Recap: 'American Idol' - The Hollywood Round begins...
We've survived seven episodes of auditions and if we scratch our heads and think really hard, we may even remember a few of the better contestants who shared their sob stories with us.
But now, it's the start of the Hollywood Round, when the scores can really change...
8:00 p.m. "Countless dreams will be tested," Ryan Seacrest warns up, before Randy Jackson raises the hyperbole level to 11 by declaring that the talent is "most definitely" the best talent the show has ever had, a claim then echoed by Seacrest. STOP RAISING MY EXPECTATIONS!
8:01 p.m. Double the talent, double the excitement (or something like that)... It's Hollywood Week!
8:01 p.m. Platitudes about Hollywood. Even though we're in Pasadena.
8:02 p.m. There were 327 people sent to Hollywood. That's... a lot.
8:02 p.m. Let's get down to business, please. The judges are here. Jennifer Lopez is determined to separate the girls from the women and the boys from the men and the girls from the boys and other various things.
8:03 p.m. Because Simon's off doing his own thing, Randy has to make the "Don't screw up" opening speech.
8:03 p.m. The singers begin in lines of 10 and then sing individually. They get no feedback and then the judges send people.
8:04 p.m. Brett Loewenstern, you remember him as the 16-year-old Ben Foster character with the frizzy red hair and the new-found self-confidence. Before he sings, we have to hear his story of bullying again. He does a very nice version of "Let It Be," probably better than we heard from him in New Orleans. Nine other people sing in Brett's group, but they don't have names. Brett and some girl named Symphony (plus at least one other even less relevant person) advances.
8:06 p.m. Also advancing are the annoying (but probably fairly talented) Rachel Zetita, amusingly named (and definitely talented) 15-year-old Thia Megia and Taylor Hicks With A Beard Casey Abrams.
8:08 p.m. Remember uber-chipper Victoria Huggins? She's not tamping down her goofiness, eagerly anticipating the group performances. Victoria's audition didn't impress me, but her big stage solo isn't bad and a few people seem to be clapping along. She could definitely be DiGarmo-esque. She's in a group with 9 other people who aren't worth introducing us to. But... TWIST! Victoria is one of three people from her group who's going home. "I feel special," Victoria insists, swearing that she's still North Carolina's American Idol. North Carolina has already issued a "no comment" on the issue.
8:14 p.m. James Durbin, who we just met yesterday, and Paris Tassin, who we met in New Orleans, break into tears as they remind us that this audition is about more than just themselves. Paris sings first and does an utterly forgettable Celine Dion cover, thin voiced and limited of range. James comes next, but not before we get a reminder of his Aspergers and Tourettes. He's got to find a way to sing without looking like he's in excruciating pain. He's also got to find a way to avoid doing the Adam Lambert upper-register runs every time. But he's very good.
8:17 p.m. Also in that group is Miss Teen USA Stormi Henley, who also isn't nearly good enough for this competition, except in terms of hotness. Lauren Alaina is better, singing-wise.
8:18 p.m. From that power-packed group, James, Lauren and Paris all advance, along with at least one irrelevant person. Stormi's gone.
8:19 p.m. Speaking of people whose sob story we learned in the audition rounds, we get re-treated to the tale of Chris Medina and his wheelchair-bound fiance. He remains pretty good, though it's possible he looks 10 years older than he did in his audition. He'll be 50 by the time the Finals begin. Chris still advances and makes sure that the camera catches him crying. "Awesome, man," he says.
8:23 p.m. I don't want to raise a sore point, but are we going to meet anybody new tonight? So far, every person we've seen perform was a singer we already met in the auditions.
8:25 p.m. Everybody's nervous. They describe a lot of symptoms.
8:26 p.m. "It hurts our hearts for somebody to come back and sing something and there's nothing we can do about it," Tyler has to tell the nervous masses.
8:26 p.m. Speaking of nervous people, remember Jacee Badeaux? The 15-year-old with the pure high voice? He still sounds very nice. Remember Robbie Rosen? From your high school production of "Grease"? He's still fine, albeit a little falsetto-heavy. And how about Hollie Cavanagh? She was nervous in her audition, but she sounds far more confident tonight. All three are under 18 and all three get passes to the next round. "I'm living my dream," Robbie says.
8:28 p.m. Accountant Steve Beghun has a nice tone, but he's a accountant, so the producers can't believe that he could possibly sing. "By finding my own happiness, I hope I can spread that to people who are watching at home," Steve says. But he's sent back to H&R Block. Or wherever he accounts.
8:29 p.m. We also lost Sarah Sellars and Jacqueline Dupree, who I barely remembered from New Orleans auditions. And the belly dancer from Los Angeles? She's gone, but she couldn't sing anyway. Casey Abrams grabs bonus screentime by hugging all of the sad, eliminated contestants and expressing his sympathies to the camera. Well played, Casey!
8:35 p.m. Apparently it's Day 2 in Pasadena. We still have 163 contestants to perform today, assuming their Ford Focuses get them to the theater on time. Thanks, Ford!
8:35 p.m. More nerves. Wobbling knees. Lost lyrics. Brutalized melodies. "Idol" does these people the courtesy of not identifying them by name.
8:37 p.m. Remember Rob & Chelsee, Nashville's ex-couple? They're not back together yet. As a fun joke, they're rooming with the annoying, not-especially-talented couple we met in Austin. Oh, "American Idol." You're so playful!
8:38 p.m. Rob (Bolin) was very good in Nashville and I love his tone tonight as well. He would never win this show, but he has a beautiful voice. Chelsee (Oaks) also has a nice voice. And they're both advancing.
8:38 p.m. But what of Austin's Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford? Nick is cheesy and really unimpressive. Jacqueline's better than she was in her first audition, but she still over-sings something powerful. I'd be happy send 'em both home. But the "Idol" judges know good drama. Those crazy kids are about to get split up. Nick is asked to move to the front. Jacqueline stays in the back. OH NOES! Who's been cut? Commercial time!
8:46 p.m. OK. We're back. Nick is in the front. Jacqueline is in the back. And the back line moves forward. Nick, though, isn't hearing it. He grabs the microphone and begs to sing again, begs to deliver the goods. "I was ready to," Nick begs. Dude. Walk away while you still have a shred of dignity. Too late. Nick exits by walking down the aisle yell-singing at the judges, hoping his desperation might change their opinion. Ryan puts on his "I'm very sad for you" face. it's not convincing. And Jacqueline is left alone.
8:48 p.m. Deep-voiced Scottie McCreery does the exact same song he did for his audition and his effect on J-Lo is the same as the first time around. All-smiles from the panel, but Seacrest's voiceover accuses him of playing it safe.
8:49 p.m. Also doing the same audition is Jackie Wilson, who I don't really remember from Nashville. And I didn't like Bar Mitzvah Singer Jerome Bell in Milwaukee and I'm still annoyed by his over-singing.
8:50 p.m. Scott, Jerome and Jackie all advance, confirming that tonight's episode is all about repeat performances.
8:51 p.m. We're not going to believe what happens next. Try me, "Idol." Try me.
8:55 p.m. Did I miss Tiffany in Jersey? Slingbox problem? I'd clearly remember her. She doesn't suffer for lack of ego or for lack of shouting. She's definitely got lungs, but no nuance. I remember Travis Orlando, or at least his childhood poverty. His voice is fine, but not really all that memorable. I don't think I'd put either of them forward. The judges decide to send Tiffany forward and they send Travis packing. Travis vows not to give up.
8:58 p.m. Wait. I was promised that I wasn't going to believe what happened next. What was hard to believe there? "Idol" judges put a bellowing diva through? Imagine that.
8:58 p.m. Julie Zarrilla advanced. That's nice. So did a couple other people we met previously.
8:59 p.m. Impressive. An hour and the "Idol" producers didn't see any purpose in introducing us to a single new singer. Not one. Not even by accident. We didn't get a single name for a single singer we hadn't met in auditions, nor did we hear a single good performance (we got a couple snippets from bad performances) from a single singer we hadn't met in auditions.
9:00 p.m. The result is that I just watched an hour of "Idol" and I don't feel like I have any more insight into the shape of this season than I did before. I didn't even learn new things about the familiar contestants. I just learned again that Brett was picked on, that James has Syndromes, that Chelsee and Rob bicker and that that bar mitzvah singer can't actually sing.
What'd you take away from the start of Hollywood? Who are your favorites so far?