him to let him go on the tour. Not only was this story ridiculous, and unable to sustain for more than a couple days probably, since Marissa would have called Johnny constantly to find out how the tour was, but there was a decent chance Marissa wouldn't get back into Harbour and still go to Johnny's public school anyway.

3.He takes a bottle of tequila and a hot 15-year-old who wants to hook up with him to the beach, and completely ignores the hot 15-year-old. Dude, I know you were upset about Marissa, but her sister looks a lot like her. Have a couple gulps of tequila and I'm sure you could probably convince yourself you were actually with Marissa.Instead...

4. He drinks just about an entire bottle of tequila and decides to climb up on a cliff. (My other question is can someone of Johnny's fairly small size drink an entire bottle of tequila and still actually be able to climb rocks, let alone actually stand?)

So Johnny apparently died at the end of tonight's episode. And while I'm glad he won't be around to drag the show down anymore, I feel like it was a little much for that character. It seems like O.C. creator Josh Schwartz was making up for the whole Oliver storyline in season one, which dragged on and on and Oliver didn't really get any comeuppance for his actions. Sure, Johnny was annoying and boring, but he wasn't evil. Oliver deserved to die on this show, Johnny just deserved to end up as a coach on a surf team in Australia.

One other observation from tonight's show: Julie Cooper's attempt to live like a trailer park denizen is very amusing. In a past week, she ate pork rinds, and this week she was trying to warm up to a wine cooler and hot pocket, and cooking grits. Funny stuff.

Um, what I said yesterday

Last night's American Idol was so similar to Tuesday night's I barely have anything new to say--there were three or four good singers and a bunch of bad and boring singers. At least there wasn't a montage of bad singers messing up a Mariah Carey song or something. The only person I really remember is that "fit model," not for her singing but for her other attributes. I can't believe she'd make it very far in Hollywood, but Simon seemed smitten, so you never know...There was that model a couple years back who couldn't sing but was very attractive and she still made it to the semifinals (where Simon then commented that she had the biggest mouth he had ever seen).

My biggest complaint about this week's shows is that if there are only 11 and 12 singers, respectively, advancing from Vegas and Austin, why can't they show us at least a few seconds of all of them singing. They already know at this point who the final 24 is, and every year people show up in the final 24 that we've never seen before and they're severely disadvantaged compared to the people in the final 24 that we either saw audition or were introduced to in the "going to Hollywood" round--since they've been able to build up fan bases among voters. Someone who got voted out early in the semifinals sort of made a tearful complaint about this last year after she was voted off in the first week on the semifinals, and even though it sounded like sour grapes, she was right. I hope Idol won't once again do that, but I don't have much confidence.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Idol: When do we get to Hollywood?

We've come to the first traditional benchmark of the American Idol season--the "Haven't we seen enough auditions?" phase. Over the last two weeks, we saw six hours of lots of bad singers, and a few good ones, but going into tonight, we still had three more hours (and three more evenings) of audition shows. Personally, I'd rather see a couple more shows devoted to the "Going to Hollywood" round and all the interactions between the contestants that result when they're all staying in the same hotel. But other than the finale, the audition rounds do get the best ratings of all the American Idol episodes (I presume there are people who enjoy the bad auditions but don't enjoy hearing good singers later on and stop watching after next week--I think they call them sadists)and Idol is getting its best ratings ever this season, so what do I know?

Unfortunately, tonight's episode suffered from the same malaise that I'm feeling about the audition round. I can barely remember anyone, good or bad, from tonight's show just about 20 minutes after I finished watching the tape. None of the bad auditions were all that memorable, except for the one who thought she was Aretha Franklin and just screeched. She was amusing. And none of the good auditions were particularly remarkable, except for the gray-haired 29-year-old Taylor Hicks at the end. I thought his voice had a lot of soul and he had that Joe Cocker "make your body do weird stuff" style of singing (which I think is kind of scary but at least kind of different). Oh, and there was that girl Mecca, and I hope Fox is doing a background check on her right now to make sure she's not getting funding from Hamas...THAT'S A JOKE. More seriously, she was alright, but I'm not into the star glued to her face or whatever was going on there.

So Las Vegas had just 11 people go to Hollywood, although did we see more than three or four of them sing? No, we had to see a few minutes of auditioners performing a massacre on "I Will Survive." This might have been funny if we hadn't seen the same exact thing TWICE with two other songs the last two weeks. Hey, guys, it's not funny anymore--especially when the reason you got so many people to sing that song so badly is because you asked them to (as was obvious when people we saw audition with other songs show up in the montage) and they weren't prepared. Remember, people watch this show because it shows "reality" to some extent--people really sing, Simon tells them the truth about how they really sound. We don't need obviously fake stuff.

Before I go, some thoughts from the State of the Union: First of all, why was Hillary Clinton applauding during the speech like she was clapping along to a song at a concert, with those slow, relaxed claps? Did anyone else notice that?

Why was Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine selected to give the Democratic response? He's only been governor for what, three weeks? And he's not exactly Mr. Charisma--on election night in Richmond, his predecessor, Mark Warner, outshone him at his own campaign party. But that's a thankless job, and no one pays attention to the opposition's response, so it really doesn't matter.

And finally, I think Bush missed an opportunity tonight. When he got to that point in the speech where he addressed his remarks to Iranians, if he had then spoken those few sentences in fluent-sounding Farsi, everyone would have been talking about it Wednesday morning. Did no one think of that?