Warning: I had gas earlier today. No, not as in: dear-God-in-heaven-why-did-I-eat-that-three-day-old-burrito-because-now-I-am-seeing-visions kind of way. Rather, I had a trip to the oral surgeon and a pleasant "trip" on some nitrous – breathe deeeeeeeeeep – so if this recap starts to stray, bear with me. In addition to feeling like I was dipped in 300 pounds of chocolate and rolled in marshamallows, I swear I was seeing purple giraffes with orange Mohawks and udders while I was tripping in the chair…then again, this is another audition round - people are bound to show up dressed just like that at some point…
Warning: I had gas earlier today.
No, not as in: dear-God-in-heaven-why-did-I-eat-that-three-day-old-burrito-because-now-I-am-seeing-visions kind of way. Rather, I had a trip to the oral surgeon and a pleasant "trip" on some nitrous – breathe deeeeeeeeeep – so if this recap starts to stray, bear with me. In addition to feeling like I was dipped in 300 pounds of chocolate and rolled in marshamallows, I swear I was seeing purple giraffes with orange Mohawks and udders while I was tripping in the chair…then again, this is another audition round - people are bound to show up dressed just like that at some point…
CBS sadly announced the cancellation of yet another series today. Armed and Famous – the riducality (ridiculous + reality – catch up, people) show featuring Z list celebrities (Erik Estrada, LaToya Jackson, Jack Osbourne, et al) as reserve police officers in the Midwest berg of Muncie, Indiana.
What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? Come on. It’s been on Wednesday nights this month. What the hell else have you been doing?
Oh wait – probably what 40 million other people have been doing. Watching American Idol.
It truly boggles my mind that any honcho at any other network would even contemplate putting a new series in a timeslot up against the behemoth that is AI. Rerun a Hallmark movie of the Week from the 80’s, maybe. God knows Danielle Steele’s entire library has been made into soapy celluloid. Or maybe an E! True Hollywood Story on Menudo. Hell, run that burning Yule log for two hours straight. But to expect a new show to pull decent numbers in that timeslot?
"It came down to ratings," CBS spokesman Chris Ender said Monday. "Going up against `American Idol' was a tall task for the show."
That’s like asking Jonathan Jayne and Kenneth Swale to challenge Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to hoops – and win.
Still, it saddens my teenaged heart to know that the great Ponch, a man whose posters decorated my walls – clad in his painted-on, polyester police pants - was undone by the juggernaut that is American Idol.
I tell you, it’s a crime. (Actually – I think the bigger crime was in allowing La Toya Jackson to carry a gun.)
But, since I am the judge, jury and executioner in this blog, I’ll let AI go with a slap on the wrist…this time. But I caution them – should a new ridicuality series come along starring the other throbs of my teenaged heart: Davy Jones, Ralph Macchio, or (swoon) Shaun Cassidy? – I won’t be so forgiving. You’ve been warned.
Now, onto the recap…
With three bona fide Idols emerging from Alabama, it was time to finally take the show to the city that produced Ruben, Bo, and Taylor – Birmingham – motto? The DiverseCity.
I contemplated this as the cyborg rode the Idol suppository to the top of the neon colon, and all I can say is, with diversity defined as covering a very wide spectrum, God help us all…and can I get some more of that nitrous?
The show kicked off with a welcome from Mayor Bernard Kinkaid. I know he is the mayor because he is wearing a hat that says so. He is, however, also wearing a red jogging suit, so perhaps the hat is not a bad idea.
First up, young Erica Skye (pronounced Skahhh – at least if you are from the south), a Biological Science student at Auburn University. Erica is a lovely girl, with lots of hair, and a winning smile, unfortunately her rendition of Unchained Melody was flatter than biscuits without baking powder.
Seriously, it was painful. Even more so was watching her family gathered outside the audition room door. Her Mom said that she got "chills" when she hit those notes. Yeah – me too. The hairs on my arms stood up like they do when I hear nails on a chalkboard.
Simon called it "never ending torture" and said she was a "hopeless singer". Erica then did what so many auditioners have done before her – refused to stop singing. Which never works, people. If you were bad the first time, being bad and belligerent on top of it certainly has never swayed the judges to change their minds.
Paula was so unnerved (read: hyper. The woman moved more in this episode than my bowels after that 3 day old burrito) that she suddenly disappeared from her chair. Poof. Gone.
The camera finally caught her on the sidelines, holding her head, apparently stymied as to why the girl would not stop. Either that, or Erica was interfering with the voices in Paula’s head.
Speaking of Paula’s head – it was noticeably lighter tonight. Did the airlines lose the suitcase containing her mountain of fake hair?
The producers followed up with a Boo Hoo parade as one by one, contestants emerged from their auditions in tears. Sad, but obviously no one was hideous enough to showcase, so we will never be able to feel fully bad on their behalf.
Chucky from Rugrats was up next. Actually it was Katie Bernard, a sweet young lady who sounded – if this is possible – even more grating than Smurfette (aka Paris Bennett) of Season Five fame. Seriously, if Paris was more irritating than a sandpaper thong, this girl was the aural equivalent of poison oak boxer shorts.
Squeaky, and sounding like she had a perma-wad of phlegm lodged in her throat, I just knew what was coming. And I was right. She sang A House Is Not A Home, and although she was working really hard to build that house, her efforts were not in vain. The girl can sing. She has a powerful set of pipes – and I will say it again, as I said all last season about Paris – if you can sing that way, you can speak that way.
Randy was up for giving her a second chance in Hollywood, Simon, not so much, and Paula was the swing vote – asking to meet her new husband, who came in and honestly didn’t offer much in the swaying department. I guess the idea of his new bride potentially taking off for three months didn’t excite him?
Well, he’ll have to deal with the empty bed for a while because Paual decided, if only to bug Simon, to allow Katie to move on to Hollywood – providing she doesn’t "talk like a little girl". And then, did you catch it? Katie’s voice suddenly changed to a grown up’s – only for a moment, but it did. So, HA. I’m right.
I love being right.
AFTER. THE. BREAK. Tatiana McConnico, a 17 year old wearing white Froot Loops on her ears and blue ones on her wrists had her shot. A "huge fan of the show", she was "born to do this".
And apparently, not that this happens often in the audition process (think Liza Minnelli Benardo and his chinchilla from last week), she was telling the truth.
Her voice was big, and full of soul, and yes – had the sound of someone for whom this comes naturally. And she was very down to earth. An easy Yes from all the judges, including a compliment from Randy that she "might be the best voice" he hears in Birmingham followed.
Up next, Diana Walker, the female version of Ruben’s Velvet Teddy Bear. A big girl with an even bigger personality, she delighted in telling Ryan how she used to be a cheerleader in high school. My first thought was – "not the flyer, I hope". And Diana confirmed that, no, she was not on top of the pyramid, but at its base.
Decked out in a black tube dress, topped by a hot pink sausage casing, pink heels, and a spangled ACE bandage on her wrist, she declared, "American Idol, here I come."
I give Simon credit – the girl was enough to make even Stevie Wonder do a doubletake – and he did not make any snide cracks.
Until she started singing Saving All My Love – well, actually, it was Saving All My Lu-huh-huh-huh-huuuuuuve.
Hideous. Utter mess. Pick your favorite Simonism. They all equal NO.
Another milking of the cash cow advertising udders and we were introduced to Bernard Williams II, a handsome young man who wants "to carry the torch" for Birmingham and be the next American Idol to emerge from this fair city.
As with all great auditions, his was short. Singing Rock With You, he was effortless, although Paula thought he was completely off-key. Hell, what do I know? I spent my day sniffing more gas than Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, for God’s sake.
But then, maybe Paula did too because both Simon and Randy gave Brian a "100% YES" and a golden ticket to Hollywood.
It was at this point that I began to wonder if the orange mohawked, purple giraffe was going to make a reappearance in front of my eyes because I swear I saw an enormous Easter Peep come to life on the screen.
Surely I must still be under the influence?
But no, there was Margaret Fowler (come on – that has to be a joke, right?) dressed like the cousin Big Bird hopes never visits him on Sesame Street. Strutting her fringed, feathered, egg yolked self around the holding room, she pulled up her shirt to display a coordinating jog bra, leggings, and abundance of belly spilling forth like a flesh colored Niagra over the top of her waistband.
Add to that the feathered yellow halo in her hair and she could have passed for the official Peep mascot in the next Macy’s Day parade.
She stated, in addition to claiming she was only 26 (in dog years?), "When I go in to see the judges, I really hope to overwhel them, especially Simon."
And no, Vanna, I do not need to buy an "M" – she pronounced it "overwhel". I would like to guess the puzzle. SHE IS A WACKJOB?
Simon shot her down with, "Your singing is atrocious" and then asked her to own up to how old she really is?
OK, ok, 50.
Listen, stale Peeps are usually my favorite, but not when they have been left open for 50 years…
A quick string of Yeses – none of which we get to meet until Hollywood – and then Jamie Lynn Pickler – sorry – Ward, (admit it, you were ALL thinking the same thing) filled the screen.
Heavily accented, cute as a button, she described how if she wins, she wants to buy her grandma a house without steps. Awww. It gets better.
When asked by the judges what makes her interesting, she replied, "I live with my grandma."
That’s … interesting.
She then proceeded to write a country song: I live with my grandma. My Daddy is paralyzed. He shot himself in the Adam’s apple. My step momma was cheatin’. He walked in. Shot step momma, shot himself.
"But it’s ok."
Listen, I am all for people being positive, but this pushes the limits of "glass half full". No 17 year old should have this kind of trauma in her short life.
She then began to sing Reflection and while she was certainly not the best singer so far, her voice was very sweet. The judges gave her a YES, but I have to admit, as truly Pickleresque as she is, I was just waiting for Simon to call her a Minx and invite her out for sal-mon and calamari.
One note to Jamie: When the holes in your jeans are that big, it is time to call them shorts. Or call Goodwill to come pick them up. I realize that worn and faded are hip, but I honestly don’t think I have ever seen jeans where "hip" means you can actually see them through the ripped side seams.
Chris Sligh, one of the more unlikely looking contestants came next. Unlikely unless you think back to Scott Savol, then again, Chris kind of looks like Scott Savol with a rag mop on his head…
Regardless of his less-than-Brad-Pitt looks, Chris immediately won me over, and I daresay millions of viewers as well, with his self deprecating sense of humor. I especially loved his crack that most people think he looks like Jack Osbourne, but when he looks in the mirror he sees Christina Aguilera.
Ahhhh, a true smartass. I’m in love.
Hoping to "make David Hassellhoff cry" – again, stellar smartass line – he launched into Kiss From A Rose. That alone could make David cry, because, well, despite what all the tone deaf Germans may think, David can’t sing that well.
Chris, "the more I get of you, the stranger it feels", but I like it. And so did the judges, in fact, I thought Paula was about to have a stroke. Another reason to like him. See you in Hollywood, Chris.
In all, 15 made it through to Hollywood on Day 1. We saw five. At this point, I understood why tonight’s episode was only one hour. When you highlight a 50 year old stale Peep and a Hot pink and black sausage, over showing the people who actually made it through, the interesting pickings must be slim indeed.
Day Two was not much more intriguing and made even less so by the absence of Paula who had to return to Hollywood for a "family obligation". Allow me to translate from the Tinseltown Dictionary:
Family Obligation(n); 1. Standing appointment with Ken Paves to have fifty pounds of hair woven back onto head. 2. Botox party at Carol Bayer Sager’s house 3. Sit down with Fox legal eagles who warn her against anymore twisting of Simon’s nipples, lest he brings a harassment lawsuit against her.
If, in fact, Paula was off following definition 1, she could have saved herself the hairfare and borrowed some from the next contestant, Rapunzel.
OK, ok – her name was actually Victoria Watson, but a boy could easily scale her hair to the top of the castle. With tresses reaching down past her feet - she has been growing it her entire life – it was rivaled only by her mother’s, which she has been cultivating since she was 29.
Randy and Simon were kind enough, although it was evident someone had put the bug in Simon’s ear about Mom’s massive mane. He invited her in with Victoria and she stayed while her daughter sang You Raise Me Up.
Her voice was small and sweet, certainly not hard to listen to, but definitely nothing that would make it past the Group rounds in Hollywood. A voice like Tatiana’s would eat her alive. And to be honest, what I’m guessing has been a Pentacostal upbringing, would chafe terribly against the harsh realities and demands of the American Idol machine.
She was told No, and while she was very disappointed, she was also lovely and gracious, thanking them for their time.
Again, only suspecting the Pentacostal thing here, I don’t think Mom really appreciated Randy repeatedly shouting "Hot hair!" as they exited.
Next came further proof that this session of auditions was about as bland as unflavored grits – Lakia Hill. Convinced she has "the whole package – the look, the voice, everything", she then began to sing. Her whole package must have gotten lost in the mail because none of it was evident.
She was cute, but not compelling. And her voice on How Did You Get Here had all the power of a AAA battery. The audition was bad – not even gimmicky, laugh-out-loud bad – just bad, as in boring and painful to watch.
Simon remarked, "What the hell was that?" and Randy just laughed.
Lakia said, "People say I can sing." to which my oldest daughter (remember, the smartass apple does not fall far from the irreverent tree) replied, "Do these people like you?"
Lakia, anybody can sing. Just not well.
What followed was an homage to southern hospitality and manners – an endless stream of people getting shot down, but still managing to thank the judges for their time and for the opportunity. Good for them. Future auditioners take note: Dignity and class might not merit you the most camera time, but they never go out of style.
Another break brought us back to perky 17 year old, Nichole Gatzman, eager to out her Mom on national TV as having once said, "You have no talent." Did you catch Mom hiding her head in the background of the interview? Uh, Nichole, I’d say you just lost your allowance.
In the audition room, Nichole sang Something To Talk About and I actually liked her voice. It was a tad throaty and grown up for such a young girl, but it was also pretty good. Unfortunately for Nichole and her team of pink shirted supporters, the judges thought she was "old fashioned" and "sang through her nose." But the beauty of being 17 means she has plenty of years to try this again.
Finally, the last in a long line of lame auditions. Honestly, Birmingham was certainly not living up to its DiverseCity claim. MediocreCity, maybe. FehCity, for sure.
Brandy Patterson, 28, was ready for her shot and proclaimed, "I have an excroidinary voice."
Ooooo. Kaaaaaaay. Not familiar with that one.
I was about to get enlightened.
As she started to sing Madonna’s Like A Virgin, I quickly realized that excroidinary is obviously the noise you make when you’re pooping.
(I’ll pause while you decipher that…ready? Good.)
It was bad. I mean awful, like she had eaten the 3 day old burrito. And the dance moves looked more like someone in need of a restroom than a microphone.
Of course, she was not going to take Simon’s "absolutely rotten audition" critique and leave quietly. In what has to be the most original excuse for bad singing in an audition, she blamed…the floor.
"Maybe it’s the floor or something?"
The floor’s fault? How? Because it did not open up and swallow you?
Yes, that damned parquet, puzzle piece, banquet hall floor. That must be it. So Brandy kicked off her shoes and moved onto the carpet where she attempted Proud Mary and was … even more excroidinary than before.
Simon and Randy tried to be good natured about getting rid of her, but like moldy burritos, Brandy was not going to go gently into that good night. Rather, she got irritable, flared, spasmed and spewed for all to see.
What an excroidinary mess.
In all 20 people managed to make it out of Birmingham and into the Hollywood rounds. I wish I knew who they were.
As it is, all that will join Shaun Cassidy and that purple giraffe in my Vicodin laced dreams tonight is a Big, Big Bird named Margaret. Man, that makes a case for insomnia, doesn’t it?
Tune in Wednesday night as American Idol heads home to California. Will the City of Angels turn out some heavenly talent, or just condemn us to another excroidinary round of Hell on earth?