American Idol makes a lukewarm return

by Ruth Anne Boulet

I’ve had a workout, eaten some dinner, and am comfortably set up on my couch. I have, optimistically, not selected an alcoholic beverage. Yet. I leave that option open.

There’s been a lot of buzz this season about just how far Idol will fall. Am I expecting it to fall? Oh yes. But you never know — maybe Steven Tyler will have some kind of witty insight. Maybe Jennifer Lopez is really a Rhodes scholar. Or maybe not. There’s always Randy.

The show doesn’t start off well. The opening “controversy” montage is commanding us to remember the shock & awe of the new judging panel. It was VERY controversial! It was VERY shocking! SHOCKING! And the audience was VERY EXCITED about the new judges. People almost passed out. Just like Ferris at 31 Flavors. Seriously.

Hopefully they’ll never mention the controversy again.

Steven Tyler looks like he’s drinking a glass of wine at 11am. Don’t get me wrong, if I can get away with having a glass of wine at 11am, I take it too. I just never get away with it when I’m working. That’s a shame.

First two people out the gate make it through to Hollywood. The first was ‘opera girl’ from season’s past. She was great, but they were just ok with her. Ok enough to send her through, which is what matters. Then a dude made it through, then another girl. It’s like a freaking love fest in the first 10 minutes. Yawn.

Can we get to some uncomfortable crappy singing? Thank God, we can! A girl from the Ivory Coast ‘sings’ Madonna’s Dress You Up. It’s very French. Kathy, my couch cohort, thinks she sounds like Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle. Steven Tyler tells her to reign that wild horse in. She’s the first to get the dreaded no and it just about kills Jennifer Lopez.

Back from break we have to do a Jersey Shore ‘tribute.’ Good Lord in Heaven above, can we escape that show? And I enjoy the train wreck that is Jersey Shore. A Jersey girl that teaches us how to tease one’s hair can’t stop crying because Jennifer Lopez is there. She also has silver stars on her bikini top. She’s better than her outfit would suggest.

Hey, decent singers of both genders — cover your chest. You will be taken more seriously if you do.

Next up is a bad singer montage. Steven is diplomatic in sending people home. Jennifer has a problem saying no. I have a feeling this will be a recurring theme.

SAD MUSIC ALERT! SAD MUSIC ALERT! First ‘tragic story’ of the night — an auditioner who was paralyzed for awhile. He’s ok now though. Not entirely tragic. Of course, he’s good, if one of those slow drawn-out singers. Tempo kid, tempo. Slow does not equal serious. That’s my only note for you.

Steven Tyler dirty old man montage. Many of these girls are younger than your daughters, Steven. Icky. At least when Simon Cowell stroked his moobs while considering a contestant, I never got the impression he was doing it intentionally.

Time for the Dork featurette. Of course he can’t sing — he looks like a dork, but seems sweet. It seems especially cruel, in this focus on ‘good’ singers to give humiliation time to an ok kid. Can’t they show a really horrible singer that also seems like a total douchebag? Then the humiliation seems justified. Steven Tyler asks another bad singer if he ate paint chips as a child. The on-set crew thinks that’s hilarious. There seems to be a lot more off-camera laughing along than in years past. It’s better than a laugh track, I suppose.

American Idol is an equal opportunity humiliator. Next girl up loves Britney Spears. She wants to be the next Awkward American Idol. She also wants to be the first showtune popstar. Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli apparently didn’t do that already. She cries so much that she doesn’t seem all that stable. Kathy thinks she’ll be the first Smoking Gun mugshot. I think that’s too easy. I think it’ll be the almost Eagle Scout & really shock all of us.

Time for the super-sweet girl! She wears a lot of pink! She makes a ton of video updates! Everything should be documented! Most 16-year-olds don’t want things this bad! She sings Midnight Train to Georgia. I don’t think she understands anything that song is saying. She can’t. She’s 16 3/4. While I like the song, I also completely and utterly hate what it says. “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine.”

WTF? Listen, buddy, I have a life & friends & a paycheck and my own thing. Unless you can sell me on the move, I’m not going. Oh, I’m just supposed to go because that’s where you’ll be? Sorry, that won’t cut it. After a week of not having any friends or a life outside of you I’ll be ready to go crazy. So instead of domestic violence, I’m going to stay with my support system. Thanks.

She’s still auditioning! Still chipper! She wants to appeal to the boys, but she wants to be a lady! That’s why she’s only showing a little leg. Yo! Yo! Dawg! She’s going to Hollywood. She’s not bad, but I will want to slap her if she’s on more than two more episodes. Get out before your family goes all Archuleta on you, innocent one.

Next sad story! This one actually is sad, because the contestant’s family had to leave Kosovo during the breakup of Yugoslavia. They were the lucky ones; they won a lottery to get a new life in the US. Of course she’s good. I am glad that by & large American Idol doesn’t give the sob story without also giving us a decent singer.

A signing waitress is up next. The Kobe beef burgers are the best, as well as the cookies & cream shake. She does a pretty good rendition of God Bless The Child. The judges tell her to start dressing & acting like a star cause she is one. Steven Tyler says someone’s gotta take her clothes shopping.

An Oomplaloompa sings Hey There Delilah.  A woman screams I’m A Believer. They are both dispatched. Idol continues to hype the ‘unbelievable’ performance of Yoji. He seems confused when Jennifer Lopez asks his story. He thinks & says he’s been impersonating Michael Jackson since before he was born. His song choice? Party in the USA. With a Michael Jackson dance break in the middle of it. Apparently they decided to have all of the horrible contestants also sing Party in the USA. One gets drowned out by a yacht. That’s a good thing. Yoji was not that unbelievable. He didn’t even wear a hat with a huge feather in it.

Staten Island girl likes flowers in her hair. Flowers that are not a color found in nature. Olive green. Bright turquoise. Her dad had cancer, but he’s fine. Not that sad, Idol. Glad he’s ok, but come on. Almost everyone has had someone in their family with cancer. Sad is when they don’t get better. Or go bankrupt. I mean, glad he’s better, but we’re really stretching the definition of tragedy here. She’s through to Hollywood.

Have I yet mentioned that I love my DVR and hope to never watch Idol in real time? I didn’t watch any commercials, and yet I still know that The Chicago Code is debuting Feb. 7. Time for the crying montage. Remember kids! Most people’s Idol dreams are crushed!

Last guy — with actual tragedy — lived in a shelter, dad was sick & lost his job, but yet they seem to be really positive.  He’s really positive and mature for a 16 year old. He sings Eleanor Rigby. I don’t know if it was the strongest song choice simply because it doesn’t seem to allow him to follow a melody. He does a Jason Mraz song next & they draw out his eventual awarding of a golden ticket.

Fifty-one people get golden tickets from New Jersey. That’s a ton of people. The sixteen year old tells us that anyone can do this. Yes, they can optimistic one. If they can sing. That’s kind of key.

Next up, New Orleans. I better see someone singing in drag. Maybe I’ll have a Hurricane at the ready.