Saturday, April 29, 2006

So what about "What About Brian"?

I was going to write a long post analyzing a show aimed directly at my demographic, "What About Brian." But the second and third episodes of the program were so disappointing I've decided it's not worth spending that much time on--plus people keep complaining that I need to write about something other than "American Idol." I'll just say that the overwhelming feeling I get when watching this show is,"This show should be a lot better." It's about a guy, Brian, whose friends are all either married or engaged. The only problem is that he's sort of in love with the woman, Marjorie, to whom is best friend is engaged (and she's sort of into him too.) There are other story lines. For one, Brian's sister is trying to get pregnant even though she's over 40--it's not an original story, and every time it comes on screen I pick up a newspaper. Then there's the guy who looks a lot like Rico from "Six Feet Under" if he wasn't Hispanic and his wife. She wants to sleep with other people to make their marriage more exciting, he's not that into it. Once again, not a particularly original story, and we all know how this kind of thing ends--and it's not well.(At the end of the most recent episode, she went ahead and had sex with a guy--in the back of a station wagon in a grocery store parking lot, leaving the 7 million viewers or so watching last Monday night to collectively throw up their hands in bafflement and disgust.

But the best example of why this show is lacking is a couple scenes from episode two. Early in the show, Marjorie has set up Brian with a woman she works with. They're double-dating and we learn that, well, the set-up is not too smart. As they're leaving, Marjorie tells Brian she got him a present--a copy of the "Spinal Tap" DVD. Brian's date says, "Oh, the medical thriller."

So Brian sleeps with his date, Lisa, anyway, then gets up in the morning and meets her roommate, also Lisa, who is in many ways much more appealing than the first Lisa. Brian manuevers to see second Lisa, or Lisa B, again, and ends up sleeping with her that evening. Of course, Lisa B would be perfect for him, but she says that it would be too awkward to date someone her roommate slept with. So she begins to leave, and Brian says, "Let's watch a movie." She says, "What movie?" and he answers, "Spinal Tap." Now, you know, if you've ever watched television before, that Lisa B is going to be a fan of "Spinal Tap"--one of the most quotable movies ever--so I'm waiting. Will she say, "Does it go to 11?" or "Is it one more louder?" or "What's wrong with being sexy?" No, she says, "I love that movie" somewhat wistfully.

If I can write the show better than the writers, as I'm watching it, maybe this show doesn't have much of a future.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Is realism too much to ask for?

Considering it's been unwatchable at times, I guess I shouldn't complain about "The O.C." after this week's relatively decent episode. But I will. Besides the repetitive story lines (Marissa hitting the bottle again, Ryan getting into another fight--shouldn't this guy be seeing Dr. Melfi or some sort of psychiatrist?), did anyone writing and directing the show attend high school? A few weeks ago, Seth heard from his college of choice, Brown (after apparently not applying to any other school--huh?) and received his rejection letter in a big envelope. Has they stopped sending rejection letters in normal, business-size envelopes, or was this just done to have some dumb dramatic moment where Seth opens his envelope and sees the word "regret"? Because it would have been just as dramatic, and much more realistic, to see Seth rifling through the mail and freaking out at a small envelope.

But the lack of realism got much worse this week. Seth, Ryan and the gang go to a ritzy private school in what we're told is one of the richest places on earth. And they have the prom in the school, not in a hotel? And they wear suits, not tuxedos? Huh? I've never even heard of a non-black tie prom? Wow, I don't know how the guy who owns the formalwear shop in Orange County survives.

Even more ridiculously, Summer was named "prom queen" for the second year in a row. Yeah, I know Summer is an attractive woman, but she seems to have three friends at school--and one of them was suspended for half the year. Meanwhile, Seth, the guy who has been dating the "prom queen," is still teased and mocked at school. So you're telling me someone is popular enough in high school to get elected prom queen TWICE, and yet Seth, dating the prom queen, is still considered a dork by all the popular people at school. This makes so little sense my head is about to explode. And then there's the fact that Taylor Townsend apparently rented a bar, with senior class funds, for the prom after-party. That's right, a bar, which seemed to have beer on tap. Yeah, that's realistic. And I won't even get into how Taylor put $5,000 in her purse and left it laying around like an empty beer bottle in the bar, so Volchok could steal it and Ryan could fight him. Hey, O.C. writers, the good shows get the little things correct. You could use some kind of quality-control consultant.

Oh, and Ryan and Theresa looked like they were attending their 15th high school reunion, not the prom. But that's another story entirely.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It's about time!

For the last few years, it's always seemed like the American Idol results show was a big waste of time--basically a show that could take place during a commercial break of another show, but was stretched out to a half-hour just because people are willing to sit there and watch Ryan, Simon and the gang goof off for 25 minutes before they announce who's going home (and I guess I'm one of those people).

But tonight's American Idol results show may have been the most action-packed, satisfying version they've ever put together. And that was even before they put the cherry on top--the long overdue elimination of Kellie Pickler!

First we had Simon apologizing, after he watched the show back on television, for his harsh treatment of Katharine last night. Glad to hear I wasn't so mesmerized by other things I lost all critical faculties. Of course, it makes me wonder--how can it be that different in studio as opposed to television? What exactly are they hearing? Then we had the "let's joke about Paula crying" thing so that people will think she's not really as unbalanced as she appears to be, and "let's make fun of the alleged feud between Paula and Ryan that was reported in People magazine" thing--which I couldn't really work up any interest in anyway.

If that wasn't enough, before the elimination we got a strong performance from Andrea Bocelli, and for the first time I can recall (other than when they have a bottom two or three when there's only four people left), they actually told us who the top two were--Katharine and Chris. And then we got to see the right person eliminated, and they ran so long they didn't even have time to make us watch her sing again! What a treat!

I'm probably being a little harsh about Kellie--when she first appeared on the show back in January, I wrote about what a great story she was, with her dad in prison and her mom leaving her when she was a young girl, and how happy I was that she was going to Hollywood. Sure, she apparently wasn't quite the hayseed that she portrayed herself as, and her dumb girl act wore thin right around the time she asked "What's a ballsy?" But that act was entertaining for a while. Thankfully, America got rid of "Trampy Barbie," as Lisa DeMoraes of the Washington Post called her this morning, before she could sully what is, as I said last night, the most wide-open, competitive final five ever. The next few weeks could be very exciting. Let's just hope the producers don't give us Gloria Estefan week on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Loving the final six?

I usually go in chronological order when recapping American Idol, but tonight I have to deviate slightly from that practice because I’m feeling a little inadequate. I try to make some jokes, and be funny when writing about Idol, but, let’s face it, nothing I could ever write would be as funny as watching Paula cry (and Simon try to hold in his laughter) tonight after Elliott performed. It was one of the most unbelievable moments I’ve ever seen on television. You know how people talk about where they were heard that Kennedy was shot, or during the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase? Years from now, people might talk about where they were when Paula cried after Elliott’s performance on American Idol–and how many times they ran back their Tivo or videotape to watch it again. (For the record, I think I’m up to about five, but I’m going back after I finish this.) More on this later.

So we have what some are calling the best final six of Idol ever. I’m not sure I completely agree–I think you could make an argument that the season two final six of Clay, Ruben, Kimberly Locke, Josh Gracin, Trenyce and (I think) Carmen Rasmussen was better (Carmen does drag it down, though)–but this is certainly the most wide-open final six. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them won–at this point, a Kellie Pickler win would be deeply disturbing, but not surprising–and that makes the next few weeks very exciting.

And apparently no one is more excited about it than Hollywood celebrities. What was going on tonight? We had Joely Fisher and Sela Ward and Kevin Nealon and Tori Spelling–can’t they just let regular people in to watch American Idol? Don’t celebrities get enough bonuses in life? Then again, it is interesting that over the last few years, you often hear actors whine about how reality television is horrible because it’s taking away jobs from actors–and yet they all love Idol. (And yes, Idol is not really a reality show, it’s a variety show–which have been on TV since television began–but snobs who complain about reality television consider it a reality show, so I’ll classify it that way so I can have a straw man for this argument.) Oh, and they also showed eliminated contestant Stevie Scott (apparently because she was the opera girl and Andrea Bocelli was on the show tonight.) She preened for the camera like she was a celebrity.

So the theme was love songs, which I guess is pretty broad, but meant everyone did slow songs (there are up-tempo love songs, right?). Unfortunately, one of my favorite love songs, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths, was not performed by anyone. Not that I suspected anyone would, but if that song had performed on American Idol the same night that Paula had a breakdown, I probably couldn’t have watched the show anymore because it would have basically hit its peak and everything else could only ruin it. Gladly, that didn’t happen, so we still have heights to which it can ascend.

Anyway, I don’t know much about Andrea Bocelli, except that I do like the most famous song he does (but I can’t remember its name–can anyone leave me a comment if they know the name?) I was watching an ESPN documentary about Wayne Gretzky, and they played that song as they showed him announcing his retirement, and everyone in Canada was so upset and crying, and the song combined with the emotion of the moment made me tear up a little. And yes, I know some of you are laughing at that, but I don’t care.

As for the team of Bocelli and David Foster, I thought they were great. Foster may actually be a viable replacement for Simon Cowell if he ever leaves the show, as well as seeming to help the singers with their performances, and Bocelli’s comments in broken English were often weirdly entertaining. I still don’t understand, though, Bocelli’s analysis of why singers are great.. I ran back the tape three times and apparently he said, “You become great only when it’s your destiny. When you sing and people wants that you sing, only in this case you can hope to be great.” They went back to the studio and Ryan said, “Well said.” Huh? What does that mean? You can only be a great singer if people want you to sing? Well, I guess, but that’s not exactly a groundbreaking thought.

Katharine McPhee (“I Have Nothing”)–After her triumphant performance last week, which the judges probably overpraised, Katharine sings one of the songs most frequently sung on American Idol and sort of gets panned by Randy, Paula and Simon. Sure, she didn’t sing the song as well as Whitney Houston did 15 years ago (although she can probably sing it better than Whitney Houston can now, assuming that Whitney would take the crack pipe out of her mouth long enough to get through it.) And the end was a little rough. But she put her own slight spin on the song, and Sasha Cohen liked it! OK, full disclosure: Between the general hotness of Katharine, the way her breasts appeared like they were going to pop out of her dress for a huge “wardrobe malfunction” and the very high slit in her dress that she was showing at the big finish, I was dizzy by the end of the song. I’m reminded of an episode of “Seinfeld” where George has to hire a secretary, and all of the candidates are very attractive women–whom he doesn’t want to hire because they’ll distract him from his work. At one point, he tells one of the candidates, “You are so good looking, I can’t even see.” Tonight, I was so mesmerizied, I may not have been able to hear. Whatever the case, many males over the age of 12 slept well last night. Oh, and did you hear Paula say she was going to “try to be a little bit on [the tough] side” with her judging (before babbling something about how Katharine’s “natural voice” was her strong suit, which I didn’t really comprehend.) I guess that toughness lasted one singer.

Elliott Yamin (“A Song for You”)–I don’t really know much about Donnie Hathaway, and I didn’t really love this song. Maybe that why I liked Elliott tonight, but I didn’t really get the love that the judges were lavishing on him tonight. I read someone recommending that Elliott needs to do a really well-known song really well, and this wasn’t it. Having said that, his vocals were still very clear and strong. But they weren’t worthy of tears. You know, added to the hilariousness of Paula’s crying was what she was actually saying during her breakdown: “You move me. You celebrate what this competition is all about. You are an American Idol.” (Is she sleeping with him? Instead of clothes, is she going to buy him some dental work?)

I’m still at a loss about what to say about Paula–I can’t improve on it except to say that I hope she was put in an ambulance and rushed to the best psychiatrist in town directly after the show--so I’ll move on to Simon’s desperate but unsuccessful attempt to hold in his laughter at this whole spectacle, which made the whole thing 1,000 times funnier.As I’ve said many times before, Simon is always right.

It reminded me of a story from Mr. Cormeny’s European history class senior year of high school. My friend Mark (also a senior) and his brother Ken (a junior) were both in the class and looked a lot alike. Ken sat in the front of the class, Mark near the back. The bell rang to begin class one morning and Cormeny (who had quite a temper) just starting yelling at Ken for something he had said or done and screamed at him, “Never do that again and get out of here.” The only thing was, he kept calling Ken by the name of Mark. So once Ken left class, Mark said, “Mr. Cormeny, I’m Mark,” and Cormeny yelled back, “Mark, you get out of her too.” This was so hilarious that my friend Rob tried desperately but just couldn’t hold in his laughter anymore, and Mr. Cormeny threw him out of class too. It was one of the funniest things I remember from high school. Anyway, Simon tonight reminded me a lot of Rob that day.

Kellie Pickler (“Unchained Melody”)–Did Kellie know that this is Simon’s favorite song (he’s said that a couple times before?) If she did, it was pretty stupid to sing this in a country version, even if Leann Rimes did it that way, because Simon hates country. Then again, if she had sung the Righteous Brothers’ version, it wouldn’t have been good either. But I did think the country twang was really annoying. As Randy did point out, though, she did sort of hit the big note near the end. But I thought Simon’s comment was harsh but appropriate: “It deserved tears for a different reason.” Oh, and at least Kellie didn’t put on that apology act–she just took her punishment like an adult.
I wanted to conclude with Andrea Bocelli’s analysis of Kellie: “She’s very happy and I like her and this is important.” Even though he’s blind, I guess Andrea Bocelli has heard about Kellie’s heavily-Internet searched two-piece prom dress.

Paris Bennett (“The Way We Were”)–Paris may be the most talented person in this competition, but she doesn’t seem to have the same kind of fanbase as many of the other singers (and got gypped tonight by the show–they were over time and they seemed to order the crowd to not applaud–what other reason could there be that the ovation for her lasted just a couple seconds while everyone else’s lasted significantly longer?). I’m not sure why–maybe she’s just too effortless. She sang very well tonight, although I guess one could argue, as Simon did, that she didn’t bring enough originality or something new to the song. But she can sing–and Paris often gets great reviews from musicians that work with her (Foster and Bocelli tonight, Queen a couple weeks ago, etc.)

Taylor Hicks (“Just Once”)–Taylor started off slow and sluggish (it seems like he was just sort of talking the first few lines of the song), but built to something not bad at the end. But it was kind of disappointing overall–I think we’re seeing that Taylor can sing certain songs very well, but is kind of limited. He just doesn’t do anything special or memorable with a slow pop ballad like this. Of course, Paula had to stand up after Simon’s negative critique and yell, “We love you!” over and over because...actually, I shouldn’t be making fun of the mentally ill or drug-addicted. That’s not nice.

Chris Daughtry (“Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman”)–Wow, I thought this was the best of the night, and maybe one of the best performances of the season. I guess David Foster’s “lie down on the floor so you sing out of your diaphragm” trick really worked.. The first part of the song was good, and then he took up a notch in the second half. And he even smiled a little, again. I don’t really understand why, unlike everyone else, he got to have guys on either side of him playing guitar (shouldn’t Katharine have two guys fanning her or something?), but he kicked butt, so I can live with it.

By the way, in addition to Paula’s breakdown, the technical crew was having a meltdown too. Paula’s mike didn’t work when she was judging Katharine and they left the mikes of the judges on while they were doing the review at the end of the show, so we could hear them chattering. On second thought, they did catch Simon laughing at Paula’s crying, so they did do some excellent work.

So who’s going home? I hope it’s Pickler, but I’m not sure it will be. She’s got to be in the bottom three this week, though, and I think she will be joined by Taylor and Paris. I’m going to say Pickler going to go home (even though, yes, I know, she’s never been in the bottom three), although I have a bad feeling that Paris will. I hope not.

Fingerhut to bed!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The right one goes again

Perhaps Kellie Pickler was a little more deserving of the boot based just on last night, but based on the last few weeks, it was Ace's time to go--and once again, just like last week, America didn't let us down. And even though I've made fun of Ace for his overrated "false" and his lack of much personality, I must say I actually kind of liked what he said tonight during the "Bad Day" montage. It was something like "I've just always wanted to be able to take people out of their 9-5 lives, and if I can do that for a minute and a half on American Idol, I'm OK with that." It just showed he doesn't take himself too seriously, and knows what American Idol is all about.

Anyway, of course once again the American Idol producers demonstrated that they enjoy embarrasing their contestants with the way they forced Taylor to pick which group was the bottom three. Two years ago, they did it to George Huff, and since he was such an innocent guy, he just followed directions and picked the wrong group. Last year, Bo went and stood right in the middle of the groups, which was pretty cool. Taylor couldn't do that this year because Ryan was standing right in the middle, so he did the best he could-move towards one group but don't commit until Ryan starts talking. Then when Ryan starts talking, switch sides if it sounds like you're wrong. I guess it was the best he could do under the circumstances.

As for the bottom three itself, Chris was obviously the biggest surprise, and I have no idea what it means for his chances--since he is one of the favorites. I guess I could sit here and try to analyze--you know, Bucky left and his votes went to Kellie and Mandisa's voters went to Katharine, but since we have no idea who votes, how they vote or what the standings are each week, such analysis would be somewhat useless--since it's really not based on any facts, just pure speculation on my part(then again, political pundits do that on TV every day.) I will, though, say Elliott's appearance in the top 4 (I presume Taylor was number one, but who knows) was interesting because of his repeated bottom three appearances. It seems like he's got some momentum, and I would think next week's theme of "greatest love songs" should be fine for him--and actually shouldn't be a problem for anyone, since it seems fairly wide open (unless Idol actually picked some list of their favorite love songs, in which case we might have problems.)

Finally, when they showed Andrea Bocelli in the clip for next week's theme, did anyone else get nervous that next week's theme was opera? It's still making me shudder.

Setting a high standard on Idol

With tonight’s theme of standards, I and many others figured that Paris, Katharine and Elliott should all do well tonight because their voices fit those types of songs well, while our four other singers could have varying degrees of trouble. Well, none of the former disappointed, but almost all of the others–emphasis on almost–did pretty well too. The only problem with that: It’s much more difficult to recap the show with so many good performances–less opportunities for jokes and discussion topics. I’ll try my best, but this may be shorter than usual.(I guess that means I’ll have even more time to work on writing a long, meandering post on the Duke lacrosse scandal, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while but haven’t because I can’t really figure out what exaclty to say.)

First of all, we had Rod Stewart, 61 years old, showing off his young baby–which is always interesting. And Rod seems to have once again traded in a beautiful blond wife for a younger model (I presume she has “hot legs,” but we didn’t get to see.) As for Rod Stewart singing standards, he’s done four of the albums, so obviously lots of people are buying them. But from what I’ve heard of them (admittedly not much), I’ve never completely understood their popularity. Sure, they’re great songs, but it doesn’t seem like the raspy voice of Rod Stewart is the right person to sing them. I’d rather hear him sing “Maggie May” and “Do You Think I’m Sexy” (and of course the classic “Love Touch”). But what do I know? As for Rod’s comments before the songs, they weren’t extraordinarily insightful, but kind of interesting and thoughtful. I did think he spent a little too much time marveling at the fact that the contestants were singing these particular songs (Rod, they had to! It was the theme!), but liked that he kept saying that he was out stealing cars or something at their age or whatever he was yammering about.

Chris Daughtry (“What A Wonderful World”)–So as Chris walked on stage, from the lighting it looked like he was wearing a muscle shirt, and I thought, “Wow, that’s an odd look for Chris on standards night.” Then I realized he was wearing a vest and felt really stupid. Anyway, I thought Chris did very well, and he even cracked a smile during his performance–somewhat appropriate, I suppose, if you’re singing about what a “wonderful world” it is. More importantly, he proved the doubters (one of which was me) wrong–he can sing something besides a rock song. And if Simon is going to take credit for getting Chris to do something different, then I’m going to also because I wrote something similar a week before Simon jumped on that bandwagon. (Yeah, I know, it’s not clear that Chris Daughtry is reading my blog, but you never know...) Of course, Chris had no choice but to step out of his box tonight–did Staind do an arrangement of “The Way You Look Tonight”? Did Scott Stapp ever sing “Mack the Knife”? Actually, I really hope not.

One other thing about Chris–on last week’s results show, he said that the reason he picked the obscure “Innuendo” last week, and continued to defy Simon’s advice to do something different, was because “his fans” expect him to do those types of (rockin, shouty) songs. Chris, you might want to remember Nadia Turner last year, a talented singer who said she picked obscure songs because that’s what “her fans” liked. Her fans liked those songs (which were obscure for a reason) so much she was quickly voted out.

Paris Bennett (“Foolish Things”)–So Paris has her 18th hairstyle of the season tonight, but she’s still got that same great, powerful voice, and she used it well tonight. She was in her element, and sounded great. As for Paula’s comment that she could put out an album of standards and it would “blow up,” I’m not so sure about that. Then again, Paula did make a video with a cartoon cat and it was a hit, so maybe Paula does know something about what sells.

Taylor Hicks (“You Send Me”)–So this week’s Ryan interview goes to Taylor to ask about his appearance on Saturday Night Live (and can Ryan really not mention the name of that show on Idol?) I did see it, and it was pretty funny–I don’t even remember what the guy playing Taylor was saying, but just having a guy with gray hair yelling “woo” and “soul patrol” a lot made me laugh.
Also interesting was that they bleeped Rod Stewart saying “balls.” So Simon can say a performance is “ballsy,” Kellie Pickler can ask “What’s a ballsy?” but Rod Stewart can’t say “balls.” Makes a lot of sense. Is this the FCC’s fault?

So like Randy and Simon, I intially thought, “This is just OK,” and that no one can sing this song like Sam Cooke can–because nobody has a voice like Sam Cooke. But, they’re right, once Taylor got to the bridge of the song, he got better, although I don’t think he was nearly as good as the “magic” that Simon felt. As for the big jazzy finish, I didn’t really love that–it reminded me of the South Park movie, when Cartman sings the big finish to the song about Kyle’s mom. Just a little too showy.

Elliott Yamin (“It Had to Be You”)–Even though he was in the bottom three last week, I think Elliott is starting to pick up a little momentum, judging from crowd reaction tonight (that, of course, means he’ll probably be kicked off this week). I thought Elliott was excellent tonight, even though the judges didn’t seem as impressed as they did with the first three performers. Paula said something about how Elliott was kind of like Michael Buble, but really more like Harry Connick, Jr., which I guess was a compliment–but I can’t really be sure since no one in America understood what she was talking about. As for Simon’s remark that he was “slightly concerned” for Elliott, if I was a conspiracy theorist–which I was just last week regarding Idol–I would say the way he made that comment seemed to be a signal: Hey, Elliott fans, he needs your support tonight. As for Simon’s criticism that Elliott was lacking in personality, that has been a problem with Elliott, but I thought tonight he showed more personality than he really had at any point yet during the season. And unfortunately, no interview of Elliott this week by Ryan before his song, so we don’t get to find out if he’s been eating bread for the past week.

Kellie Pickler (“Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”)–If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the judges are still hoping Kellie Pickler makes it far in this competition, because while they did criticize her tonight, I’ve seen Simon say a lot harsher things for performances better than that. Although admittedly she did start off the song well, it seemed like she got tired in the middle, her singing got flat, and then she wasn’t even in line with the music– which is just inexcusable. Did you catch that camera shot from the back of the judges late in her performance, when Simon just put his head down in what seemed like a “I can’t believe this is happening” reaction?

Of course, we can’t finish our discussion of Kellie without her weekly dumb comment. To be honest, I’m not going to beat her up over her failure to get Rod Stewart’s “do you have the words and the lyrics” joke because, well, should we really be surprised that Kellie didn’t get a joke based on the meanings of words when she doesn’t really seem to know the meaning of many words? This was like an advanced level test Rod Stewart was giving her. But my favorite part of Kellie’s appearance tonight was Paula’s comment that she “can’t wait for your acting career to begin.” Huh? Is this part of the American Idol contract now–that finalists get a movie? Does she have some roles in independent films already lined up? How do we even know she can act (other than the fact that, well, she must be acting because she can’t be that dumb....)? You know, I’m not even sure Kellie can read, so it’s going to be tough to get into acting.

Ace Young (“That’s All”)–I was pleasantly surprised by Ace’s performance tonight–he was much better than I thought he’d be. And he kept his falsetto to only a few seconds near the end of the song. I don’t know what Randy was talking about, but the idea that Ace should sing “a whole song in false had me hiding under my bed in fear–and sounds like a ticket home. Does Randy not remember that horrible mostly-falsetto performance of that Michael Jackson song that Ace did in the semifinals? As for Ace’s ponytail, I really don’t have much to day–I just thought it needed to be mentioned for the records.

Katharine McPhee (“Someone to Watch Over Me”)–Tonight was certainly Katharine’s night to shine. She took an old classic and sang it beautifully, and of course looked fabulous too. Did it make everyone else look like amateurs? Well, I think Simon was exaggerating a little, but she probably was the best of the night. As for Paula’s ramblings that she was seeing Katharine again for the first time or whatever, I wish someone would tell her how foolish she sounds (actually, Simon indicates it by his snide remarks and facial expressions, and she doesn’t listen.) And here’s a weird coincidence–Mimi Rogers was in the audience tonight, and she starred in the movie “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

So Randy tonight was raving about how much better everyone was tonight than in recent weeks. Here’s why, Randy: They were singing classic songs, that have been sung by all kinds of great singers over the years and stood the test of time. Compare that to the kind of songs we heard in songs of this century and country weeks, most of which we’ll never hear next year, let alone 50 years from now. And while Queen wrote some great songs, many are sort of stylized and are tough to be duplicated by any old singer. So Randy, don’t stay up too late wondering how everyone got better; a good theme cures a lot of problems on American Idol.

Who will go home? Pickler should, but she won’t. I think Ace will–just like Bucky, he’ll leave after one of his better performances. Who will join him in the bottom? I’ll guess Elliott–who hasn’t built that fan base up enough yet–and how about Kellie Pickler for her two bad performances in a row.

Good morning, everybody.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bucky no longer under pressure

It came after arguably his best performance of the competition, but I can't really argue with Bucky's ouster from tonight's Idol. Sure, Ace was much worse last night, but Bucky probably should have been eliminated a couple weeks ago.

Otherwise, for those who were at a seder or otherwise occupied and didn't set their VCR, you didn't miss that much. The last few weeks the results shows have been better than in past years because they've actually been bringing in actual artists to peform their songs--which means the eliminations, which could be done in 45 seconds, are only drawn out to 15 minutes instead of 30. But tonight, they had an hour and Queen didn't stop by to perform, so they wasted time by showing videos of all the Idols' family members and friends saying hello and talking about how proud they are of them, etc. (For those of you on the Elliott Yamin Jewish watch, Elliott was pretty emotional after the message from his mother was played, and I thought, "Oh, he must be a little more emotional because he's not home for Passover seder tonight with the rest of his family." Then they showed his mom and what appeared to be much of his family in the audience, so I guess I was reading too much into that. But it did look like that his mother, in the film clip, was wearing Hamsa earrings. If anyone else noticed this, or didn't and thinks I'm insane, please leave a comment.)

We also got the entire bottom three singing their songs from last night, so Elliott sang "Somebody to Love" (great), Bucky sang "Fat-Bottomed Girls" (enjoyable) and Ace did "We Will Rock You" (ugh). And we got the return of the medley, which was generally pretty bad and hard to see, since they split the screen to show us "highlights" of the season that went along with the songs they were singing. So we got to see Lisa Tucker playing the guitar as they sang "Another One Bites the Dust" instead of actually seeing current Idols singing it. This was dumb.

The medley was, though, the most interesting part of the show because it did demonstrate once again that Simon is almost always correct (although last night's Pickler incident had me calling that into question a bit.) He told Chris last night that he should have entertained the crowd with one of Queen's great songs, instead of picking an obscure one in the same style he always does, and he might have had an indelible moment. And for 20 seconds or so, Chris sang one of Queen's great songs, "Under Pressure," and sounded fantastic. It really could have been a special moment. Oh well, maybe Clive Davis will make him sing it in the final three or something.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Quick Wed. morning update

Hmmm...While I thought Kellie's Bohemian Rhapsody performance was horrid, it seems there's kind of a split out there among the reviews of the show I read on the Internet every Wednesday. Some agreed with me, but others are agreeing with the judges that it wasn't bad (maybe I was premature on my "fix is in" comments, but based on Simon's track record, I still don't understand how he could have possibly liked that..) What did everyone else think of Pickler's performance? Please leave a comment here or on the post below! And Happy Passover and Easter!

Who will bite the dust tonight?

I’m sorry for not posting more on Idol as I promised last week, but let me go through some of what I would have written before we get to the show. I thought the selection of Queen songs was a little bit strange–until I saw the Best Buy circular in the newspaper on Sunday advertising a new Queen greatest hits album on sale today, and it all started to make sense. Or was it just a crazy coincidence? Couldn’t be...Anyway, it was an odd choice because so many of Queen’s most well-known, popular songs don’t seem to lend themselves to Idol, either because they don’t allow a singer to show their voice off (We Will Rock You, Another One Bites the Dust), or they’re just sort of odd (Fat Bottomed Girls, Killer Queen, Bicycle). And then there’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but I’ll wait to discuss that when I get to Kellie Pickler. Anyway, it turned out to be a decent theme, because Queen’s catalogue of songs that I wasn’t as familiar with had enough good Idol-type songs to put together the best show we’ve seen in three weeks (although that really is faint praise.) I have no idea why someone didn’t pick one of Queen’s best songs, “Under Pressure.” Because it was a duet and they figured it would be extra pressure on them? “Under Pressure” seems like the kind of song that you could show off your voice a little, but what do I know? I only watch the show.

I also wanted to note the interesting information gleaned from last week’s “let’s split everyone into three groups” results show–that it seems we’ve learned that the frontrunners are Taylor, Chris and Kellie. Now, it’s true that no one said they were the top three–I’m just inferring that from the fact that they were sent back to the couch first. And the producers manipulate so many things on this show, one could certainly argue that the two non-bottom three groups were just randomly assembled. I think some people even think that the two non-losing members of the bottom three are just selected for maximum shock effect. But I’ve been checking a Web site called, which predicts each week’s vote by using some sort of computer program to measure busy signals for the various phone lines of the contestants. I have no idea how it works, but the site has been right on the money lately, predicting all of the bottom three singers last week and predicting Katharine McPhee’s surprise bottom three appearance the week before (In fact, this guy’s Web site could actually wipe out all the conspiracy theories that the producers play around with the results.) Just as interesting, Dial Idol has from week to week consistently had Taylor, Chris and Kelllie, in various orders, as its top three as well. I’m not surprised by Taylor or Chris–they both have performed well vocally and have distinctive styles that people have liked from the beginning of their appearances of the show–but kind of surprised by Kelllie’s inclusion, since I don’t think anyone could say that she’s anywhere near as talented vocally as Paris, Katharine or Mandisa For Kellie, it seems to be all about personality and a touching and appealing backstory (which if you believe some Internet reports, may not be totally true. I won’t get into that now.) It should be interesting if Kellie can continue to do so well mostly on personality alone. (Oh, and one other thing: last week I made a typo which indicated that Ace was not single. I meant he was “now single” and just wanted to correct that since a commenter pointed it out. And the fact that I just spent two sentences writing about Ace Young’s personal life makes me cry.)

Now, finally to the singers:

But first, we see Fantasia in the audience–I’m not sure if we should make any assessments about the state of her career from her appearance–or from the fact that they seated her right in front so everyone could see her the whole night as the judges gave their critiques–but I will. I don’t think it’s going quite as well as many hoped, and that “Baby Mama” song she did is weirder than any Queen song. To be fair, though, Kelly Clarkson didn’t really come into her own until her second album, so give her time. Then again, I don’t think Fantasia was ever as popular as Kelly Clarkson was on Idol, so it’s probably not a good comparison...I really need to stop going off on these tangents.

Bucky Covington (“Fat Bottomed Girls”)–I wasn’t expecting much from this, but it really wasn’t bad at all. It was the right kind of song for him, and it was probably one of his better performances. It still wasn’t that great, of course, and I can’t say I’d miss him if he were eliminated, but he gave it his own style and made it enjoyable. Oh, and those funky microphone flips Bucky does when he moves it from one hand to another are kind of cool. But Bucky, after seemingly becoming easier to understand in recent weeks, returned to his Boomhauer roots tonight. Does anyone know what he said to Ryan before saying “take what you are given”? It sounded like he said something about jumping on Freddie Mercury, but that doesn’t make much sense.

Ace Young (“We Will Rock You”)–So Ace said he wants his song to sound like “Ace doing Queen.” After hearing that, I was trembling so badly that I could barely press stop on my VCR remote so I could go into the bathroom to throw up. The guys from Queen didn’t seem too thrilled with the whole “Ace doing Queen” thing, either, considering that they basically told Ace they didn’t want to play the song the funk-inflected way he wanted them to play it. Of course, they did also say that Ace was an “interactive person,” which I suppose was designed as a compliment, but kind of puzzled me. What does it mean to be an interactive person–that he carries on conversations? Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from this performance, and didn’t get much, although it wasn’t the complete horror that I feared. It’s, as I said before, not a song that really shows off one’s vocals and seems particularly ill-suited for Ace since he doesn’t come across as a rocker. It kind of reminded me of Constantine’s ill-fated, horrendous performance of Nickelback’s “You Remind Me” last year, although not quite that bad. I didn’t pick up all the tempo changes that Paula apparently did–but Paula hears a lot of strange things in her head–and didn’t understand why she thought this was a risk. It’s only a risk because it’s not really a good song choice for Idol. And why did Ace not even sing portions of the “We Will Rock You” chorus during the song, letting the backup singers fill in during parts? That’s the whole backbone of the song–how can you let someone else do that? But at least Ace thought he “rocked.”

Kellie Pickler (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)–I have so much to say here I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I would never have even expected a song like this–with its many tempo and style changes–to even be sung on American Idol until Constantine performed it last year and stunned everyone by knocking it out of the park. So with the song having lost its Idol virginity, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that someone would want to do it on Queen theme night, even though I really couldn’t see anyone in this year’s batch of contestants being able to come close to Constantine (not that Constantine was necessarily more vocally talented than all of this year’s contestants, but he had the right combination of particular vocal skills and audacity to pull it off.) Unfortunately, the woman who was actually rumored a couple weeks ago to be dating Constantine (who knows if that had anything to do with it) decided to perform it. And it was awful. Simon said “a lot of people will think it was hideous,” and I’m one of those people. Midway through the song, I was laughing out loud at the train wreck I was watching. Kellie looked terrible (although I’ll admit, the stilletto-heeled boots were kind of hot) and sang flat and off-key most of the song–although I guess the rock third of the song was sort of OK. Just as horrifying, though, was when we got to the judges–and they liked it! Even Simon! What were they listening to? Apparently they weren’t listening to the music, they were listening to the buzz about Idol.

Kellie Pickler is the most talked about, polarizing contestant on this show right now–there are Web sites out there solely devoted to getting her eliminated from the show because people she’s embarrassing Albermarle, North Carolina with her dumb rube act. (Speaking of which, does anyone believe that a, 21-year-old woman has never heard the expression “it shouldn’t work on paper” as Kellie appeared to not comprehend last night when Simon uttered it? She actually said “He has the weirdest terminology.” No, Kellie, you have the weirdest lack of vocabulary.) There are long blog postings devoted to analyzing how true her hard-luck story is. And there are lots of people searching for pictures of Kellie in her two-piece high-school prom dress (which sort of makes Kellie’s naive, innocent shtick ring a little false. Quick digression: the prom date of a friend of mine in high school had a two-piece prom dress, and when we were at his house to take pictures, his father couldn’t stop asking her, “Do you need a sweater?”)

It’s obvious that with this much discussion about Kellie, the powers that be with this show want to keep her around. And the judges’ comments tonight sure made it seem like the fix is in. No, I don’t think the producers are going to just ignore the voting totals and keep Kellie around even if she’s last in the voting. But things on this show can be manipulated in so many ways, and judges always giving you positive comments is one big way to do it. I would hope that Simon wouldn’t go along with giving someone good marks just because the show will be more popular–but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to believe after he liked that monstrosity. And although I haven’t checked the Internet message boards, I guarantee I’m not the only one who smells something fishy going on here. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

But if you had any doubt about the quality of Kellie’s performance, all you had to do was see the reaction of Queen guitarist Brian May to Kellie’s rehearsal. The only thing he could say was that Kellie was “brave,” which might have been meant as a compliment but wasn’t much of one. And did you see May’s face at the end of the clip? He looked like a beaten man, like his dog had just died. To quote Simon Cowell on Elton John Night a couple years ago: “Someone just threw his TV out the window.”

Chris Daughtry (“Innuendo”)–Queen did like Chris, and I thought he was pretty good, although he didn’t exactly go out of his comfort zone tonight. Simon is correct in a sense, that Chris is “indulgent” and just does the songs he likes to do, but it does seem like the audience does like Chris doing those kinds of songs. He’s in the top three, after all. I too would like to see Chris shake it up a little more, but I also thought this was one of Chris’s better performances, intense and vocally pretty powerful.

So then we had Ryan ask Randy about song choice and Randy said whatever song you picked doesn’t matter, “just sing it.” Amazing. I believe Randy said song choice was the most important factor in Idol in February. Does anyone point out this stuff to him?

Katharine McPhee (“Who Wants to Live Forever”)–Katharine has a nice voice and a number of other very attractive attributes, but it seems like she hasn’t been able to put the whole package together into the great Idol performer I was expecting her to become. And tonight, once again, she almost got there, but didn’t really do it. The song just seemed, as Randy said, a little “too big” for her at times, and there were just so many long, held notes that it was sort of tiring. She was one of the better performers of the night, but nothing special. And I kind of liked that other song she was going to do--particularly that dance she was doing along with it.

Elliott Yamin (“Somebody to Love”)–That is a difficult song, and I thought Elliott did it pretty well–although he was being drowned out at the beginning by the band. And I thought he showed a little more charisma tonight, although that may have just been because the song is really good and made me more interested in his performance. It also seemed like Elliott did a Freddie Mercury tribute at the end with that arm flourish, which was cool.

Taylor Hicks (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”)–Right off the bat, I’ll say Taylor’s performance was a lot better than the version done by that crooner guy, David Radford, back in the semi-finals. Of course, David Radford was terrible, so I guess I’m once again giving faint praise. Overall, I thought Taylor was mediocre and disappointing. Yeah, as Randy said, we like to see Taylor dancing and having fun. But we like to see that joined with great, exciting singing-like the Doobie Brothers song he did a few weeks ago–and he didn’t give us that tonight. He just gave us an average vocal performance and a lot of running around frantically.

Paris Bennett (“The Show Must Go On”)–Like Katharine, this was another big, showy song that may have been a little too big for the performer. Paris had more trouble than Katharine, though, and she was drowned out, too, by the band–which, combined with Elliott, makes me think this was a band problem, not a singer problem. We did get to see, what, the fourteenth new Paris hairstyle, though.

I have, once again, absolutely no idea who is going to go home or who will even be in the final three. If there’s any justice, it will be Pickler, but I don’t see that happening. So I’ll just say Ace, Paris and Bucky, and predict that Ace will go home–but I really don’t have much of a reason for it.

Fingerhut out, and Passover in!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No more "Mandiva"

At least we won't have to see that clip of her telling Simon she hurt him ever again. Or hear that horrible "Mandiva" nickname. But even though I'm not her biggest fan, it was too early for Mandisa to go. Ace, Bucky, Kellie--all of them are probably inferior singers. But this happens every year at least once on American Idol, and I was glad that of the bottom three, it was Mandisa and not Paris or Elliott, who I belive have more potential.

The problem with Mandisa was that she really could sing only one type of song--a big, over-the-top, belt-it-out song. She didn't do much at all with that Shania Twain song she sang this week, and it was a horrible song choice--Paula suggested that Mandisa show her "vulnerability," which was actually not bad advice and a polite way of saying, "Sing a softer song." There are lots of country songs that qualify. So she picks a gimmicky song that doesn't show vulnerability, and doesn't even show her belting, but just talking a lot. Not a smart choice. But what might have been more damaging to Mandisa was last week's choice. She had six years of songs to pick from (admittedly, not a great crop of songs, but still plenty of songs), and she picks a gospel song that very few people have heard. I can't believe there are very many people who want the American Idol winner to be singing gospel, and showing the country that's what you might do probably isn't a good move. (Yes, Carrie Underwood sings about Jesus taking the wheel on her album, but she didn't do it on the show and it's a country song, not a gospel song, so it doesn't matter that much.) Then there were her comments last week about "lifestyle" last week before her song that some took to be homophobic. I read an article about this, and didn't really understand the controversy--I found her comments pretty cryptic, but you know how the Internet works. And of course some would blame her departure on the fact that America doesn't want to see an overweight woman win. I'm sure that's some kind of factor in all this, but if it was such a big deal, how'd she make it to the final nine?

There was lots more to talk about from tonight's episode--from the revelation of next week's theme of Queen, to an confirmation of who the frontrunners are, to an red alert that the Website is doing a really good job of predicting the voting. I'll get into all of this in a post very soon, so come back later this week.

What happened to Kenny Rogers?

Two weeks ago, I was writing about how exciting it was to have so many good singers on American Idol, because the competition was completely wide open. Tonight, the competition is still wide open, because those singers maybe aren’t quite as good as everyone thought. It’s amazing what a couple bad theme weeks can do. This week certainly wasn’t as bad as last week, but I won’t be looking to download clips of tonight’s performances from the Internet or anything (not that I do that, it’s just a metaphor I’m using). I was thinking about writing a few paragraphs speculating on why I can remember only one really bad theme week from seasons one and two (the horrifying Diane Warren week in the second season), but way too many from the past three seasons, but it’s late, so I’ll just say that I’m glad country week is over–so I don’t have to worry about the threat of it later this spring.

In fact, much more disturbing than tonight’s theme was tonight’s guest star. What happened to Kenny Rogers? That must have been him, because it certainly sounded like his voice, but that really didn’t look like the Kenny Rogers I remember. Did he have some bad cosmetic surgery? Was he wearing one of those masks all the characters in Mission: Impossible 2 wore? Was he a Kenny Rogers impersonator? That wasn’t the effects of aging–he didn’t even look like the same person.
In the same vein, whatever happened to Kenny Rogers’s Roasters? We had here in Rockville that opened and closed in about ten minutes, and I haven’t seen or heard of the place since. Was it Kenny’s appearance on the Conan O’Brian show years ago, when he couldn’t tell in a blind taste test what was his chicken and what was Boston Chicken, what killed the restaurant? (Actually, the best part of that appearance was when Conan switched the conversation to the side dishes, and Kenny interjected, “That’s where we stand out, the sides” or something.) OK, I’ll stop rambling and get to the show.

First of all, why does Randy embarrass himself and boo Simon when he’s introduced? And what’s going on with Randy–he had that stomach-stapling surgery a couple years ago, and it looks like he’s gaining the weight back....

Taylor Hicks (“Take Me Home, Country Roads”)–I loved this song when I was about 10, but hearing it now, it doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as I remember it. Or maybe it was just Taylor’s version of it, which just came across as kind of boring and totally missing the excitement and personality that Taylor usually brings to a song. And the fiddle seemed to even sort of drown him out in one part of the song. Not a particularly good night for one of the favorites.

Mandisa (“Any Man of Mine”)–So obviously Mandisa didn’t read Robin Givhan’s fashion column in the Washington Post last week, which, like I did last week, advised Mandisa that tight jeans weren’t a good look for her. Randy said he only like the last five seconds of the song–I didn’t think it was quite that bad, but he was right in that Mandisa’s singing took a while to get going. While she kicked it into gear and showed off her voice at the end, it still wasn’t all that compelling a performance. And I was glad to see that Rachel Bilson, Summer from “The O.C.,” has good sense and good taste. When she showed her on camera after Mandisa’s performance, unlike the crazy people sitting next to her, she was applauding, not giving a standing ovation. And what is it with the standing ovations on American Idol? Come on, American Idol audience, shouldn’t a standing ovation mean something?

Then we had more of the weekly pissing match between Ryan and Simon, during which Simon made a comment about Ryan trying to “look like someone out of Desperate Housewives,” a reference to the news that Ryan is reportedly dating Teri Hatcher (and I guess, if you believe Simon, growing that heavy stubble/sort-of beard so he looks more like the plumber guy.) Ryan and Teri were photographed in US Weekly kissing last week, but–and I looked this up just for you all–the latest news is that Teri told Access Hollywood she is “not attached” to Ryan. I’m not sure whether that means it’s “Seacrest out” or just “Seacrest isn’t in yet.”

Elliott Yamin (A Garth Brooks song I don’t feel like looking up the title to)–About 15 seconds into the song, Elliott tugged his right ear–does that have something to do with his hearing loss, or was it his tribute to Carol Burnett? Or did he deal with this already and I just forgot? Anyway, his vocals were nice, the song wasn’t all that exciting, and it was an overall solid but unspectacular performance.

Paris Bennett–(“How Do I Live?”)–Wow, Paula Abdul’s opinion was actually booed by the audience and Simon was cheered–that may be a sign of the apocalpyse. Even scarier, I think, is that I agreed with what I think Paula was saying (it’s hard to be sure what exactly she means.) I want to see Paris singing fun songs, and so watching her sing a sad ballad like this doesn’t seem quite right. Then again, I suppose occasionally she has to sing a slow song, and she wasn’t bad tonight. Was she a “young Dionne Warwick,” as Simon said? Please. Apparently, the country music was giving Simon temporary brain damage.

Ace Young (“I Want to Cry”)–I always thought Keith Urban was an R&B singer because of his name, but I was reminded once again tonight that he’s a country singer.And I enjoyed his song and Ace’s version of it. I’m no big fan of Ace, but this was his best performance in weeks. I could have done without the squealing and wailing at the end of the song, though. For some reason, Paula and Randy like this and call it his trademark falsetto. I just call it unpleasant and, as Neil Sedaka might say, anything but ear-delicious. It was also interesting that Ryan announced Ace is now single–he was reportedly dating Essence Atkins, a very attractive actress from one of those comedies on UPN that I’ve never watched. I wonder if this is a ploy to attract votes after his repeated appearances in the bottom three.

Kellie Pickler (“Fancy”)–So Ryan gave Kellie a chance to respond to the critics who say her apparent dumbness–or as Ryan called it, naivete (although pronouncing it naive-eh-tee)–is all just an act. She said she really didn’t know what calamari was–and I can believe that–and that, you know, salmon has the letter L in it so that’s how she thought it was pronouced. Well, the North Carolina schools, at least when I lived there, were not highly ranked compared to the rest of the country, so maybe no one taught her how to say that word–but that’s a little more difficult to believe. She didn’t, of course, talk about the remark that really started the speculation–her “what’s a ballsy” comment–but Ryan Seacrest was doing the interview, so what should I expect? Maybe next week. Anyway, so Kellie did her thing–that up-tempo, rockin’ country thing with a little bit of growl near the end. And she worked the camera with her eyebrows, and looked like her breasts were going to pop out of her shirt at some point during the song. But it just didn’t really work for me. Maybe it was the song I didn’t like, but she just came across as kind of an ordinary singer. As Randy would say, “I just wasn’t feeling her tonight.”

Chris Daughtry (Some other Keith Urban song)–I agree with the judges–it was really nice to see Chris do something different (even though the judges, at various times, have encouraged him not to do anything different.) Having said that, while the vocals weren’t bad, the song and the performance were boring. But, hey, it was a different kind of boring than the boring that Chris had been giving us the past couple weeks, so that’s progress. And Chris, would it kill you to smile once in a while during a performance?

Katharine McPhee (“Bringing Out the Elvis In Me”)–Simon was right–what a weird song. But it did kind of work for Katharine. I didn’t reallly like the Elvis part, but she handled it fine vocally. And I did like the rest of the song, and how Katharine sang it in a lower register. I think that performance should keep her far from the bottom three, but you never know.

Then we had a commercial for getting ringtones of American Idol performances on your phone. Can you even imagine getting a ring tone of just Katharine singing the “Bringing out the Elvis in me” part of that song. And I thought the guy in my office who had that Black-Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get it Started” song had an annoying ringer.

Bucky Covington (“Best I Ever Had”)–Funny, Kenny Rogers told Bucky that a lot of people may not have heard this song, and yet as Bucky sang it I realized I had heard it, and I really don’t listen to country music. Did someone else do this song, or does Kenny not know what he’s talking about? So, although Bucky was sort of drowned out by the music at one point, I thought this was a pretty good performance for him–maybe his best. It still wasn’t anything special but not bad.

Picking a bottom three is really tough this week, since no one was really bad, and some of those I would think would normally be at risk sang well for them. Let’s guess an all-male bottom three of Elliott (he sang early, it was solid but nothing special, he still hasn’t solved his charisma problem) and Bucky and Ace (because they’ve been in the bottom three before and I have no idea who else to pick). And I’ll say Bucky is going home, but I’m sure I’ll be wrong.

And please leave comments!

Fingerhut out!