Tuesday (Jan. 27) night's "American Idol" wasn't a very good showcase for Jacksonville's best and brightest.
Rather than introducing viewers to a dozen potential Top 12 candidates, the episode wasted quality time on Ryan Seacrest's golf-cart adventures, alligator footage and a series of extended packages with losers.
Just to pad the quality, in fact, the episode's finest singer was brought back in for a gratuitous second appearance.
Hollywood can't get here soon enough...
[More after the bump...]
The "Idol" producers need to do a better job with the old bait-and-switch. You can usually guess 99 times out of 100 which contestants are going to be awful and which are going to be great just based on their build-up.
When are we going to see the single mother bringing her family out of poverty still grieving the death of her uncle who shrieks like a leprous banshee? Why would that be cruel but the show's ongoing mockery of hillbillies and the mentally handicapped isn't? At least that would keep things surprising.
Instead, Tuesday's episode brought us people like Naomi Sykes. We've learned over the years that when somebody walks into the room with boundless annoying energy, they're probably going to be awful. We've learned over the years that when somebody walks into the room and claims that they've been compared to Mariah Carey, they're probably going to be awful. We've learned over the years that when somebody comes accompanied by a friend who only wants to sit on a supporting (i.e. non-Simon) judge's lap, they're probably going to be awful. We've learned over the years that whenever somebody boasts about their ability to hit the high notes, they're probably going to be awful.
So Naomi Sykes was awful. She produced plenty of weirdness, as first her friend sat on Randy's lap, then Paula sat on Simon's lap and finally Kara called Ryan into the room and cupped his man-boobs as he sat on her lap. But she didn't hit any notes, which is usually what counts on a show like this.
And who really expected meek -and-mild George Ramirez to be any good? Allegedly academic wonks are almost never successful. Bearded goofballs who look like they're just counting down the days til the Phish reunion tour are even less likely to advance.
If the freaks and geeks fit the same archetypes, in order to entertain us, their voices have to be uniquely bad. But how many uniquely bad voices are there are after eight seasons? We've heard all manner of tone-deaf and Naomi and George weren't different tone deaf from previous incarnations.
One loser I guess I appreciated was Darin Darnell. The producers had him set up to be on archetype, the excitable lunatic who bounces off the walls and then comes in and does a dreadful rendition of a ballad. We've seen that a few times before. Darin through everybody for a loop, though, by getting emotional at the elimination of a waiting room buddy and instead he became the over-emotional lunatic who can't get a melody out through the tears.
Emotion in a reject is a good thing. That's just quality TV. Emotion in a potentially strong candidate is less ideal. Look at Michael Perrelli, with his Guarini-fro and his bandana and his guitar. The kid had a decent pure voice and, from his clip package, it looked like he was even better with his instrument in hand. Last year we saw a long run for Jason Castro, a singer incapable of holding the stage without his guitar, so there was precedent. But Michael's melt-down, tears and rationalizations gave the correct impression that he couldn't stand up to any pressure at all. He was sent backing based on what could probably be called the Josiah Leming Rule, which states that since even the most level-headed of people can go a little bit crazy with the stakes of Hollywood, letting somebody through who's already imbalanced is running a serious risk. At least Michael has his Miracle Elixir to fall back on.
What? Nobody wants to play along with my "Sweeney Todd" joke? Sigh.
So much time was spent on people who didn't make it that it's no wonder Anne-Marie Boskovich was brought back a second time. In her first appearance, she told Kara how much she loved her and sang several lines from her songs.
End scene. The girl's going on. No question about it. Great tone. Great range.
But Simon has to whip out some chestnut about her not having a star persona, not being confident enough. So, 50 minutes later (in episode time), Anne-Marie returns. She's taken over her sweater, exposing her shoulders and accentuating her breasts in a tight white top. She's put on some eyeliner and changed her shoes. The result? Magic star persona, Simon thinks. Let that be a lesson, young ladies. Of course Anne-Marie made it through, since she was plenty pretty and plenty good enough before her "makeover."
Actually, I take back what I said about the hyper-exciteable constants never making it through. Joshua Ulloa, who kept grabbing his crotch, pulling up his top and inserting unnecessary runs into "Let's Get It On" got four inexplicable "Yes" votes. I think his goal was to work against the expectations of the judges and since he was less of a spazz than they feared he would be, they put him through to Hollywood. I don't get it.
I also didn't get the unanimous support for Sharon Wilbur and her shih tzu Sascha. It looked like the male judges were captivated by her cuteness, which to my mind wasn't worth all the fawning. Feeling like they were left out, Paula decided to lean in and kiss Kara. The kiss, which FOX has been promoting for weeks, was a dud. That whole "Lead with the hand covering the mouth" thing is so third grade, though it was enough to disorient Kara enough that she spent the next couple minutes readjusting her top.
Paula also threw her own temper tantrum storming away from the table after being ignored with the partial declaration, "Now that there are four judges we forget..." She returned long enough to sign off on the drag queen-y Julissa Veloz, who was identified as Miss Florida Latina USA, even though she was only a semi-finalist.
Oh and I guess I should quickly mention Jasmine Murray, whose rendition of Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" was simple and pure. I think I liked Anne-Marie more, but if I had a hunch as to which singer is more likely to advance deep into the show, it would be Jasmine.
What'd y'all think of Jacksonville?